BEVERLY — “Cats” is a contender for the heavyweight crown among musicals. Its long-running popular embrace makes its title instantly recognizable, even among those with little interest in musical theater. When the original production closed in 2000 after 18 years, it had been the longest-running musical in Broadway history. (The record was later broken by “The Phantom of the Opera,” whose hummable music was also written by Andrew Lloyd Webber.)
Richard Stafford has been a part of that story since 1985, when he became dance captain for the first national tour of “Cats,” working with the performers to keep their moves fresh. He went on to join the cast of the Broadway run and later supervised that New York production as well as the touring company. He brings his deep firsthand experience to bear as director and choreographer of the production opening at North Shore Music Theatre Aug. 20.