If you have never attended a jellicle ball, then you only need to look towards National Theatre to experience this treat. It is there where one can find a variety of jellicle felines taking up residence in the form of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats.
Based on “Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot, Cats takes place in a junkyard where numerous “jellicle” cats congregate for their ball. The show highlights the lives and personalities of the cats that gather for this enchanted evening.
During the course of the show, it is revealed that the cats have created their own society, complete with a benevolent caretaker named Old Deuteronomy. The stories of these creatures are told through Webber’s unforgettable music, Trevor Nunn’s excellent direction and Gillian Lynne’s original dynamic choreography. For this tour, Richard Stafford has taken the helm as director and choreographer and does so with great skill.
Cats may not be for everyone. This is not a traditional book musical. In other words, there is no real storyline; however, there are some loose ties that bind some segments together. What this musical does is showcase a solid score, superb choreography, the talents of a fine cast, and the artistry of the creative team.
The lighting designed by David Hersey has a dramatic flair, and John Napier’s set is astounding. The oversized junkyard is filled with common items such as a tennis racket, a tire and an old license plate. The items scattered about the set dwarf the actors, giving the impression that they are small in stature. Napier serves double duty as the designer of the now well-known costumes that helps to complete the illusion.
There are some wonderful performers in this touring production. Brian Gallagher delivers a fun performance as the cocky Rum Tum Tugger and Suzanne Dressler sparkles as Jennyanydots. Anne Brummel is a sympathetic Grizabella and sings one of the show’s most popular numbers, “Memory,” with emotion and candor. Her castmate, Kevin C. Wanzor, shows off his versatility as three different characters – Asparagus, Bustopher Jones and Growltiger. However, the most astounding performance comes from Shane Hall as Mistoffelees. Hall is such an energetic dancer that it is hard to tell if his feet ever really touch the ground.
If one is still pondering the question, “what is a jellicle cat?” the answer can be found at National Theatre. Both the uninitiated and devotees of Cats should enjoy this production. However, if one prefers a good old fashioned musical along the same lines as 42nd Street or South Pacific, this may not be your cup of tea. Cats will be playing at National Theatre through October 26th.
The National Theatre
Alonzo: Bo Broadwell