Two women, two shows. Make that two very different shows, yet each a story of survival.
Candye Kane's The Toughest Girl Alive, opening Jan. 5 at Moxie Theatre's Rolando space, is an autobiographical musical with all the emotional highs and lows you'd expect from a cancer survivor, former adult-film star, ex-unwed mother and punk rocker-turned-blues singer. “Everyone can relate to having hardships in their life,” said Kane, 46. “If I can overcome all of the craziness that I've overcome in my life, then other people can overcome what has been handed to them, as well.”
For Melissa Grohowski, meanwhile, who portrays the world-weary Grizabella in the touring production of Cats that opens Jan. 10 at Downtown's Civic Theatre, the 31-year-old show's enduring themes are redemption and acceptance. “I think everyone has had a moment in their life they can relate to Grizabella, who was a part of the tribe and left, and the world just wore her down and she became old and diseased and tired of being alone.”
Grizabella's cathartic moment is the singing of the wistfully sad “Memory,” one of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's most popular, and most recorded, ballads.
“It's her last chance to be accepted, to be brought back into her family, to be loved,” Grohowski said.
Kane said that reliving her struggles and triumphs with each performance of The Toughest Girl Alive is a liberating experience for both star and audience. “People come away with a joyful feeling,” she said. “There are some dark moments, but I think the overall theme is one of enlightenment and one of transcendence.
Both experiences are healing and empowering in themselves.”
If you're looking for a touch of irony in each of these performers' connections to their shows, it's not hard to find. Kane's been singing on stage for 20 years, but she's relatively new to theater. But, she adds, audiences “want to hear my stories. They want to be moved emotionally.” Grohowski is—get this—actually allergic to cats. Yet when she gets completely into costume each night, “it's the most amazing feeling. I really do embrace that.”
The Toughest Girl Alive opens Jan. 5 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd., Suite N, in Rolando. $20-$40. Cats opens Jan. 10 at San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., Downtown. $17.50-$77.50.
Cats: Still going strong after 31 years, the feline-driven Andrew Lloyd Webber musical highlighted by the ballad “Memory” returns in a touring production presented by Broadway San Diego. Opens Jan. 10 at Civic Theatre, Downtown. $17.50-$77.50. broadwaysd.com
The Toughest Girl Alive: Blues singer Candye Kane stars in this one-woman musical autobiography. Opens Jan. 5 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. in Rolando. $20-$40. moxietheatre.com
A Hammer, a Bell and a Song to Sing: The Music of Pete Seeger: Song, spoken word and narrative come together for a musical history lesson inspired by the compositions of Pete Seeger and his grandson. Previews begin Jan. 10 at San Diego Repertory Theatre, Downtown. $32-$51. sdrep.org
Hamlet: Shakespeare's tragedy of revenge, existentialism and oedipal complexity, courtesy of Vanguard Theatre Company. Opens Jan. 6 at Westminster Theater in Point Loma $5-$10. vanguardsd.org
Strange Land, Strange Brand: Community Actors Theatre stages Curtis Long's play about the relationship between Africa and North America. Opens Jan. 6 at the theater at Calvary Lutheran Church in Oak Park. $12-$14. communityactorstheatre.com
The Lion in Winter: James Goldman's story of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, set at Christmas time in 12th-century England. Previews Jan. 4 through 6, opens Jan. 7 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $32-$49. northcoastrep.org.
Shotgun Wedding Anniversary: How else can a miserable 25-year marriage end but in murder? Presented by Mystery Cafe, it's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. $59.50, including dinner. mysterycafe.net