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A CurtainUp London London Review

"His manners and appearance did not calculate to please;
His coat was torn and seedy, he was baggy at the knees;
One ear was somewhat missing, no need to tell you why,
And he scowled upon a hostile world from one forbidding eye"
— Growltiger's Last Stand
Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella (Photo: Alessandro Pinna)
It is 14 years since Cats closed at the New London after 19 years and over 7,000 performances. Now re-vamped with new choreography, Trevor Nunn again directs but at The Palladium and without the revolving stage of The New London, which I seem to remember only revolved at the very beginning of the show. The big star with a tremendous singing voice, is appositely a former Pussycat Doll; Nicole Scherzinger takes the role of the faded glamour cat Grizabella.

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.

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Composer: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Words from the writings of TS Eliot
Directed by Trevor Nunn

Starring: Nicole Scherzinger
With: Adam Lake, Adam Salter, Charlene Ford, Paul F Monaghan, Joel Morris, Cassie Clrk, Benjamin Mundy, Zizi Strallen, Sophia Ragavelas, Claire Rickard, Natasha Mould, Laurie Scarth, Cameron Ball, Benjamin Yates, Callum Train, Nicholas Pound, Stevie Hutchinson, Joseph Poulton, Dawn Williams, Antoine Murray-Straughan, Ross Finnie, Kathryn Barnes, Hannah Kenna thomaas, Ryan Gover, Barry Haywood, Alice Jane, Grace McKee, Dane Quixall, Libby Watts
Designer: John Napier
Lighting: Howard Eaton
Sound Design: Greg Pink
Choreographer: Gillian Lynne
Musical Director: Anthony Gabriele
Musical Supervisor: Graham Hurman
Running time: Two hours 50 minutes with an interval
Box Office 0844 412 4650
Booking to 28th February 2015
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 12th December 2014 performance at the Palladium, Argyle Street, London W1F 7TF (Tube: Oxford Circus)
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