A CurtainUp London Review
The cat face makeup is groundbreaking, as are the cat suits but I was looking for more dance representation of cats. At the beginning some dancers perform that Yoga cat position on all fours with a high arched back and although the choreography is thrilling, it isn't really cat like with most of it spent on two legs rather than four.
There are two new dance numbers in the First Act which is less exciting than the Second Act. Rum Tum Tugger (Antoine Murray-Straughan), the bad boy is no longer an Elvis Rock and Roller but a rapper with his trousers' crotch at knee height and dripping in gold chains. I'm not sure this is as audience pleasing as the rock and roller. The Old Gumbie Cat number is now a super tap dance. Very sadly, choreographer Gillian Lynne broke her ribs in multiple places and was unable to attend the First Night of Cats. She describes her cat dancers as a tribe and indeed tribal dance is a choreographic theme in this danced-through musical.
For an advertised three month run, the Palladium hasn't been reconfigured for the show so the cats use the aisles and the balconies rather than special ramps.
The Second Act won me over. I had stopped expecting the book to have any coherence rather than a series of sketches. I warmed to Gus the theatre cat, full name Asparagus (Paul F Monaghan), but I loved the two girls singing and dancing in sync about Macavity (Cameron Ball): Demeter (Zizi Strallen) and Bombalurina (Charlene Ford).
When Mister Mistoffelees (Joseph Poulton) dances it is a dream and his ballet experience steals the show. His jacket is populated with miniature light bulbs and his magic fills the stage with puffs of smoke. Interestingly he has a much shorter tail to allow all that pirouetting I presume. Could he be a Manx stumpie? I wasn't too sure about the cat with her nipples on view. Was she some kind of pole dancing cat?
Nicols Scherzinger hits all the crystal shattering top notes on the sensational reprise of "Memory" one of the show's most memorable tunes. Her long grey tattered costume has some stiletto heeled boots but the long grey hair hanging down looked a little like a beard in profile. I did find the rise to Heaven (or should that be to the rainbow bridge?) on an extra giant tyre with Old Deuteronomy (Nicholas Pound) rather 1980s and underwhelming and was longing to see Nicole reborn as a kitten but that didn't happen.
Now there are some things they (starting with TS Eliot) didn't get right about our feline friends so forgive this cat fancier for pointing them out. One of the male dancers has tortoiseshell markings and all tortoiseshells are girls because of the genes. There is a song about crochet and tatting. Have you ever tried to work with a ball of wool or make lace near a cat? It's always interpreted as a game. There is discussion too about milk and cream and nowadays we know that many cats are lactose intolerant! The only nod to the oriental cats, those wonderful Burmese, Siamese and Bengals that are thrilling pets is Cassandra (Cassie Clare) the cat with the bronze one colour costume. Most of these dancing cats are of the moggie variety although they are infinitely more glamorous.
There was free face painting for those brave enough to travel home on the tube wearing it.
For Elyse Sommer's review of Cats in 1999 and a complete song list go here.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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