Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Director: Trevor Nunn
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
When it was first conceived CATS was considered a very innovative show. But that was in the 80s.While it is still slick, professional and wonderfully exuberant, it simply does not fully engage the emotions. The narrative is deliberately sparse and it seems overall to be far more about movement than even the music.
Andrew Lloyd Webber took the idea from a favoured childhood readingOld Possum’s Book of Practical Catssimply setting much of T.S.Eliot’s words to music. Famed RSC director Trevor Nunn helping to add further pieces by Eliot.It seems to be a series of episodes which overall lack a great deal of cohesion with several of the numbers having ‘false’ endings.
The loose plot features a tribe of Jellicle Cats on the night of their annual ball. In the first half we meet Grizabella – The Glamour Cat, who does tug at the heartstrings with her fading costume and the fact she is rejected by the other Cats. Marianne Benedict carries off the part very well.
Perking up the first half is Bustopher Jones the indulgent playboy cat played by Greg Castiglioni with a real twinkle. Also adding some real sparkle to the first half were Mungojerrie (Joe Henry) and Rumpelteazer (Emily Langham) as a zippy dancing duo.
The second half offers some better set pieces particularly the instant blossoming of a huge toy train to satisfy the needs of Skimbleshanks (Lee Greenaway) The Railway Cat. Gus (Castiglioni in his second cat suit) is a quite a charmer, living off his tales of once being a great cat actor.When revered Old Deuteronomy (a sort of Boss Cat) is kidnapped, the action hots up with one of the best numbers of the night with the arrival of The Magical Cat, Mr. Mistoffelees, in a spectacular spell of acrobatics.
We all know who is really behind this dastardly deed – but how can we prove it because Macavity’s not there? a enjoyable performance by Javier Cid, popping up all over the stage at high speed to evade capture.
The show is sprinkled with several renditions of its best number Memory which goes down well and in true tradition it all ends happily with a great clapalong finale. However it isGillian Lynne who is to be truly applauded for the pace and the inventiveness of her choreography – for this is the real joy of the show.
CATS is full of light-hearted fun but it does not quite come up to scratch.
Runs until Saturday 16th July 2016