Sometimes I feel as if I’ve been reincarnated as a Siamese cat,” purrs Charlotte d’Amboise. Those who’ve seen the feline dancer in the role of Cassandra in the hit Broadway musical Cars often tag her for the reincarnation of an earlier terpsichorean talent—the young, impish and leggy Shirley MacLaine. Though only 20, d’Amboise has been hailed as the sexiest and most tantalizing of all the pusses in Cats. “There are people who can dance,” says the show’s British choreographer, Gillian Lynne, “but there are only a few people in every generation who, like Charlotte, truly are dance.”
That Charlotte would embody her art comes as no surprise. Her father, Jacques d’Amboise, was a principal with the New York City Ballet for nearly 30 years and was considered the finest classical American male dancer of his day. Mother Carolyn George, now a photographer, soloed with the same company before retiring to raise their four children, including Charlotte’s older brother, Christopher, 24, currently making a name for himself in his parents’ old troupe. But Daddy d’Amboise doesn’t think genetics accounts for all of his daughter’s ability. “Her talent is more than what my wife and I have together,” says Jacques. “I really am in awe of her.”
D’Amboise began dancing at age 8, but quit at 14 to concentrate on voice and acting classes. “I always knew I didn’t want to become a ballet dancer,” she says. “Something inside me wanted to sing and act.” By the time she graduated from the Professional Children’s School in 1982, she had chalked up three off-Broadway shows.
Her role in Cats brings in $400 a week, some of which goes toward her rent in Manhattan’s theater district, but the paychecks should be getting bigger. “Before Charlotte there was nobody on Broadway of the caliber of Gwen Verdon, Shirley MacLaine, Juliet Prowse or Chita Rivera in the younger generation of dancers,” says theatrical choreographer Margo Sappington. “We need a hot new dancing lady, and think Charlotte is it.”