Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber is without any shadow of a doubt a powerhouse within British Musical Theatre, and the musicals that he created during the 1980’s were the pinnacle of his illustrious career. The revival of his 1981 musical, ‘Cats’ is one that those who were not even born during that decade are given the opportunity to witness it for themselves, plus, the performances were wonderfully performed.
‘Cats’, inspired by the characters and words of T.S Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ is set in the garbage lair of the Jellicle cats, where they gather at the same place, yearly and explain the reasoning of the names. This clearly enables their collective to understanding their own personal stories. Grizabella, an unpopular member of the collective as it is assumed that she has done something untoward; also she is a particular shy character whose career as a superstar has dwindled dramatically. Conversely, the most overriding Jellicle cat, Old Deuteronomy , who is enormously respected by the group, and is always bombarded by the others to see who is his favourite; this is conveyed through rapper, Rum Tum Tugger (Antione Murray-Straughan) and magician Mr. Misoffoles (Joseph Poulton). Over the course of the performance, the Jellicle cats are quite scared that the villainous, Macavity (Cameron Ball) could be making an appearance and ruin the gathering, and when he makes a brief arrival, the cats quickly scarper. Even though there is not a fully cohesive story, you can see how central Old Deuteronomy is to each and every cat, and when he makes a conscious decision to see whether Grizabella can be saved from her browbeaten existence, this soon causes some concern from the group. To rescue her, he plans to send her to the Heaviside Layer to be re-born so that she can regain her confidence and become a welcomed and trusted member of the Jellicle cats. When Grizabella has been sent to be re-invigorated, it seems that this has been successful and her place as a member is granted. Eliot’s narrative along with Lloyd Webber’s music and lyrics are immensely memorable as you can see enthralling the musical numbers are, additionally, they have maintained their legendary status; such as, “Grizabella, The Glamour Cat”, “Macavity”, “Mr. Mistoffoles” and of course how could I not mention, “Memory”.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘Cats’ were gracious through immaculate balletic dance sequences and splendid vocals that can easily move you to the point where tears fall down your face. Kerry Ellis is outstanding as the washed out celebrity cat, Grizabella; especially when you can see how upset she is with her lack of notoriety at this given moment, furthermore her performance in “Memory” definitely sets off your emotions. Nicholas Pound is brilliant as the leader of the Jellicle cats, Old Deuteronomy; chiefly at the finale when you see how important the gathering is and the unique presence of individuals in “The Ad-Dressing of Cats” and it is pleasant to see.
Trevor Nunn’s dirction, accompanied with Gillian Lynne’s original choreography is striking here as they have both been able to spruce-up a musical that probably needed revising, moreover, there is a great level of well-developed characterisations which is pleasing to observe. John Napier’s design is phenomenally majestic as he has transformed the auditorium of the London Palladium with good effect as you’re engrossed into the Jellicle cat’s lair within a gigantic theatrical space, and that is a big feat. In addition, David Hersey’s lighting design and the impeccable work by the LX crew added another layer to a musical within an era that magnified excess. Overall, the experience of, ‘Cats’ was a very entertaining show and suggests Lord Andrew remains a legend within British Musical Theatre.