Review: Lloyd Webber's Cats Continues To Make Us Purr
In general, it is those shows with a strong narrative arc, in which one or more protagonists set out to achieve a tangible goal and undergo a personal transformation in the process, that enjoy the greatest longevity. In this respect, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, which essentially sets T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats to music, is a total anomaly as it enjoyed great success without following the tried and tested formula at all. It originally ran from 1981 to 2002 on the West End, and this current version at the London Palladium, which was first created last year by building on what had been touring, proves a great proponent for why the show’s unique approach is such a winning one.
It is best not to see the piece as a musical with little plot, but rather as a cabaret with a very strong device (the poetry) for unifying all of the songs. We know how good cabaret can be and this proves to be of the highest quality because the numbers vary the mood so well, everything is linked so slickly, and the resources that can be called on to render the costumes and lighting are so bountiful. If Lloyd Webber’s musicals have ever been accused of demonstrating style over substance the poetry on offer here, which is serious in its standard and yet playful, provides plenty of the latter. The show lasts nearly three hours (including interval) but seldom drags, and every time the pace does start to slacken something new bursts onto the scene to revitalise things.
The rubbish dump of the set appears to rise organically out of the Palladium itself as it does not stop at the stage’s edge, while cars and ovens appear oversized to us because they are kept perfectly in proportion with the cats. Across the plethora of singing and dancing numbers many performances stand out, including those of Harry Francis and Georgie Leatherland as Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer who have to sing while performing acrobatics. Adam Linstead as Old Deuteronomy has a very strong voice while Mark John Richardson as Mistoffelees proves his prowess as a dancer through his execution of many dynamic ballet movements. As Grizabella, Beverley Knight’s final rendition of Memory is a moment to savour, but the real strength of the production lies in the overall quality of the ensemble cast. Every cat has its own unique personality, and when each occasionally comes close to us in the aisles we genuinely feel their sleek feline presence, even as we marvel at the brilliance of their make-up.
Until 2 January 2016 at the London Palladium, Argyll Street, London W1F 7TF. For tickets (£20-£59.50) visit the Cats The Musical website. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 28 October 2015