CAPTIVATING. Since it premiered in London’s West End in 1981, generations have been held spellbound by Cats.
Playhouse, Greenside Place
* * * * *
Thirty-five years later, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical has lost none of its magic – from the moment the first slinky catsuit appeared on the Playhouse stage last night, everyone was hooked.
Transporting an audience that has just stepped off a sunny street into a world in which a group of animals are holding what is basically a cat convention is a tall order. Yet through an upbeat score, some rather impressive dance moves and a few magic tricks, that’s exactly what this production does.
Based on TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the musical tells the stories of a bunch of felines called Jellicle Cats.
They have gathered under a full moon for the Jellicle Ball, held once a year to allow the wise leader Old Deuteronomy to decide which one of them will be reborn into a new life.
Act one is the scene setter. Enter a group of lithe dancers in skintight cat suits. The only spare tyres on stage are those that make up part of the set, a dump, with an abandoned car, an oven and bags of rubbish.
As enjoyable as the first half is, however, it is Act two that allows the performers to really pull out all the stops, as hit after hit is belted out.
Even those who have never seen the show will most probably be familiar with the jaunty tune of Skimbleshanks, played with appropriate grace by Lee Greenway – a real highlight.
Another showstopper is Shiv Rabheru as Mr Mistoffelees, but the performance guaranteed to bring the house down, and the audience to their feet, is that of Anita Louise Combe as the haggard old Grizabella, singing the iconic Memory, made famous by Elaine Paige.
Young, old, or even slightly middle aged will leave this show with a spring in their step and a tune on their lips as this production simply reinforces the magic that made Cats, one of the longest-running shows in West End and Broadway history.
• Run ends Saturday