On just one special night of the year, all Jellicle cats meet at the Jellicle Ball where Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, makes the Jellicle choice and announces which of them will go up to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life....
That's about it, as far as the story goes, but Cats is so much more than that. On entering the theatre you're entering a dump - a giant playground for cats. The atmosphere is set before a single note is sung, before a cat is even seen. An abandoned car, larger than life-size tyres, boxes of Shreddies, Ritz biscuits, paper plates, cans of Pepsi litter the auditorium and strings of fairy lights hang from the boxes and around the circles, it's magical, yet rubbish.
I think you're either a cat person, or a dog person... I have a dog (ssshhh!), a sausage dog, so he's cat sized but I've never really been a fan of actual cats. But from the moment the glorious orchestra boom out the overture these creatures are somewhat strangely welcoming. Inquisitive, cute and playful at first Jellicle Songs For Jellicle Cats is the purrrfect opening, captivating the audience in every way. It's hard to pinpoint a particular element for being greater than another. Vocals, choreography, costume and fiendishly difficult make-up combine to present the stories of these practical, dramatical, pragmatical, fanatical, oratorical, delphioracle cats.
Ben Palmer (Munkustrap)
Munkustrap acts as the narrator of the story and played by Ben Palmer (42nd Street) we get a solid and strong grey tabby who impresses throughout, particularly in his telling of Old Deuteronomy. Also leading the males is Oliver Savile (Les Misérables) as The Rum Tum Tugger, a curious cat - milking it for all it's worth, this cat revels in strutting around and gaining everyone's attention which Savile certainly achieves, riffing his way powerfully through the final choruses of Mister Mistoffelees and impressive vocal range is evident. Mister Mistoffelees, the conjuring cat has perhaps the most beautiful costume - sparkling and shimmering as he dances around, Joseph Poulton's exciting facial expressions and strength in ballet ensures all eyes are on him. Cameron Ball makes a ferocious Macavity. Nicholas Pound is majestic and in fine voice as Old Deuteronomy.
Joseph Poulton (Mister Misoffelees) and Oliver Savile (Rum Tum Tugger)
Melissa James attracts attention as Bombalurina - incredibly sassy and impresses with Lily Frazer as Demeter in Macavity. Two other impressive duos are Barnaby Thompson (Legally Blonde) and Katie Warsop as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer in their song, and in dance Richard Astbury and Lizzi Franklin as Coricopat and Tantomile. Ross Finnie is a delight as Skimbleshanks the railway cat, the scene in which the cats build the train from rubbish is genius.
Cats is very much an ensemble show and as boring as it may be to list names, I cannot go without out mentioning an individual that make up this fantastic company which includes Alicia Beck, Jessica Buckby, Matthew Caputo, Collette Coleman, James Darch, Barry Haywood, Will Lucas, Paul F Monaghan, Joel Morris, Ian Parsons, Alice Redmond, Clare Rickard, Freya Rowley, Francesca Whiffin and Dawn Williams.
Richard Astbury and Lizzi Franklin
Memory is perhaps one of the most famous songs in Musical Theatre history and comes with a lot of pressure for a singer to follow in the pawsteps of Elaine Paige. So how do you manage to succeed in wowing thousands of people each night? You cast Joanna Ampil as Grizabella. I don't think there has ever been a time in which I have seen anyone sing with as much emotion, and keeping in such beautiful voice. A true star, who deserves to be remembered in this iconic role as famously as Paige. Incredible.
Joanna Ampil (Grizabella)
Cats plays at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, the first English venue of the current tour for two weeks until Saturday 30th March 2013. Completely unmissable, get tickets HERE NOW.