**** (4.5 Stars)
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent - 28 October, 2013
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats is based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and tells the story of the Jellicle Cats who reunite with their leader, Old Deuteronomy, once a year to celebrate their lives both as a tribe and as individuals.
This award-winning show, first staged in the West End in 1981, still remains a hit right up until this day. After watching the superb opening night, it is safe to say that this musical will definitely not be using all of its nine lives any time soon.
As the show is sung-through (no spoken dialogue) the story relies on the expressive cat-like movement and acting of the performers. Director Trevor Nunn alongside choreographer Gillian Lynne set the movement superbly, ranging from moments of captivating simplicity to mind-blowing gymnastic and ballet tricks. The cast did not fail to deliver with confidence or energy as they prowl and pounce across the stage as well as out into the audience.
The cast’s articulation whilst singing is phenomenal, especially from the duo Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer who manage to effortlessly three successive slick somersaults. However, it must be mentioned that at times, words are not executed precisely and notes are not always acute during company numbers ¬– but then again that could be excused as it is technically a cat’s chorus!
Webber certainly challenges both cast and orchestra in tackling the complex irregular metre of many numbers. Sophie Ragavelas undoubtedly steals the show as Grizabella in her dazzling and tear-jerking performance of “Memories”. Her pristine voice and acting talent shine as she sings in the spotlight of longing to go back to a past that held hope and happiness.
Visually, the show is extremely impressive even though the scenery remains the same from beginning to end and with floor is decorated in a collage of newspapers and advertising leaflets.
The lighting is extremely colourful and exciting and uses hanging light bulbs, which extended out into the auditorium. It is a nice touch that the colour of the lights change depending on the mood and pace of each scene.
For those that enjoy much dance and singing combined with magic and high-energetic storytelling then this show is definitely not to be missed. As the cast sing the final spine-tingling harmonies and the orchestra play their last chord, it is fair to say that the goose bumps spoke for themselves.