Thursday, 11 September 2014

Review | CATS (UK Tour) September 2014

Concluding the UK leg of an almost 2-year tour, Cats - the musical based on T.S. Lewis' poems arrives in Birmingham this week. Despite the 33 years since it's original premiere, audiences continue to delight in the wonderfully wacky world of the Jellicle Cats. 

The story is woven out of numerous poems about several kinds of cat and by the end one is chosen to go to the Heavyside Layer and come back to a different Jellicle life... Some say there isn't a story but  listen carefully and you'll learn in just under three hours of pure entertainment. 

Story aside, it is Lloyd Webber's music that is most captivating, a fine orchestra led by Anthony Gabriele provides both an eerie yet strangely welcoming sound. The Phantom Of The Opera probably goes down as Webber's most impressive score, but there are beautiful moments found here, notably in the music of Old Deuteronomy, of course Memory and the climax to act 1 - the incredibly exciting Jellicle Ball which flits between every tempo possible.

In the narrating role is the excellent Callum Train, the strapping Munkustrap, protector and second in command. Train is in fine voice as a solid and strong grey tabby and impresses throughout despite what is clearly a demanding role. Also leading the males is Filippo Strochhi as Rum Tum Tugger - a clear audience favourite alongside Joseph Poulton, Rambert graduate as Mister Mistoffelees. Poulton's irresistible charm, expression and perfected dance solo ensure all eyes are on him.

Zizi Strallen as Demeter

Even as a cat, you can spot a Strallen a mile off, here Zizi (one of four sisters all in show business) is an impressive addition as Demeter, who gives a powerful vocal performance of Macavity along with Charlene Ford as Bombalurina.

There is energy aplenty but cheeky kitties Mungojerrie (Benjamin Yates/Barnaby Thompson) and Rumpleteazer (Dawn Williams) treat us to an acrobatic, tumbling tale of how they delightfully deceive. Sophia Ragavelas belts out a powerful rendition of Memory as the forlorn ex-glamour cat Grizabella.

Dawn Williams as Rumpleteazer and Benjamin Yates as Mungojerrie

Gillian Lynne's iconic choreography is executed with the highest precision. The show's entire choreography utilises every chance to show off what a phenomenal cast this is. If they aren't tap dancing cockroaches, they're siamese sailors - a wonderfully inventive and outlandishly imaginative production.

Nicholas Pound as Old Deuteronomy and Sophia Ragavelas as Grizabella

As theatre cat Gus puts it, "modern productions are all very well, but there's nothing to equal from what I hear tell". Cats remains that favourite show it always was, there's a magic that ensures this timeless classic doesn't need anything overcomplicated and it's success is in pure talent. Don't pass up your invitation to the Jellicle Ball, it's fearless feline fun. Introduce a young one to what is undoubtably a magical and mesmerising spectacular - they're certain to cherish the memory forever. Catch it at the final UK venue of it's tour, Birmingham Hippodrome until Sat 27 September. Tickets here

Related Articles
How to become a Cat with former cast member Richard Astbury. Click here.

Cast List: Adam Lake, Adam Salter, Charlene Ford, Paul F Monaghan, Joel Morris, Cassie Clare, Benjamin Mundy, Zizi Strallen, Sophia Ragavelas, Clare Rickard, Natasha Mould, Abigail Jaye, Cameron Ball, Callum Train, Benjamin Yates, Barnaby Thompson, Nicholas Pound, Joseph Poulton, Dawn Williams, Filippo Strocchi, Ross Finnie, Kathryn Barnes, Hannah Kenna Thomas, Ryan Gover, Barry haywood, Alice Jane, Grace McKee, Dane Quixall, Libby Watts. 

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