CATS is back for a five day run at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I attended last night’s opening, to a packed house of both new patrons and seasoned veterans of the production’s decades of successful touring. While the story doesn’t exactly follow on a linear path, this two hour (with one intermission) show can be seen as 19 mini rock operas. With cats.
Cats premiered in New York’s West End in 1981, moving to Broadway a year later. It’s won numerous awards and is the second longest-running show in Broadway history, after The Phantom of the Opera.
The stage design, lighting, and choreography are all top notch. Colourful and detailed sets bring both the dance company and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music to life. The songs revolve around the different cats on stage. The musical styles range from rock to ballads, pop to electronic. In other words, as varied as the cats themselves. Cats are introduced by the opening number’s “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats“. After this point, it’s best to enjoy the beautiful voices of standouts such as Melissa Grohowski’s Grizabella the Glamour Cat, and Clinton James Sherwood’s fabulous dancing during his own number, “Macavity“. Answering the question, What is a jellicle cat? takes a back seat.
Another creative outburst in the show occurs when Skimbleshanks (Louie Napoleon) appears with the dance company. Out of nowhere, a train’s wheels, front, and light are assembled from parts on the stage. The cats form the train’s movement while Skimbleshanks fondly recalls his days of being in charge of the night train to Glasgow.
Kudos to John Napier, set and costume designer. Next to Richard Stafford’s direction and excellent choreography, Napier’s was the most demanding job and exceeded expectations.
This is an adventure into the cat’s world. Cats are celebrated for their prowess, sultriness, past heroic adventures, and ex-glamour days. Once the show came to a close, the audience was on their feet, leaving with the remnants of “Memory“, the show’s banner song.
CATS is a family-friendly musical romp that will make for an evening of light entertainment. It’s great escapism.
CATS performs through April 15 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Visit Broadway Across Canada online for ticket availability.
All photos courtesy of Joan Marcus, 2010.