Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Choreographer: Gillian Lynne
Director: Trevor Nunn
Reviewer: Fraser MacDonald
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats is undoubtedly a famous spectacle. Following a 21 year residence in London’s West End, making stars of the likes of Elaine Paige, the original production slinks its way to Glasgow’s King’s Theatre on its international tour.
Based on the poems of T S Elliot, Cats tells of the Jellicle Ball, an annual event attended by a collection of felines, introduced to their audience in song and dance. The narrative is somewhat contrived; the production is, rather, a sensory spectacle than a gripping storyline. An entirely danced through piece, focus is given to each cat in turn to tell his tale.
Although staying true overall to the 1981 West End production, there are elements which have been modernised and additions which are unnecessary. Act I becomes a clock watching exercise, but is redeemed in Act II with a sharper, better paced effort.
As a technical piece, Cats hits the mark. Walking not into a theatre but into a waste land, with rubbish cascading from the stage into the auditorium, the audience are immediately transported to a strange and unfamiliar world. Lights spook and twinkle; nothing is ever as it seems. Cats keeps its audience (sometimes literally) in the dark – we never know what to expect next. Great ships appear from nowhere, stream trains roll across the stage and reflective eyes are ever present, flashing in the distance.
The score is underwhelming – all based on what seem to be two endless melodies – yet is performed with gusto by the touring orchestra. while a hip-hop update may not do Cats any favours among loyal fans, it provides some light relief from the endless Memory. When the show stopper does come round in its most recognisable form in Act II, however, we are reminded of its power. Marianne Benedict’s performance of the hit, is a most memorable one; her voice commands the audience to burst into spontaneous applause before she has finished her majestic performance and it is well deserved.
while Gillian Lynne’s famous choreography is very much present, the demand on the ensemble proves too much. At times, even slight timing issues appear noticeable, given the delicate synchronicity of the piece. This is disappointing, given how dance heavy the piece is. Despite this, the production remains visually appealing throughout and these issues are infrequent.
Cats has a reputation as musical Marmite. while it is most certainly not to everyone’s taste, this touring production issolid and charming in its own way. It will certainly make you look at your feline friends in a very different light.
Runs until 17 September 2016 | Image: Alessandro Pinna