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18th February 2016

Review: Cats! The Musical

The jellicle cats come alive at the Manchester Opera House in this modern take on the classic family musical

The magic of T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is bought to life by David Ian Productions in this modern interpretation of the classic musical. The show saw its opening night of the UK and European tour at the Manchester Opera House. The story begins in an old junkyard for the reunion of the jellicle cats before a vibrant explosion of dazzling feline choreography and harmonious song captivates the hearts of the Opera House audience. The challenging vocal arrangements paired with the intricate set design and elaborate costumes, enhanced this timeless classic.

For the most part, the musical was recreated in a format that mirrored the 1998 film production. However, the redesign of Rum Tum Tugger’s role left some audience members questioning whether such a change was at all necessary. Those that are familiar with the original production will recall how Rum Tum Tugger was portrayed as a young, stylish and almost sensual cat, with an Elvis style quiff, thick mane of fur and a slender black body. In this version of the musical, these characteristics had been altered in an attempt to reinvent Rum Tum Tugger with an almost ‘gangster’ persona. Both the song and dance involved in the solo piece mirrored a modern day hip hop video. Although this appeared to be an attempt to modernise the traditional character, it in fact appeared to do the opposite and instead made the character seem old fashioned. The combination of costume, song and dance was at times verging on the point of comical, something that as an avid Cats fan, I found exceptionally disappointing. Although this reinvention was not to one’s taste, Marcquelle Ward who was cast for the role successfully embraced all aspects of this reinvention and continued to entertain the audience both within this solo piece and for the duration of the performance.

Magical Mr. Mistoffelees was bought to life by Shiv Rabheru, who played an outstanding role. The choreography in the solo piece was intricate, well executed and a captivating display of exceptional talent, which was enhanced by the well synchronised pyrotechnics. Anita Louise Combe took on the role of Grizabella, the cat the had been banished from the rest of the clowder. Her emotion-filled rendition of Memory radiated through auditorium, resulting in a standing ovation from many audience members. Additional cast members who excelled in their role included Joe Henry and Emily Langham as Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, Sophia McAvoy as Victoria and Kevin Stephen-Jones as Old Deuteronomy.

This stage production captivated the essence of the original Cats musical and provided audience members with a magical arrangement of song and dance. Despite the unnecessary modernisation of Rum Tum Tugger, the overall production was a well put together rendition of a timeless musical.

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