Much buzz has surrounded the revival of Cats the Musical and being in the audience on the second night of the production I felt a real sense of excitement in the air. Many of my fellow theatre goers were obviously die- hard Cats fans who I guessed must have first seen the musical when it opened 21 years ago. Others were no doubt there to see Nicole Scherzinger make her West End debut and then there were families who had brought their kids to experience one of the best musicals they had seen as a child and I was one of them.
Having loved the musical so much as a kid, I was keen to share it with my six-year-old son who, having had his face-painted by staff in the theatre foyer prior to the show, was dressed the part along with my husband!. Sitting in the theatre 18 years after last seeing the musical, I felt nostalgic – Cats was always my favourite Andrew Lloyd Webber show and the magic that surrounds it was still there.
The Cats world tour has just taken to the show to Israel for the first time and proved an instant sell-out and the same can be said for the London production. You’ll be hard pushed to find a spare ticket going at The Palladium, where the show has opened for a 12-week run.
So what makes the show so appealing? Although the musical does have a story, it is a rather strange one to keep up with. According to my six year old it was a show about cats dancing around and for many (kids and adults alike) that is enough as such is the powerful performance, immense energy and catchy songs you just get caught up in it. Dig a bit deeper and the storyline tells the tale of a group of Jellicle cats who meet in a scrapyard in the dead of night for their annual Jellicle ball. Individually introduced with a song, they wait for their wise leader Old Deuteronomy to choose which cat will go to the heaviside layer and be reborn to a new Jellicle life.
The scrapyard set stage is impressive, with its rusting cars, worn-out tyres and household rubbish pouring out from the stage to embrace the boxes and front stalls. And the actors that wind in and out of it are absolutely incredible.
Although hers is not the main part, the addition of American singer Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella – the lonely, fading ‘Glamour Cat’ – adds some meow factor to the show. She certainly sunk her claws into the role and, although not a fan of the Pussycat Dolls, I found her voice was spine tingling. Even my son sat and listened in an almost trance like state, be it one of amazement or fear (having learnt the etiquette of theatre-going meant you needed to not talk during a show).
The combination of fast-paced and classical songs, as well as rap (a new addition to the role of cool cat Rum Tum Tugger) made it a very enjoyable performance. The classic show has retained its magic and memorable qualities and we left the theatre feline great!