It is a rare thing for such a regular theatregoer like myself to get to experience something that is as magical as seeing a childhood favourite live on stage for the first time: considering I go to West End shows around four or five times a month, I’ve seen everything I’ve loved since I was too young to go to the theatre with anyone other than my Grandma. Cats is different though – Cats is a show that I have adored for as long as I can remember, but because it closed when I was only a mere two years old, I never got to see anything more than the 1998 filmed performance. However, this all changed on Monday night and tears of joy followed...
I was wary of so many things before entering the London Palladium on Monday night with my Cats tickets because big fans of shows can be left feeling rather empty after seeing revivals (think of the latest Miss Saigon revival – some who saw the original production will have felt a bit strange after hearing changed lyrics and songs and everything else). I can tell you now though that I was more than impressed, and the whole modern element of this production makes oh so much sense and works absolutely perfectly.
Let’s start by tackling the change in the music. It’s clear from the opening of the overture that Lloyd Webber has done some work on the orchestrations and we definitely have some more modern vibes from the bass and string parts in the orchestra giving all of the music a brand new lease of life. It’s also nice to see songs changed slightly to suit this new modern theme, and the most obvious choice would be the totally modernised “Rum Tum Tugger”. Now, I don’t quite know if it’s my naïveté or just because I didn’t pay enough attention, but I didn’t appreciate that the new rap song is actually exactly the same song until it started: The Rum Tum Tugger is now portrayed as being more of a “street lad” and he raps the song along with most of the other characters... and though it may initially sound ridiculous when you’re sat in your seat, you feel totally happy with it by the time it ends! It fits the new modern theme extremely well, and was such a good move by Lloyd Webber in my opinion.
The other big change that I’m sure you all want to hear about is Cats London’s latest Grizabella, Nicole Scherzinger. I’ve been a fan of Nicole’s ever since I heard her sing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” on the ITV special that celebrated ALW’s 40 years in the business a few years back and she absolutely blew me away, and then she did the same again when she sang the title song from Phantom Of The Opera on The Royal Variety Performance a few years back as well, but I was worried that this role wasn’t quite right for her talents and that she would be able to do it well, but it wouldn’t show her off perfectly – my oh my was I wrong. From the moment she walked on, she oozed glamour and stage presence (which is something I forget when I watch Elaine Paige’s performance – she’s definitely talented but I never quite feel glamour in her performance, and her name suggests that she has to be). Her general persona is also fantastic for this whole new modern vibe, and I genuinely beamed every time she was on the stage because of how perfect she is in the role. Oh, and as for the reprise of ‘Memory’... I weeped at the key change: she can sing the heck out of that song.
Other than that, this new Cats London production is everything that you would hope it to be and more. I don’t know how, but the original production team have taken this incredible show and remoulded it into something even more incredible and so much more modern and up to date with all of the other more exciting and upbeat shows currently running in the West End. It’s a bravo from me, and I’ll definitely be heading back there again at least one more time before it closes – absolutely purr-fect!
Cats reviewed by Shaun Nolan
Cats The Musical at the London Palladium is booking for a limited 12-week run! Don't miss your chance to see this 'PURRFECT' (Metro) revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's world record-breaking musical. Book your Cats London tickets now!