Sunday, November 17, 2002

Dentist-to-be happy as `Cats' dancer



Five years ago, this was Karl Warden's plan: a `97 grad of Indian Hill High School, he was enrolled at University of Tennessee, majoring in pre-med ("I was going to be a dentist") and on the diving team. At Indian Hill, Mr. Warden had been a state finalist all four years.

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Karl Warden plays Macavity.
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Then came sophomore year. "A girl on the diving team was supplementing her training by taking ballet, and I decided to try it," Mr. Warden says as he chats by phone from aboard a bus somewhere between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, N.Y.

A long way from Tennessee, Mr. Warden is performing in the non-Equity national tour of Cats, and the company took an afternoon to check out the Buffalo area's major tourist attraction. The Andrew Lloyd Webber favorite, based on T.S. Eliot's whimsical Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, opens Tuesday for a weeklong engagement at the Aronoff.

Those dance classes back in Knoxville changed his life. In high school, he'd always participated in school musicals, "but I didn't think I was good enough to even do community theater." His dance teacher told him otherwise.

During spring break he went to New York. "I saw 15 shows in 11 days and I kept saying, "I can do that, I can do that - Shelley (Martin, his dance teacher) was right!"

So he called his parents (Jon and Karol Warden now live in Loveland) and told them about the change in plans. ("They were floored.") At 20, he moved to New York "with two suitcases and a dream."

Mr. Warden found a one-bedroom apartment he shared with three other people. He started taking classes at the Broadway Dance Center. He started auditioning. But not for long. He landed a one-year contract with a modern dance company.

In March 2001 he joined the non-Equity Chicago national tour where he stayed till November. "I was going to stay in New York and get a job, but then at a party I saw the casting director who'd hired me for Chicago and she offered me Cats."

So he was back on the road in December. He started as a swing (covering other dancers) but in no time he was playing Macavity.

No, Mr. Warden never did take singing lessons. "That's just something I could always do."

He'll be with Cats through July, and then he really is going back to New York. First thing on the "To do" list is to get an Equity card, which he figures he can do by being cast in a first national tour.

"I'm totally happy where I am right now," he says. "This is a quality show, whether it's Equity or non-Equity."

Mr. Warden figures he's made the right choice between diving and dancing. "This has longevity."

Tickets $20-$45; call 241-7469.

- Jackie Demaline



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Find your match at the movies
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Founder plans to energize shaky Shakespeare Festival
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Expect Japanese audiences to give CSO warm reception
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COVER STORIES
Find your match at the movies
Zany takes make Pilobolus popular
Get to It: A guide to help make your day
Tell us how you said thanks
THEATER
DEMALINE: Museums will be poppin' next year
Dentist-to-be happy as `Cats' dancer
CCM to produce Rodgers' `Boys from Syracuse'
Founder plans to energize shaky Shakespeare Festival
`The Bible' humor in sophomoric class
Three tell story of 6 million
DANCE
Audience will stay awake for `Sleeping Beauty'
CLASSICAL
Expect Japanese audiences to give CSO warm reception
PEOPLE
DAUGHERTY: Bethesda will always be `the old neighborhood'
`Jungle' of giraffes just Finneytown woman's home office
Frase still finds friends good company
Anthropologist views Ice Age from Tech Age
KENDRICK: Police should read this booklet
POP CULTURE
Surviving Dead members tourin' and truckin' again
`Potter' fans await fifth book
`Dates' hopes to match celebrities with ratings
TASTE
MARTIN: Here's to beaujolais nouveau
Wild white truffles true buried treasure
Serve it this week: Brussels Sprouts