Cats Returns To London With Revamped Style And Verve
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Once reputed as the world's longest running musical, the ever-popular song and dance sensation Cats returns to London following a 12 year hiatus.
With it comes the original creators including renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, former Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre director Trevor Nunn, choreographer Dame Gillian Lynne and set designer John Napier. While this heritage brings an overall experience to the show; the question is — is it too loyal?
Webber and team will beg to differ, working hard to give it a revamp since its close at Covent Garden's New London Theatre in 2002. Napier's fancier set-up includes upper level footbridges allowing the cats to meander throughout both the stage and audience (watch out for their neon blinking headwear). Rum Tum Tugger, previously a rock-n-roller, is now a hip-hop rapper (something Nunn was reluctant to change, but now proudly boasts he is knowledgable about 'groove', 'hook' and the 'track'). And of course, Grizabella, initially made famous by theatre darling Elaine Paige, is now played by the likes of The Pussycat Dolls-come-X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger.
Strangely, it works. Starting with the opening scene that showcases each of the cats, fashionably clad in 'catwalk'-like bold, bright attire, right through to the big showtune numbers that expertly display the dancers' individual skills, it's a spectacle for the eyes and ears.
The first act handles the necessary introduction of the 'jellicle cats' — a term T.S. Eliot created in his book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (that Webber used as a reference for the musical). It is also this act where the much anticipated Scherzinger makes an appearance on stage — though if you blink too fast you may just miss her.
Characters like Macavity, Rum Tum Tugger and other surprise feline guests strut their stuff in the second act, not to mention Grizabella (Scherzinger), who at last belts out Memory with such vigour, not a peep is heard throughout the auditorium.
While certain songs jar with a twinge of 80s guitar and synth, and a few leg kick sequences warrant Flashdance-esque leg warmers, it's all irrelevant as at the heart of this new production is sheer talent and vivacity. You'll want to see this again, and again.
Cats is at London Palladium, Argyll Street W1, until 28 February with shows on Monday-Saturdays 7.30pm as well as Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets range from £20-£59.50 (other discounts available). Running time is 2 hours and 40 minutes with one interval. Arrive early, and you (and the kids) can get free face painting, plus the opportunity to meet the cats at the interval. Londonist saw this on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 14 December 2014