Adrian Kirk (Musical director)
Clever ‘Cats’ continues to captivate audiences in this new production beginning a tour at Edinburgh Playhouse.
Based on T.S. Elliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, this Andrew Lloyd Webber inspired show still provides a unique night at the theatre. Chrissie Cartwright has re-created the original direction and choreography for the show originated by Trevor Nunn and Gillian Lynne.
Anyone who has been allowed to share their home with a cat will appreciate how faithfully the movements of the species are incorporated into the dance movements as they scuttle around the set.
The show opened with a scene reminiscent of ‘Dr Who’ although I liked the touch of ‘Cats’ scurrying around the theatre before settling into the format I remembered. The show is set in an elaborate dump which spills over into the theatre.
My recall was that the original production had taken over more of the stalls but, hey, the beaches of my childhood have apparently shrunk too! Although Health & Safety would frown on children playing in a dump, it becomes the setting for all aspects of the ‘Cats’ imagination as the backdrop changes from ballroom to ship to train and theatre as the narrative unfolds.
While famous names have appeared in the show, it does not really have a star as such with around twenty performers sharing the limelight at different times.
Act one is very much about setting the scene and naming the cats and getting a handle on the relationships within the company. The lighting and costumes are excellent and the use of lights in the auditorium especially effective.
‘Memory’ is the song that is always associated with ‘Cats’ but for those not acquainted with the music there is so much more to enjoy in Lloyd Webber’s imaginative score. The key to enjoying this show (apart from liking cats) is an appreciation of the choreography and the movement of the creatures in their playground.
Great effects and scenery add to the magic of the show. Prior to the interval we enjoyed meeting the ‘Old Gumbie Cat’,’ Rum Tum Tugger’, ‘Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer’, ‘Old Deuteronomy’ and of course Grizabella, the glamour cat who completed the first Act with a wistful rendering of ‘Memory’.
After the thoughtful and sad story of old ‘Gus’, the theatre cat, like all good shows, the story builds and the pace grows and so it is with ‘Cats’.
‘Skimbleshanks’ is not only a great song but serves to illustrate the creativity of the piece by transforming material into a train.
My personal favourites have to be the ‘baddie’ - ‘Macavity’ the mystery cat and ‘Mr Mistoffeleses’ who commands your attention throughout his time on the stage.
The show concludes with another outing for the song ‘Memory’: this time it gets the full treatment and you understand why it has been covered so often by some wonderful singers.
The journey to the ‘Heaviside Layer’ is now complete and an animated audience streamed out of the Playhouse with their tails up.
Saturday 9 February – Saturday, 2 March 2013, 7:30pm (Monday – Saturday), 2:30pm (Thursday and Saturday matinee)