This summer, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s iconic musical Cats, will be returning to Broadway.
The show, based on T.S. Eliot’s book of poetry titled, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, is an anthropomorphic look at a tribe of cats called the Jelicles.
As the cast enters, the audience is immediately intrigued. Arriving on tiptoe, some skittish, some proud, large, or lithe and slinky, they leap and scurry and stop short to stare at the audience.
They subtly mimic and embody the nuances most commonly known to cats. These movements eventually evolve into original choreographed dancing and musical staging by Gillian Lynn.
Ms. Lynn capably mixes ballet and jazz with the studied movements of the feline persuasion. It’s clear she has been thoughtful to the subject.
It is an ensemble cast; however, many of the characters introduce themselves in song.
It is the perfect set up for each triple threat actor to have time to shine and really showcase what they can do. Solos and duets abound.
This is how we learn about the different characters at play.
There is a humor in many of them. For instance, Jennyanydots, the large tabby cat, just “sits and sits and sits and sits alls day.”
Rum Tum Tugger is a charming and cocky scene stealer who doesn’t care about anyone’s opinions of his antics. His song is a high energy toe tapper with jazzy horns.
The most poignant of the tribe would be Grizabella the Glamour Cat, who sings the biggest hit from the show, Memory.
It is a resounding song full of loss and regret. When she staggers across the stage, a haunting and sad melody plays.
Exhausted, world weary, and broken, she is a cautionary tale to the other cats.
Old Deuteronomy ties them all together as their wizened spiritual leader, who “has lived many lives” and “buried nine wives.”
They look to him to make the redemptive “Jellicle Choice” and decide who will ascend that night to Heaviside Layer and return to a new life.
Andrew Lloyd Weber’s score translates more like a variety show, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Each song is different from the next in its style. In a way, he is a kid in a candy store.
He has written a musical based on a favorite childhood book, and now he wants to play his favorite music.
The audience does not suffer for it. Unless having a catchy song in your head bothers you.
Thanks to a clause in Eliot’s estate, no additional dialogue was to be added to the show, and thusly it is heavy with song and dance. In the first act alone there is a ten minute dance number.
The cast pulls it all off with absolute aplomb. They are athletic, entertaining, talented and fascinating. Much like the characters they play.
This is a classic Andrew Lloyd Weber show. The subject matter is unusual, it breaks the rules of traditional music theater, and yet it is a universally loved show that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
If you get a chance to see it, go.