As a young child growing up in Ohio, Dan Hoy spent hours and hours watching and memorizing the 1998 recording of "CATS" on London's West End.
He knew the choreography by heart. He knew all of Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic music. The Webber musical, based on "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" by T. S. Eliot, tells the story of a feline tribe on the night of their Jellicle Ball.
So when Hoy got the audition for the "CATS" National Tour several months out of college, he had mixed feelings.
"It was interesting because part of me was saying, 'I love this show since childhood, this would be such a cool, full-circle moment,'" Hoy explained in a phone interview with NBC 7 San Diego. "But at the same time, I had dozens of auditions the first few months I was there. I didn't want to get too excited."
Several auditions and several callbacks passed and then Hoy didn't hear anything for over a month.
Hoy assumed he should move on, he told NBC 7. Then, he got the phone call.
"The world stopped for a moment, the second that they had said I booked 'CATS' and I was playing Munkustrap," Hoy recalled.
"It was such an amazing moment filled with gratitude, excitement at how the universe set up this really amazing, full-circle moment," Hoy added. "One of the first shows that I ever loved was going to be one of the first major contracts that I did."
This revival feels updated in a number of ways, Hoy said, especially when it comes to the choreography. "Hamilton" and "Bandstand" Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler combined the iconic, original choreography by Gillian Barbara Lynne and blended them with his own new work.
"It feels like you're getting a new, refreshed version of CATS that has everything you knew and loved but has now been filtered through a 2019 lens to bring it to a new audience," Hoy said.
The choreography makes it one of the most physically challenging shows Hoy has ever done. Most cast members are on stage for nearly the entire two and a half hour show. It took weeks for the cast to build up their stamina, especially on days they have two shows back-to-back.
"We all have to be careful about making sure we take care of our bodies," Hoy said. "That we're eating healthy, that we're resting well so that we're able to bring 100 percent to every audience at every performance."
And then there's the elaborate make-up that transforms every actor into a Jellicle Cat.
"People actually make fun of me because I'm still one of the people that takes forever to do the makeup," Hoy said with a chuckle.
Hoy comes to the theater two hours before curtain to start the process of becoming a cat. It takes the actor about one hour and 45 minutes to put one make-up (most actors in the show generally take an hour) and a few minutes to slip into the leotard costume, the only costume he wears during the whole musical.
Even still, it's a dream come true for the recent college graduate. Hoy said if he could go back in time and tell his younger self that he would one day star in the musical he loved so much, his younger self wouldn't believe him.
"If I could go back in time and be like, 'Hey, you're going to do this one day,' I think he'd say, 'alright, we'll see, calm down, calm down,'" Hoy said.
One of the most rewarding parts of the show is coming out the stage door every night after the show and meeting the fans - especially the younger fans.
"There's certainly a wide-eyed wonderment with this show. The dancing, the costumes, the lights, the effects, the music, it really was a show that, as a kid, captured my imagination," Hoy said.
"It's really cool now getting to go out, to do stage door at the end of the night, or sometimes when you're out doing photos, seeing these kids with that same wide-eyed wonderment that I know I had as a kid," Hoy added.
The musical, which won seven Tony Awards in 1983, including Best Musical, may seem convoluted and obscure to some, Hoy said, but it tells an important story about inclusion, redemption and the power of listening.
"[Remember] that everyone has a story and sometimes sitting back and listening is the best thing that you can do to understand their perspective and where they’re coming from," Hoy said.
"Often, you’ll find that there were things you never knew that lead to your intolerance and your hatred," Hoy said. "And that’s the only way you can move forward."
"CATS" runs at the San Diego Civic Theatre from April 16 to April 21. You can buy tickets here.