Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sensational hit has returned to the West End. Cats leaped onto the stage at the London Palladium on Saturday as the Jellicle cats meet for the Jellicle Ball where Old Deuteronomy decides which cat is worthy to be reborn, as they rise up to Heaviside Layer for a new Jellicle life.
As one of the longest running shows, Cats has always attracted a wealth of stars, Dame Judi Dench was cast in the original production but due to injury was replaced by Elaine Paige. Also Wayne Sleep and Brian Blessed and now it’s the turn of international star, Pussycat by name - Nicole Scherzinger.
Playing the Glamour Cat, Grizabella, Scherzinger’s spine tingling rendition of ‘Memories’ was, in the words of the lady herself, ‘Schamazing’ she commanded a powerful stage presence that saw the audience fall so silent you could hear a whisker drop and was met by rapturous applause.
This latest revival is full of acrobatic, tap dancing, pirouetting felines who get up close and personal with the audience as they climb and crawl over John Napier’s inspired set that stretches into the theatre. The costumes have been given a modern makeover including a hip-hop Rum Tum Tugger played by Antoine Murray-Straughan, and of course Grizabella which lends itself to a younger actress, complete with heels.
This is a strong Cats London cast notably twirling, disco jacket wearing Mister Mistoffelees (Joseph Poulton) and mischievous duo Rumpleteazer (Dawn Williams) and MungoJerrie (Benjamin Yates) who outshine with their all-encompassing musical talents. You also can't forget wise and respected Old Deuteronomy (Nicholas Pound), a giant presence on stage with his cuddly fur and grandfatherly manner. My only reservation is the modernised cat-rapping Rum Tum Tugger, who felt a little out of place in this production, amongst this strong performing cast I feel he lacked a bit of puurrzazz.
Having (ashamedly) never seen a production of Cats, Trevor Nunn and Gillian Lynne’s directorial return doesn’t disappoint with the years of acclaim that comes with it. It has still kept its mesmerising charm with its show-stopping choreography and renowned musicality making this a fabulous welcome back to the West End stage, where it all began 33 years ago.
Cats Reviewed by Rebecca Usher