Review of 'Cats'

cats.jpg http://www.catsthemusical.com/

This is the latest revival of the classic musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on the poems in “Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Elliot meaning that, famously, it does not have much in the way of what you might call a story. I have to admit that this is probably the fourth or fifth time I have seen this musical but never on the London stage and the first time seeing a slightly more permanent (rather than touring) production.

Arriving in the magnificent London Palladium we made our way to our seats in the second row of the Royal Circle (first balcony) where we were amazed to see the set which extended out from the stage and onto the walls of the auditorium itself - Oversized pieces of garbage in a rubbish tip that we learned during the course of the performance had hidden lights and walkways for the performers. Incredibly well done and amazing looking. This staging stars the wonderful “Beverley Knight” as Grizabella who performs the signature piece of the show: Memory. She did an incredibly good job at the singing but, my companion noted, not so hot on the “acting” (for what it was, namely, fairly minimal).

As mentioned above, the story is fairly simple. At the start of the musical we are told that every year there is a “Jellicle Ball” gathering of cats presided over by “Old Deuteronomy” (played with suitable seriousness here by Adam Linstead) who, at the end of the ball, will grant a cat a new life. Over the course of the show we are introduced to various cats including “Gus: The Theatre Cat”, “Macavity” (Javier Cid) and the magical “Mr. Mistoffelees” (Mark John Richardson) in song and, most importantly, dance.

Of course, here it is the dance and costumes that, literally, take centre stage. The cast, dressed in tights with cat makeup dance about with wild abandon to bring the characters to life. Their efforts are amazing and really add an extra dimension to the show. To sing at the same time as jumping from one part of the set to the other is incredible with only the barest hint of anyone out of breath coming through the microphones. The choreography is wonderful with a combination of individual and group numbers that is very effective. The movements are precise and well coordinated which must be particularly tricky in such a demanding setting - small amount of actual flat stage with lots of set pieces all around and lots of cast members all moving in different directions.

The music is, of course, very good indeed from Mr. Lloyd-Webber and is truly a classic of the modern musical (if one can say that). The lyrics are sometimes difficult to follow even with the incredible efforts of the cast because there is often so many words to follow and because they are often sung (or spoken) quite quickly. Blink and you miss it.

I enjoyed the performance but I have to agree with my companion who said that it was a bit long and this seems to be the case for me too. I do not recall past productions being as long as this (2 hours and 30 minutes excluding a 20 minute interval) though it seems some of this is in extended (though amazing) dance scenes. Beverley Knight really brought down the house with her second-act reprise of Memory displaying a sensitivity and clarity of voice that left the audience rapt in attention (in our performance the first act was somewhat diminished with a member of the audience talking loudly on his phone throughout despite receiving many loud “shhhs” from the crowd). In the past I have, rather vulgarly, suggested that “Cats” should be “put down” but seeing a sensitive and enthusiastic production such as this makes me think I was in error. Not an ounce of fat on any of the cast (we would see it otherwise with their skin tight costumes!) as they throw themselves around the stage and into the character of the cat…

Great to see it on the stage and, make no mistake, this is where this musical should be seen. A treat for the eyes and ears.

Rating:

Review Date: 2015-11-02



London Palladium

Location: London (England)

Address: Argyll Street, London England, W1F 7TF

Public Transport: TUBE Oxford Circus

Telephone: +44 (0) 844 412 4655

URL: http://www.reallyusefultheatres.co.uk/our-theatres/london-palladium

The grand old daddy of London theatres, the Palladium has a long and illustrious history of Vaudeville, pantomime, the Royal Variety Performance show (held yearly as a “command performance” for the royal family), “Sunday Night at the London Palladium” live television show as well as big modern musicals including the Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Access to the theatre is simple as it is immediately adjacent to Oxford Circus and on a quiet side street that is (normally) vehicle free. The interior of the theatre is magnificent in a classical way having been recently restored.