Monday, 21 December 2015

Cats Review, Dec 20, 2015 ***1/2


Music & Book by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possums
Book of Practical Cats, produced by Lunchbox, David Atkins and Really Useful Group
Regent Theatre, Melbourne until Jan 29 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: 3&1/2 
Review also online at Herald Sun Arts & a version in News pages of Herald Sun in print today, Monday Dec 21, 2015. KH
 Cast of Cats, Melbourne
The kitty-cats of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s award-winning show, Cats, are back at the Regent Theatre after a five-year absence and these energetic felines are still capering and prowling with impressive agility.

Delta Goodrem features as Grizabella, the ageing glamour-puss, in Associate Director Joanne Robinson’s Australian production that recreates the 2014 West End revival by Trevor Nunn and his original, 1981 creative team.

Despite the undeniable and worldwide popularity of Cats with its adoring audiences, many of its critics, both professional and amateur, believe that its flaws outweigh its successes; people seem to love or hate Cats.

Gillian Lynne’s revitalised choreography is spectacular, the stylised junkyard design (John Napier), costumes and make-up are impressive, and a couple of Lloyd Webber’s songs – especially Memory – are outstanding.

The lyrics, narrative and diverse characters that echo the human world are all based on T.S. Eliot’s poems for children in his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats from 1939.

Eliot’s poems are strung like a washing line, with one kitty character following another, linked by a thin narrative thread.

Goodrem, the much-loved pop princess of Australia, has a sweet, pretty voice with a fine tone and  control in her upper register and, although her lower register lacks strength, she shows her vocal power in the final bars of the reprise of Memory.

However, her depiction of the tattered outcast, Grizabella, when performing Memory has limited nuance and emotion and lacks the requisite musical theatre style and delivery for a song that should give the production its heart and is probably the only tune from Cats that lingers in our memories.

The role of Grizabella needs to express the aching nostalgia of the old cat pining for her heyday, but Goodrem seems more tentative than vulnerable in the role.
 Delta Goodrem as Grizabella; photo Will Braden

The Jellicle Cats are in a tumbledown junkyard celebrating their annual Jellicle Ball, a boisterous choreographic pageant that precedes Old Deuteronomy’s (Jason Wasley) announcement of the lucky cat to be awarded a tenth life.

These kitties cavort, miaow and purr amongst the seats of the Regent, titillating the audience.

Daniel Assetta’s Rum Tum Tugger is an updated, street-smart, urban rapper, Brent Osbourne and Dominique Hamilton are a sassy duet as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, Joel Pitterman is robust as Growltiger, Wasley is dignified as Old Deuteronomy.

Matt McFarlane is an imposing stage presence as Munkustrap, the fearless protector of the cat clan, Christopher Favaloro performs Mr Mistoffelees’ balletic pirouetting with staggering athleticism and Jennyanydots, performed by Holly Meegan, has a newly choreographed tap routine.

The impressive orchestra, led by Paul White, is a powerful but unseen character in this show and it fills the theatre with rich sound.

However, the list of irritations is long: the poetic meter scans poorly in some songs, much of the music is predictable, the narrative is flimsy, the villain, Macavity (James Cooper), is much anticipated but rarely seen while the Siamese soldiers in the operatic Growltiger scene belong in the King and I.

Is the popularity of cats so enduring because of its music, or its sassy and accomplished dancing – or could it be that cat-lovers make up a hug percentage of the audience and they see their own pet kitties in the characters? ‘Oh, I know a wicked, sneaky cat like  Macavity !’ and ‘My cat is just as cute and cheeky as Jennanydots!’

Remember that Cats Make Us Laugh Out Loud was number one with TV viewers this year. Is it possible that cat-lovers are also theatregoers?

Despite the fact that it polarises audiences and has the occasional, schmaltzy moment – namely the final elevation of Grizabella to the Heaviside Layer – Cats remains a visually impressive and diverting song-and-dance entertainment for its legion of fans.

By Kate Herbert
 Demeter & Bombalurina

Jo-Anne Robinson - Associate Director /Choreographer
Paul White -Musical Director

Cast includes:
Grizabella - Delta Goodrem
Rum Tum Tugger - Daniel Assetta
Mr. Mistoffelees - Christopher Favaloro
Jennyanydots - Holly Meegan
Old Deuteronomy - Jason Wasley
Skimbleshanks - Ross Hannford
Demeter - Amy Beresford
Macavity /Admetis- James Cooper  
Mungojerry- Brent Osbourne
Rumpleteazer - Dominique Hamilton
Munkustrap - Matt McFarlane
Growltiger -Joel Pitterman

1 comment:

  1. Not sure you actually saw the show last night.... Whilst I agree with points and I am in no way a Cats aficionado or Delta Goodrem fan as such, what I heard and felt was a very moving deep tonal performance by Delta. In no way would I describe that performance as 'sweet'!