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An interview with Munkustrap  
In our second interview with the Cats Asia Pacific touring cast Shaun Rennie, who plays Munkustrap, gives us the lowdown.
Shaun Rennie

The show

How long have you been in the show?I’ve been with Cats for just over three years now.

How long does it take to get into your costume and have your makeup done each evening? We do our own makeup actually. I come into work two hours before the show each night. The makeup takes about half an hour and then we have to warm up and get our Mics and Wigs on. It’s quite a process.

How do you perfect your cat-like moves?  When we first rehearse the show, we do a lot of improvisations to help discover how to move and react in a feline way. After so long, it becomes second nature to scratch, sniff and clean yourself!

How does it feel to be portraying a Cat?! It’s quite liberating actually. It allows you to have a freedom to do things on stage that you never would do in any other circumstance. Cats are also very sensual, so it can feel very sexy at times… It’s also very sweaty!

How long do you typically rehearse for a show like Cats? I think my original rehearsal period was four weeks. However over the years, as we get new cast members or move to a new city we always re-rehearse the show. There is always something to clean or improve on.

What is your favourite song in the show? I think that would have to be Macavity. I love it when the girls rip it up!

What do you like most and least about performing this role? Munk is the young prince of this community of Cats, I like that I get to connect with everyone on stage throughout the show in someway. Munk’s a great role. I see him like the glue that helps keep the show on track, I love that responsibility each night. My lease favourite part… that would have to be how sore my shoulders and back get from standing in the Munk Pose all night.

If you could play any other Cat, who would it be?
I can’t really imagine myself as anyone else in the show, but Tugger would be a lot of fun I’m sure.

If you could ask the original creative team behind the show any question about your character, what would it be? Good question. Why Munk is so busy in Act 1 and then much less busy in Act 2? I often joke that its like the original Munk missed the second week of rehearsals.

Being on tour

What do you like most and least about being on tour?
I love seeing new places and visiting cities that I would never have been to if it wasn’t for the show. I also love the sense of family that exists when a cast and crew tour so extensively. I do miss my mates and my family back at home, and living out of a suitcase all the time does grow tiresome at times. But for the most part I love it.

Which city or venue have you most enjoyed performing in on this tour?
I really loved Hong Kong. It is the perfect cross between the east and the west. It’s such a cool city.

If you could perform this role anywhere in the world, where would it be? I would love to do Munk in London on the West End one day… or join a European tour of the show. I have done most of Asia now, so something in Europe would be great.

How often do you get to go home? Every few months I guess. It varies, sometimes we are away for six months at a time and sometimes only a few weeks at a time. I always pop back home to Sydney in between tours.

How do you typically prepare for a performance? Do you have any rituals?  Other than warming up, I always say “Chookas” to our Griz just before going on for the first pop up (my first entry). Chookas is an Aussie phrase, that basically means Break a Leg.

Do you get nervous before a show?
I’m not sure if nervous is the right word. I still get excited and a little nervous, but after three years you know that regardless of what happens, the show will still go on and generally things run fairly smoothly.

How do you unwind after a performance? 
I love a good long shower after the show and then I often like to have a beer with my mates.

How do you keep the show fresh each evening?
The great thing about Cats is that we are given the freedom to improvise within the confines of our characters each night, so you can really keep the show fresh by reacting with those cast members around you each night. We are all pretty much on stage all night, so there are always 28 other Cats to play off. Each show is always a little bit different than the last.

Career

Had you seen Cats before appearing in the show? Yes, I’d seen the DVD and also the Australian Tent Tour about 10 years before I did the show.

Was appearing in the show a personal ambition for you? Honestly, I never thought that I would do Cats. I am a singer who dances, so I never really thought of Catsas the show for me, just because I thought it was purely for very technical dancers.

What inspired you to pursue a career in musical theatre?
I remember seeing a show here in Australia called Hot Shoe Shuffle when I was about 11 years old. It was then that I realized that the people up on stage got to do this for a living. It was then that I knew that I was going to do that myself.

What was your first theatre role? My first professional role was Pepper in the Original Australian Cast of Mamma Mia! I was 18 years old.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? I guess I can honestly say Jo-Anne Robinson, our director for Cats. Cats has become such a major part of my life, and I really have Jo-Anne to thank for that.

What would your dream role be?
I would love to play Marius in Les Mis.

How would you spend your perfect day off?
Sleeping in a bit, then having a long brunch with friends.

What would your ambitions be after appearing in Cats?
I would love to live and work in London for a while. But who knows, in this industry, you just have to go with the flow and see where the work takes you. As long as I continue to work in this amazing profession, I’ll be happy.

Posted on: 11th March 2010

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