Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of Academy
Cats is based on T. S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" published in 1939, which the composer recalled as having been a childhood favorite. The musical features Eliot's verse set to music by Webber, with the lyrics of the show's most popular song "Memory" written by Trevor Nunn from the Eliot poem "Rhapsody on a Windy Night." The score includes eclectic musical styles ranging from classical to pop, jazz and rock, as well as hymnal songs such as "The Addressing of Cats."
The set for this production is an oversized junkyard. The cast, dressed and made-up as cats, slink on stage to explain the Jellicle tribe and their purpose for gathering in the song "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats." They have come together for the Jellicle Ball where Old Deuteronomy will choose a cat to be reborn into a new life on the Heaviside Layer. The actors sometimes break the fourth wall, even going directly into the audience, as they tell their tales of the glory and strife of being a Jellicle cat.
The nature of the sparse script provides little continuity between scenes, and regrettably some of the orchestrations, with their use of synthesizer, have not stood the test of time well. Overly long dance sequences too frequently spring forth with little motivation from the characters and no meaning to the script. The catlike costumes and make-up that once were sensational in 1982 are now somewhat passé. With all this in mind, the actors have their work cut out for them in maintaining the interest of the audience.
The ensemble is to be commended for their splendid diction throughout the entire show, and a genuinely solid vocal blend. There are generally scattered actors interesting to watch for their feline physicality as well. The group dancing is inconsistent. Some moments are studies in excellent timing and spacing, while others contain too many differences in the upper body, and far too many instances of quivering supporting legs and struggles with shifting of weight.
The strongest performance in the show is that of Bronson N. Murphy as Asparagus (Gus the Theatre Cat), Growltiger and Bustopher Jones. He shows great versatility in his vocal and acting skills, from the rippling baritone of Growltiger to the crackling and feeble old voice of Asparagus. One of the best moments in the show is the song "Growltiger's Last Stand." Will Porter and Kristen Quartarone have great chemistry and an endearing energy in "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer." Matthew Taylor's portrayal of the Rum Tum Tugger is sorely disappointing. He is a gross caricature of the Elvish-like character, devoid of any of the indicated playfully sexual, masculine edge, and without a single sincere acting moment. Zach Hess is commanding as Munkustrap though he doesn't get much featured stage time. Naturally, the audience breathlessly awaits the song "Memory." Though sung beautifully by Kathryn Holtkamp (Grizabella), one wishes for an actress of a bit more age and depth to deliver what should be a showstopping number. While it is pleasant, it is not momentous. This production of Cats frankly feels just a bit weary.
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has received three Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Oscar, an International Emmy, a Golden Globe Award, six Olivier Awards, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2006. His works include thirteen musicals, two film scores, one song cycle, a set of variations, and a Latin Requiem Mass.
Cats appeared at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through December 19, 2010. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is located in the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District at 201 SW Fifth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Presentations at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts are sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support is also contributed by the Broward Performing Arts Foundation, Inc. The Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment Consortium is a cultural partnership between the Performing Arts Center Authority, Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, Florida Grand Opera., Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and The Historic Stranahan House Museum. It is supported by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Visitors Bureau. Evening performances are Tuesday - Saturday at 8:00pm and Sundays at 7:30pm. Matinee performances are Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts houses the Au-Rene Theater, the Amaturo Theatre, and the Abdo New River Room, and has affiliated venues at the Parker Playhouse, the Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center, the Miramar Cultural Center and the newly opened Aventura Arts & Cultural Center. For any of the offerings of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts you may contact them by phone at 954-462-0222 or online at www.browardcenter.org.
This Broadway Across America - Ft. Lauderdale production ofCats is presented by Cat-Eye LLC, in arrangement with the Florida Theatrical Association, which is a non-profit, civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality national touring Broadway productions in the state of Florida. Broadway Across America is dedicated to creating memorable and accessible theatrical experiences for all guests, selling over 5 million tickets to first rate Broadway shows, family productions and other live theatrical events in over 40 North American cities each year. For more information or to purchase tickets through an authorized agent, please visit www.broadwayacrossamerica.com. For more information on this tour please visit Troika.com.
The actors and stage managers in this production are members of Actor's Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.