I don’t know if I’m in the minority with my opinion here but I absolutely adore everything about Cats. I first fell in love with the show a lifetime ago when I was captivated by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s fantastic music on the original London cast album and the wonderful performances of the filmed stage performance. So naturally, you can imagine my excitement when Nicole Sherzinger stepped into Grizabella’s boots last Christmas at the Palladium – her performance wowed me so much that I saw her in the role twice and as soon as I found out that Beverley Knight would be taking on the role when the show returned to the Palladium for a limited 11 week run this Christmas, I was equally as excited. But is this show as good this year as it was last? And if you saw last year’s run of Cats at the London Palladium, do you really need to go and see it again?
Let’s start by talking about what Cats really is and the raw content that this show has to offer. The fantastic score by Andrew Lloyd Webber makes up all of the storytelling on stage from an audible perspective and it really is a beauty; there’s something so magical about this show’s orchestrations (by Stephen Hill) for what really is a gorgeous score of classic musical theatre hits that makes the evening even more enjoyable than it already was. The fantastic music paired by a reworking of the show’s original choreography and direction, by the show’s original collaborators Gillian Lynne and Trevor Nunn respectively, really solidifies this show as a revival in its truest form because you really are watching what is essentially the exact same show (give or take the updated version of The Rum Tum Tugger and so on) that ran in London for 21 years to the day. Let’s also not forget the stunning makeup and design by the show’s original artist John Napier – what a talent.
Now for our major decider: is Beverley Knight the best Grizabella to date? If you follow me on Twitter (@shaunycat) then you might have seen that the discussion for who the best Grizabella is normally gets me into a bit of trouble; I seem to get myself into Twitter arguments with people on a regular basis because my opinion really does differ to the norm. I’ve heard most recently that Jane McDonald who played Griz in the show’s 8-week Blackpool run this year was the best, but I guess I can’t disagree with that because I didn’t see that production. In my honest opinion, I truly think that Nicole Sherzy made this role and really brought Grizabella into the modern production of Cats that this show is and her talent is absolutely breathtaking. Beverley Knight almost feels like her alternate; of course she has incredible talent and her vocals are out of this world, but there’s something about her voice that feels empty. Despite fitting the idea of Grizabella being empty and alone, it doesn’t really work when she’s trying to have her last moment of glory when belting 'Memory' at the end of the show (which all in all is the main moment of the show for most people and is essentially all that Grizabella is really needed for). It’s fantastic, of course it is because it’s Beverley Knight, but it’s not as good as I was hoping it was and that let me down a little. Nonetheless, both Knight and the rest of this cast are absolutely incredible and faultless in their performances.
Should you go and see CATS again now it’s back at the London Palladium? I think I’m going to say yes to that actually. Not only because I am a massive fan of this show, but also because I feel like this run of the show has a different feel to last year’s in how the characters are presented and portrayed. My only wish is that Cats had a permenant residence in London once again. Some revivals are boring and I’m happy for them to have their limited runs and vanish again for a while, but I only wish that Cats was here to stay.
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