Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The tour is based on the 2016 Broadway revival, restaged by original director Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Hamilton's Andy Blankenbuehler working from the original choreography by Gillian Lynne. The scenery and costumes are derived from John Napier's originals, but the cat bodysuits seem a bit more streamlined now (the fur ruffs at the neck appear less obvious).
The setting is still the stylized dead-end alley where the Jellicle Cats gather for their annual ball and tell their stories. The stage is lit by washes of color and strings of ever-changing colored LED lights, which extend into the auditorium and above the heads of the audience.
Lloyd Webber took the majority of his lyrics from T.S. Eliot's book of poems, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." The one major structural change in the revival script is the elimination of "Growltiger's Last Stand," due to Eliot's use of ethnic slurs; Asparagus (Timothy Gulan), or Gus the Theatre Cat, now appears instead as the Great Rumpus Cat in "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles," which features cats costumed as dogs.
The performers more than live up to expectations, uniformly accomplished with feline grace and a variety of specialty skills. As Grizabella, the once beautiful, now shabby gray cat who sings "Memory," Keri René Fuller captures the audience's sympathy with her sense of desperate hope. Caitlin Bond, as the white cat Victoria, does breathtaking splits and leg lifts in the most balletic choreography; McGee Maddox swaggers as the bad-boy rocker Rum Tum Tugger; Emily Jeanne Phillips turns prim Jennyanydots into a tap-dancing dynamo; Gulan is moving as elderly Asparagus and Falstaffian as Bustopher Jones; and, as Mr. Mistoffelees, Tony d'Alelio glitters as much as his spangled costume.