30 January to 13 February 2016
Reviewed by Louise Turton
Cats first opened in the West End in 1981 so it is testament to the show that it is still going strong and managing to fill theatres on a nightly basis.
Based on the poems of T.S Eliot, with music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cats tells the tale of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and their coming together one evening for the Jellicle Ball and to ultimately decide which cat will come back to a new life by ascending to the Heaviside Layer.
The stage setting is remarkable and depicts the rubbish dump where the ball takes place, attention to detail is second to none and as I waited for the show to commence it was fascinating to just sit and take it all in.
What is truly remarkable about Cats is that the whole production is completely told through dance and song. From the very beginning when the cast first appears to explain the Jellicle Tribe – “Jellicle Songs For Jellicle Cats” to the Finale –“The Ad-dressing Of Cats“ the story is told through music. Every conceivable genre of music is featured at some point from rap to classical, rock to jazz, cleverly done by each individual cat having their own personality with a song and dance to match.
Through the show, as we wait to hear who has been chosen to go to the Heaviside Layer, we learn more about some of the cats in the tribe. There is The Rum Tum Tugger – a fickle cat (my favourite), Bustopher Jones – an old suave cat, Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer – mischievous and troublesome, and of course Old Deuteronomy – the leader of the tribe and the one who will chose the cat to be reborn. As a cat owner it intrigued me to listen to the individual songs and identify many a trait with my own feline friends!
Within Act 1 we are introduced to Grizabella, The Glamour Cat. After leaving the tribe to discover the world, she has returned old and decrepit, only to be shunned by her fellow cats. It is Grizabella who performs the shows most well known song “Memory” and Anita Louise Combe who portrays Grizabella was captivating. A shorter version features in Act 1, and in Act 2 Anita really did bring the house down with the full version. Her version of the song was tremendous, and actually brought a tear to my eye and the hairs on my neck stood on end-the highlight of a superb show.
Through Act 2 we are introduced to more characters, Gus – The Old Theatre Cat, Skimbleshanks – The Railway Cat and Macavity – the shows villain. During Skimbleshanks song I was completely blown away by the clever use of the props. By using objects from the rubbish dump, a train is assembled, fabulous.
During an altercation with Macavity, Old Deuteronomy is taken and the lights blown, again the clever use of lights surrounding the stage had been astounding throughout, and we are introduced to another cat Mr Mistoffelees to saves the day with his magic.
I cannot recommend Cats enough, and judging on the reaction of the rest of the night’s audience they agreed, a well deserved standing ovation greeted the cast at the end. Everything from the production to the orchestra, and of course to the whole of the cast was of the highest standard. The work and effort that must go in to producing a show of such high intensity and of such a high calibre must be terrific, so congratulations to all in providing such a fabulous, seamless creation – the only downside – I just wish I was going again tonight!!
Tickets cost from £15 to £47.50 (plus £4 transaction fee).
CATS is at the Opera House in Manchester until 13 February 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 3018.
Opera House, 3 Quay Street, Manchester, M3 3HP | 0844 871 3018