Tuesday, February 18, 2014


This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.

CATS Royal and Derngate  Alessandro Pinna

From the simple but iconic programme covers of silhouetted dancers doubling up as a cat’s pupils, to the very realistic staging and costume design, everything about this musical has been thought through in exceptional detail. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original production of CATS enjoyed a twenty one year run in London’s West End and the standard of the current UK tour goes to show that this musical has plenty more lives to go.

When writing a review one would usually dedicate a short paragraph to summarising the story line of the production, but in this case a couple of sentences will suffice: Once a year the eclectic clan of Jellicle Cats meet for the Jellicle Ball, which is a celebration of who they are as a collective and as individuals. During this time their elderly leader, Old Deuteronomy (Nicholas Pound), chooses one cat to ascend to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a new Jellicle life. For some this almost non-existent story line may be a problem, however the multitude of unusual characters and the uninterrupted flow of the showcasing of each one will provide plentiful entertainment for most.

The lyrics, set to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s immersive score, are taken from T.S Elliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and there have only been a few minor revisions and additions to the poet’s original words. Many of the songs are among the best Lloyd Webber has ever composed, although there are a couple of slow sections that perhaps go on for a bit too long. Throughout the show we are introduced to characters such as the mischievous double act and cat burglars Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (Barnaby Thompson and Katie Warsop), the magical Mr Mistoffelees (Joseph Poulton), and the glamour cat Grizabella (Sophia Ragavelas) who is shunned and treated poorly by the rest of the Jellicle cats. Poulton’s execution of his feisty routine is of a standard equal to that you’d find on the west end stage, and Ragavelas’ stunning rendition of perhaps the most well recognised tune, “Memory”, reminded me of why I love going to the theatre in the first place.

Gillian Lynne’s choreography for this show is in a league of its own and the humans are completely lost in their feline counterparts. This is supported by John Napier’s outstanding costume and set design, which make the whole experience unforgettable, especially when the cats venture out into the audience and you get a closer look at the extraordinary detail.
Everything on the stage is designed from a cat’s perspective so the audience are very much transported into the Jellicle world. This show is a true spectacle, and one not to be missed.

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