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CATS and School of Rock take to the stage at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl

New West actor takes on three roles in Theatre Under the Stars’ 2024 production – “a different sort of CATS.”
Isaac Aaron Johnson is Bustopher Jones in Theatre Under the Stars' 2024 production of CATS.

Magic will be in the air when Theatre Under the Stars returns to Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl.

Theatre Under the Stars' 2024 season presents CATS and School of Rock, with the two productions hitting the stage on alternate nights from July 5 to Aug. 24.

New West resident Isaac Aaron Johnson is thrilled to be making his TUTS debut in CATS. He’s excited for audiences to see the show.

“Audiences they can expect a different sort of CATS that isn't what they expect,” he said. “They can expect one that is more based and related to Vancouver and the setting. … It's magical and mystical.”

CATS director Ashley Wright, choreographer Julie Murphy, and music director Sean Bayntun aim to bring a fresh new vision to the TUTS stage, featuring a contemporary, Vancouver-inspired urban alley setting and characters clothed in highly stylized costumes.

One of the longest-running musicals of all time, CATS is a musical theatre classic performed entirely in song. The music relies heavily on dance to tell its story about a tribe of exceptional cats called the Jellicles, based on T.S. Eliot's whimsical Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

In addition to his two main roles of Bustopher Jones and Gus, Johnson is playing a third role – a chorus cat named Isaac-cat that was specially created for him. He’s also understudying the role of Old Deuteronomy.

“I’m really enjoying that I get to explore all of these characters,” he said. “They’re a lot of fun.”

While Bustopher Jones is a big cat, Gus is more of a frail, old theatre cat. Having been able to help create Isaac-cat, Johnson said he’s a bit of a mischievous, silly cat.

Johnson is looking forward to donning the “fantastic” costumes, including wigs and tails, that have been created for CATS.

A love of music

Johnson grew up in Toronto, where his love of music struck early.

“I love singing. I grew up singing in the car with my mom. And it's just been a part of who I am,” he said. “It's always been in my life, and I like sharing it.”

After attending a community school that did a lot of musicals, Johnson auditioned and was accepted into the Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, a performing arts high school in Scarborough that offers a musical theatre program. After graduating from high school, he attended St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario, where he pursued a diploma in musical theatre.

“Musical theatre is more my forte,” Johnson said. “My love is the stage.”

While Johnson was in his third year of college, his parents moved to west coast. After completing his college education, Johnson joined his parents and younger brother in New West in September 2022.

“I am just getting into the Vancouver industry,” he said. “I did Spring Awakening with Renegade productions last year.”

Johnson, 22, was recently nominated for Applause Musical Society's 2023 Ovation Awards in the category of Outstanding Newcomer for the role of Otto in Renegade Arts Co's Spring Awakening

The New West resident is excited to perform at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. Growing up in Ontario, Johnson’s family attended Shakespeare in High Park productions each year.

“That was our summer thing,” he said. “I really love that aspect of outdoor theatre that is based in a park or anywhere because it's so beautiful.”

Although he was born and raised in Toronto, Johnson said he loves living on the West Coast. He currently lives with his family on a float home in Queensborough.

“It's nice to be in New West because it's so central to everything,” he said. “I've really been enjoying exploring Vancouver as a city.”


Theatre Under the Stars’ 2024 lineup also features School of Rock, which is based on the 2003 hit Jack Black film of the same name and has toured across the globe since its Broadway debut in 2015. The musical follows wannabe rock star, Dewey Finn, who fakes his way into a teacher role at an uptight private school to make some quick cash.

Tickets for both shows are available online.

  • CATS previews are set for Friday, July 5 and Saturday, July 6. Opening night is Wednesday, July 10, with performances taking place on alternate nights until Friday, Aug. 23.
  • School of Rock previews are on Sunday, July 7 and Monday, July 8. Opening night is Thursday, July 11, with performances taking place on alternate nights until Saturday, Aug. 24