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Here, kitty-kitty

Cats, the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic, returns to the Empire stage, but has it stood the test of time? Chris High finds out

Published on November 2nd 2007.

Here, kitty-kitty

If there is one show that has ninety-nine lives, rather than just nine, Cats is it and, really, what more can be said about a musical that has swept the awards board, broken box office records across the globe and still maintains its popularity each and every time it hits the road? Not much, in truth, except that Cats is still more than capable of captivating and enthralling as much as ever.

Cats isn’t just big, it’s massive, and this production, directed by Trevor Nunn for the Really Useful Theatre Company, gathers that size to its heart and plays with it like, well, a small Panthera Leo would play with a small Rodentus Domesticus.

For those who don’t know, Cats is adapted from T.S.Elliot’s 1939 collection of poems, The Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats, and tells of one special night of the year when all Jellicle cats meet at the Jellicle Ball, and where Old Deutoronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, makes the Jellicle Choice before announcing which of them will go up to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life. To accomplish this, the cats have to show Old Deuteronomy what their lives have been worth.

The beauty of theatre is that it can transport an audience to anywhere in the world and, from the very first note, this show whisks the audience to a junkyard and keeps them there - transfixed by the stunning choreography, the beautiful costumes and the high quality of the singing, as each cat, in turn, recounts the essence of their lives. Added to this is that the cats engage with the audience, jumping down into the auditorium and sitting next to people as the action unfolds, and so brings a different and, at times, surreal, atmosphere to the show.

It is difficult to select only a few stand out performances, but Chrissie Hammond as The Glamour Cat, Grizabella, is quite simply superb, playing her part, with so much emotion it is tear-jerking, as the shunned cat of the pack who wants nothing more to return to the fold.

Memory, of course, is THE song of the show and here Hammond matches anyone – including Elaine Paige – for the power in which it is performed. Also excellent is Patrick Clancy as The Theatre Cat, Gus, who longs for the time when “theatre was what it used to be”, with such great depth of feeling.

he set is spectacular, the lighting dazzling and the music – well – the music is just faultless, though like all of Lloyd Webber’s musicals a little too reliant on one refrain.

Whether it is the first time or the hundredth that you have seen Cats on stage, it doesn’t matter because without doubt this production is as good as any that has gone before it.

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Peter Coyle

i wish i had been there…it sounds like something joyous and anarchic...the way the article is…

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