9 July to 5 September 2015
Reviewed by Catherine Joyce
Blackpool Opera House is located within Blackpool’s famous Winter Gardens. One of the UK’s biggest theatres, it has seen a cast of thousands tread its boards since it first opened in 1939.It seats almost 3,000 and as far as we could see every seat was filled. Being such an old building means there are lots of lovely original features and it really is full of character. The theatre benefits from a large stage which was necessary given the impressive set and large cast.
There is plenty of parking nearby, either on ground level or multi storey car parks. We paid £5 to park on a nearby car park that was only a few minutes walk away from the theatre.
The theatre has a choice of bars, there are also restaurants and a café but being situated in the centre of Blackpool means there is plenty of choice when it comes to pre-show drinks or meals.
Cats has returned to Blackpool for an 8 week run. Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1981, it is a musical that we’ve never seen before so we were very excited to see what all the hype was about.
When going to see a musical for the first time I generally like to have some idea what the story is about, I did a quick search before setting off and found out that it’s based on the “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T. S. Eliot. The majority of the songs of the musical comprise Eliot’s verse set to music. Not being familiar with the show I didn’t recognise any of the songs apart from Memory and Mr. Mistoffelees but this really didn’t lessen the enjoyment of the performance. The musical is split into a number of individual stories each introducing the cats who are attending the annual Jellicle Ball. The purpose of the ball is for the oldest cat, Old Deuteronomy, to choose a cat to be reborn into a new life on the Heaviside Layer.
When we walked into the theatre we were instantly struck by the amazing set. The set designers have created a stunning junk-yard backdrop for the musical with realistic rubbish and scrap. During Skimbleshanks, the railway cat’s performance, the other cats cleverly transform parts of the set into a railway engine which looks very effective.
The highlight of the show has to be the fantastic dancing with every single member of the cast performing faultlessly, slinking across the stage and acting every bit the cat. Throughout the show the cats mingle and interact with the audience, giving the lady in front of us a shock at one point!
It is difficult with such a high quality cast to pick favourites but there were a few numbers that stick in my mind. At the start of the show Victoria, the white cat, performs a superb solo dance signalling the beginning of the Jellicle Ball. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, a pair of mischievous cat burglars perform an acrobatic dance together and then in the second half of the show Mr. Mistoffelees leaps around the stage in an outstanding balletic routine with pyrotechnics adding to the magical performance.
The star of the show, and certainly the audience’s favourite, was Jane McDonald playing Grizabella, the old worn out former glamour cat, now outcast from the cat’s society. She doesn’t spend much time on stage but the character does pull the otherwise fragmented story together. Her second rendition of Memory received a standing ovation from the audience and showed just how powerful her voice is, easily filling this large venue.
A live orchestra, this one directed by Adrian Kirk, always complements a show. Despite not being familiar with the songs they were all easily recognisable as Andrew Lloyd Webber songs, sharing his distinctive musical style.
If you want to see Cats without having to travel to London then this is your chance, we really enjoyed the show and would certainly recommend it.
Tickets cost from £20 to £49.50 (booking fees may apply).
Cats starring Jane McDonald is at the Blackpool Opera House until 5 September 2015. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 856 1111.
Opera House Theatre, 97 Church Street, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 1HL | 0844 856 1111