I’VE never really ‘got’ musicals; the idea that someone should burst into song at any given moment to make a dramatic impact has always struck me as rather incongruous.
But my experience to date has been via television, films and audio recordings which, after seeing CATS at the Regent Theatre last night, Monday, makes me realise I was wrong – because a top class stage production really is something else.
I suppose that watching CATS is starting at the top. It’s an astonishing piece of work that deserves all the accolades it’s won over the years since first opening in 1981.
The show is at times – often at the same time – poignant, moving, funny and visually stunning. It’s full of memorable songs, brilliant choreography and dancing, superb lighting, imaginative costumes and stunning stage design.
And if the first half is excellent, displaying a disarming sense of magic, the second half after the interval is sensational.
Each part - and by that I mean the storyline, songs, lighting and choreography – flows seamlessly into the next. There was one mass dancing scene early on that I felt went on a bit. Yet nothing ever stops still – all the cats are forever on the move, climbing around the junkyard stage design or shifting about on the floor – and the show has the energy to pull you along with it.
It’s hard to pick out any part as a favourite, but if I were asked to choose the scene introducing ‘Gus: The Theatre Cat’ is quite simply beautiful – funny, sad, and heart-wrenchingly sung and acted. And, if you get the chance to see the musical, watch out for Mr Mistoffelees – a superb piece of theatre.
Similarly, I’d find it difficult to pick out any single performer, although Sophia Ragavelas as Grizabella is outstanding.
In a nutshell, CATS is based on TS Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record- breaking adaptation is the story of one special night of the year when all Jellicle cats meet at the Jellicle Ball, where Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, makes the Jellicle choice and announces which of them will go up to the Heaviside layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.
It sounds bizarre, especially when you think of it as a stage show, but this is a magical musical.
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If you get a chance to see CATS at the Regent Theatre, do so. But be warned – you’ll end up wanting to own a cat, or will look at your own completely differently! CATS will be running at the Regent Theatre in Hanley this week until Saturday, November 2. Tickets are available in person from The Regent Theatre Box Office, by calling 0844 871 7649 or visiting www.atgtickets.com/stoke.