Since its world premiere way back in 1981, Cats has been performed in over 20 countries, translated into 10 languages, and has been seen by over 50 million people worldwide, one of them being me back in 1989 in a wet and windy Blackpool. Twenty seven (gulp) years later I’m waiting for curtain up on the feline feast once again.
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” our Tabbies and Tomcats emerge one by one from the larger than life junk-yard set, introducing themselves with the help of a handsome grey tabby called Munkustrap, (Matt Krzan) who explains that the Jellicle Cats meet once a year to celebrate at the Jellicle Ball and to audition to be chosen to make the special journey to be reborn. Their wise leader Old Deuteronomy, (Kevin Stephen-Jones) will decide which of the Jellicle Cats will journey tonight to a new life and ascend to the Heaviside layer. But first we must meet them properly and learn about their unique and extraordinary personalities.
The fact that this latest tour sees the original creative team reunited really does stand out, the show retains all those original elements that made it such a worldwide phenomenon yet it still feels fresh and unique. The whole ensemble is exquisite, the show is effectively dance sequence after dance sequence and physically demands much from its cast yet they never once slip out of character, they prance and prowl like the proud felines that they are, each stepping forward for their moment in the moonlight. The talent of the cast is huge, from a breakdancing Rum Tum Tugger (Marcquelle Ward) to the acrobatic tossing and twirling of the magical Mr Mistoffelees (Shiv Rabheru). The large ensemble pieces expertly choreographed by Gillian Lynne are an absolute joy.
The stand out highlight for me was Anita Louise Combe’s performance of the hauntingly beautiful ‘Memory’ no doubt one of Lloyd Webber’s most celebrated pieces, Combe delivered it perfectly, with all the gusto and sensitivity you’d wish for, her Grizabella for me was flawless.
Whilst the storyline isn’t as in-depth as most other celebrated musicals the choreography and spectacle CATS offers is simply purr-fect! Showing at the Opera House for a limited two week period until Saturday February 13th gather your kittens for a claw-some night out…..sorry I couldn’t resist!