REVIEW: The Cats West End Revival Is A True Musical Phenomenon
| By Tony Peters
Given that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mega musical returned to the West End after 12 years as something of a stop gap following the failure of Harry Hill’s I Can’t Sing at the London Palladium, it’s good to see the public have once again taken the show to their hearts as they did back in the 1980s when it opened and started a run that lasted for 20 years.
On my second visit to this revival of the show it was great to see the huge Palladium auditorium full to bursting, the season has been extended from the planned closing date of 28 February to the end of April, and there is even talk of the Cats West End revival returning at Christmas for a short run.
And the production has a new leading lady, of course, with Kerry Ellis taking over from Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella
For this revival the original creative team of director Trevor Nunn and choreographer Gillian Lynne have been retained and the philosophy has clearly been if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, so tweaks to the show have been minimal — the main one being that the character of Rum Tum Tugger has been given a rap number to sing.
If anything, I would say that the show looked even slicker than when I saw it early in the run, especially the dancing which I felt was sharper this time round. Cats is, of course, one of the all time great dance shows and if you’re theatre going started after the original Cats musical closed then I’m sure you’ll see from her work here how Gillian Lynne has influenced a generation of choreographers.
Unsurprisingly, for those who know her, Kerry Ellis proves to be a superb replacement for Nicole Scherzinger. It’s not really a case of who’s better; Nicole had some special qualities, but I have to say, I do feel Kerry brings more theatricality to the role. There was clearly a lot of love in the room for Kerry as displayed by the well deserved sustained applause that followed her faultless and emotionally charged rendition of the show’s big number 'Memory'.
Cats though is very much an ensemble piece and there’s enjoyable performances from the likes of Paul Monaghan as Growl Tiger, Nicholas Pound as Old Deuteronomy and Zizi Strallen as Demeter, to name just a few in an exceptional company.
So a show that some people saw as a temporary fill-in bolstered by a bit of stunt casting proves to be in great shape and cements it reputation as a true musical theatre phenomenon.