Review: CATS

by Lynn on December 8, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot

Directed by Trevor Nunn

Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler

Based on the choreography of Gillian Lynne

Scenic and costume design by John Napier

Lighting by Natasha Katz

Sound by Mick Potter

Cast: Caitlin Bond

Kaitlyn Davidson

Maurice Dawkins

Giovanni Digabriele

PJ Digaetano

Cameron Edris

Keri René Fuller

Justin W. Geiss

Timothy Gulan

Emma Hearn

Dan Hoy

Rose Iannaccone

Laura Katherine Kaufman

McGee Maddox

Brandon Michael Nase

Brayden Newby

Emily Jeanne Phillips

Alexa Racioppi

And others…..

CATS is the musical based on T.S. Eliot’s small book of light poems called “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” written in 1939 for his godchildren. It’s about the various kinds of cats and their psychologies.

Andrew Lloyd Webber then blew them out of proportion in his 1981 West End megahit, with choreography by Gillian Lynne. This is a touring version of CATS with new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. This didn’t go down too well with Gillian Lynne so to placate her the New London Theatre was renamed the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Classy since that was the theatre where CATS first played. A short time after that Ms Lynne died. Well she was 92.

It’s about a group of cats that come together for one night to pick the cat who will be reborn in a different life. Having nine lives is not enough. This let’s them leave their bad life behind to start again.

Each cat seems to have his/her own song but the one that stands out is “Memory” sung by Grizabella the “Glamour Cat” who has seen better days. She is played here by Keri René Fuller. Her face seems battered with bruises and there is a lovely touch in which the lipstick slides down the lip as if Grizabella can’t put on her make-up with confidence any longer. And Fuller sings “Memory” beautifully, full of heartache, longing and desperation. I was ready to yell, Hallelujah she did it so well.  The audience seemed to wake up after she sang it.

I’ve seen CATS over the years, starting with the original London production in 1981 and it doesn’t really change. The various cats are energetic, mischievous and agile. Why then did I choose to see this touring production?

Because there is new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and I haven’t seen the show in a few years and was intrigued. So I fell for that ploy. Andrew Lloyd Webber and the masterful Cameron Mackintosh know how to spin a story and spin and spin it and sell and resell something that has been changed a bit as if it’s new. Well it’s not. John Napier’s junkyard set seems rather clean and lacquered.

CATS continues to be a triumph of make-up, clever costumes by John Napier and meticulous attention to feline body language. The cats still come into the audience and get up close and personal with the patrons. None of the children in my audience seemed to be terrified by some furry face being thrust close to theirs. The dancing is energetic. As Rum Tum Tugger, a hipster cat very full of himself, McGee Maddox plays him to the hilt, twirling his tail with saucy delight.

The slower songs go at a glacial pace. “Gus the Theatre Cat” is interminable as is anything to do with “Old Deuteronomy” (a stiff-pawed Brandon Michael Nase)

But CATS is just repackaged and recycled. I never have to see it again, and that goes for the movie too.

David Mirvish Presents:

Began: Nov. 27, 2019.

Closes: Jan. 5, 2020

Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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1 Marie Kellar December 11, 2019 at 12:30 pm

I went to see the show on Dec.
10/19, who was the black costumed, tall cat, with chains in his waist and leopard print boots? He is an excellent singer and dancer and what an impressive body!