Forrest S. Clark
The Broadway Cat appears in Hell’s Kitchen Slices of Life, edited by Mary Clark, digital edition available on Scribd.com, and paperback on Lulu.com. Watercolor by Raúl Manzano.
Ferocious was an adventurous cat even when a sickly kitten. He loved people and was by nature playful, but living in Hell’s Kitchen, he had to act tough – and it turned out, acting was in his blood. He earned the name Ferocious and then slowly revealed his true nature to those he loved.
Everyone liked Ferocious upon first contact. He was an alley cat and liked to explore. Nevertheless, most of his life he was confined to a West Side apartment where Sally, his owner, did some writing and carried on an in-house business.
On very good days the cat was allowed to go up to the roof of the apartment building overlooking Ninth Avenue.
Then, one day, Fero, as he was now called, disappeared. Everyone in the neighborhood searched for him, but to no avail.
Several days and nights later at a Broadway play quite unexpectedly a cat appeared on the set and ran out of the wings onto the stage at a critical point in the drama. The audience after the initial shock broke into laughter.
After that incident the same cat was observed making entrances and exits at a number of Broadway shows. It seemed to prefer certain theaters more than others and serious drama rather than light comedies.
The play-going public became familiar with the cat. In many cases the audience came to expect the cat to appear about the second or third act at a point where the drama on stage was lagging. The cat had perfect timing.
The cat entered the theater through the stage door with the other actors, and from a central perch, was seen observing the stagehands preparing the sets, the costumers checking their wardrobes, and the ushers gathering their playbills.
Sometimes, at night after the show, he slept in Nicolina’s Boutique on a comfortable couch covered with little brown wool teddy bears.
One night the news reached Sally and she decided to check this stage-struck cat to see if it could indeed be the long lost Fero.
The cat had appeared a number of times at the Martin Beck Theater. Sally decided that if she was ever going to identify the cat she had to attend a play at the theater.
She went to the theater, to wait for that magical moment when the cat appeared on stage. She decided to get a seat in the front rows so she could make a positive identification of the mysterious cat that had become the talk of Broadway by this time.
Some Broadway wit named the cat “Miss Sarah” and devoted several columns to its stage appearances. One columnist suggested that the stage feline be given a Cat Award similar to a Tony Award.
Drama critics always included a bit about the cat in their reviews. They agreed that the cat had a reputation as a scene-stealer and in a few cases even saved a disastrous play from closing.
More than once the cat got a billing on the theater marquee, many times directly following the names of the leading actors.
When the night came for the show, Sally got to the theater early, determined to talk to some of the ushers or theater personnel. She found that the cat was surely a favorite among them.
One stagehand said, “That cat always takes curtain calls, and once or twice we had to raise the curtain for the cat to make one more appearance to the sound of applause.”
The play had gone well enough until the second act when Sally noticed there was some commotion on the set before the curtain. The setting was a typical New York street scene with an alley dominating the stage.
There, before the scene began, Sally saw the cat sitting atop a garbage tank at stage right. The cat appeared to be surveying the audience with a haughty manner as if to say, “What do you expect? Cats and alleys go together.” The cat remained in position on the lid for the entire scene.
As the stage lights came up, Sally got a better look at the cat.
Sure enough, it was Fero.
“Fero, come home,” she was about to whisper from her seat in the second row when she realized the cat had its role to play in the scene.
Unbeknown to her the press had picked up the story and was in the theater that night waiting to see if there would be a reunion of cat and human.
As soon as the final curtain came down, Sally ran to the stage door to coax Fero back to her. She waited with the press photographers. Finally, Fero appeared, ran out the door and leaped into her waiting arms. The photographers had their photo opportunity. It made a great front page story in the tabloids the next day and even got a few paragraphs in the New York Times.
One tabloid carried the headline, “Miss Sarah Comes Home. Concluding A Triumphant Season.”
Another read, “From Alleyways to Broadway.”
Fero’s acting career is over, but on dark nights not long after final curtain calls a cat is often seen prowling Shubert Alley, mixing with the late night theater crowds.