The New York Times chronicled the ongoing difficulty of casting a cat for the role. Eight cats were selected for an audition from a hundred submissions, but animal trainer Babette Corelli of Dawn Animal Agency was unsatisfied with all of them. Corelli has a long history of training animals for the stage, including training animals for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and her agency is home to a 300-acre farm with all kinds of animals, including 90 about cats. She felt her only choices were to use one of her own cats, Montie, or another trained cat named Vito Vincent to compete for the role.
Still, despite both cats’ theater backgrounds Corelli still had trouble. Corelli utilized several techniques to teach the role, including using a clicker, verbal commands and hand signals. But director Sean Mathias (who directed a different adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in London in 2009, also with cats) made alterations during rehearsals on February 28th to the cat’s biggest scene, in which the feline is supposed to walk offstage after Holly (Emilia Clarke) explains why the cat doesn’t have a name.
With previews beginning March 4th, Corelli had to train Vito on the spot for the scene and explained, “I’ll make sure to send the cat out facing this direction, so he has his face to the audience, not his butt.” Vito was able to handle the new blocking first, but when it came to the point where Vito was supposed to exit the scene the bright stage lights confused Vito. However, Montie (Corelli’s preferred cat) did much worse and ran offstage shortly after the scene began.
The piece notes that Vito’s next rehearsal wasn’t perfect, but Clarke was able to improvise around Vito’s behavior to something workable. Yet with only four days to go before the first preview, who knows how well Vito or Montie would perform the scene in the weeks to come?