In 2004 I took up my seat with my mum and brother to watch my first performance of CATS. 12 years on and I’m back with my brother to see if he might enjoy it a second time round and we both agreed this production was far better than before.
Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted the poems of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’, into the fusion of music, dance and verse CATS. One night a year all Jellicle cats meet at the junkyard under the moon for the Jellicle Ball. Throughout the night we get to hear the stories of many of the cats whilst waiting for Old Deuteronomy, their wise leader, to make his choice on which of them will go up to The Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.
Noticeable changes to last time: the set design was much more dynamic and fitted much better – clearly work has been done to build appropriate set design for touring performances. This may just be my perception but there appeared to be better use of props to help bring the stories to life more, especially as all these years on there will be more and more young theatre goers who have never (unfortunately) experienced the words of T.S. Eliot.
Most noticeable change was the more hip looking Rum Tum Tugger (Marquelle Ward) who has definitely been made into a modern day cat – these are the changes needed to keep the show relevant and younger audiences interested.
The whole cast danced their way through the night effortlessly and showed no signs of tiredness despite the majority of the cast being involved in every scene. The cats coming out into the audience helped bring you closer to their world and the grace and characteristics of a cat were portrayed purrfectly, I was particularly in awe of the synchronisation of Coricopat (James Titchener) and Tantomile (Gabrielle Cocca) the mystical twins.
Of course everyone waits in anticipation for Grizabella the glamour cat to sing Memory and Marianne Benedict did not disappoint. Great acting and the second performance of Memory when she hit the key change sent shivers down my spine – superb.
If you are not familiar with the book of practical cats or have never heard any of them as songs before, some of the lyrics can be hard to follow, but the clever dance numbers and use of costume disguises help you to follow each cats story. Whilst the whole cast worked brilliantly together, additional performances worthy of a mention include Mungojerrie (Joe Henry) and Rumpleteazer (Emily Langham,) Skimbleshanks (Lee Greenaway) and all who built the train, and of course the outstanding footwork of Mistoffelees (Shiv Rabheru.)
The best use of costume changes was during the Marching Songs of the Pollicle Dogs, narrated by Jellicle cats protector Munkustrap (Matt Krzan) – cats as dogs (say no more.)
Even if you have never seen CATS before, I can guarantee you will know more than just the one song and I promise you will never walk past a cat again without properly addressing him/her and trying to guess their 3 different names.
So much better this time round and I cannot wait to introduce my daughter to this timeless classic that I’m sure will be around for a long time.
Overall – 9
Stage – 9
Story – 8
Performances – 10
Good: Stunning dancing; Memory (of course)
Bad: Growltiger’s last stand is too long (but I guess you can’t change something that’s over 30 years old)
CATS at Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham until Saturday 6th August