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Review Roundup: CATS Returns to Broadway- All the Reviews!

The first-ever Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic musical, Cats, returns to Broadway tonight at the Neil Simon Theatre (250 W 52nd Street).

The new generation of Cats includes Leona Lewis as "Grizabella," Giuseppe Bausilio as "Carbucketty," Quentin Earl Darrington as "Old Deuteronomy," Jeremy Davis as "Skimbleshanks," Kim Faure as "Demeter," Sara Jean Ford as "Jellylorum," Lili Froehlich as "Electra," Daniel Gaymon as "Macavity," Shonica Gooden as "Rumpleteazer," Christopher Gurr as "Gus/Bustopher Jones," Tyler Hanes as "Rum Tum Tugger," Andy Jones as "Munkustrap," Kolton Krouse as "Tumblebrutus," Eloise Kropp as "Jennyanydots / Gumbie," Jess Leprotto as "Mungojerrie," Georgina Pazcoguin as "Victoria," Emily Pynenburg as "Cassandra," Arianna Rosario as "Sillabub," Ahmad Simmons as "Alonzo," Christine Cornish Smith "Bombalurina," Corey Snide as "Coricopat," Emily Tate as "Tantomile," Ricky Ubeda as "Mistoffelees," and Sharrod Williams as "Pouncival,"as well as Richard Todd Adams, Aaron Albano, Callan Bergmann, Claire Camp, Francesca Granell, Jessica Hendy, Harris Milgrim, Madison Mitchell, Nathan Patrick Morgan and Megan Ort.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Charles Isherwood, New York Times: The overriding spirit of the revival appears to be the familiar motto: Don't mess with success. Once again, the production is directed by Trevor Nunn, with sets and costumes by John Napier. Once again, a Broadway theater has been transformed into a grungy London junkyard, where trash piles up against the walls and spills out into the auditorium - albeit on a somewhat smaller scale. That levitating tire, as famous a set piece as a certain falling chandelier, presides once again at the back of the stage. (Apparently the license plate on the battered car, which reads "NAP 70," is an in-joke indicating how many productions Mr. Napier has designed. Imagine how many leg warmers have been involved.)

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Pop star Leona Lewis has been cast as Grizabella, the cat of tragically faded glamour who sings the musical's dramatic 11 o'clocker, "Memory." She has no acting credits in her bio and it shows, making the evening's climactic moment a sad letdown, especially when considering the many underused Broadway actresses who can really make a meal out of it.

Emma Brockes, Guardian: Lewis has a beautiful voice, but when she performed Memory, she was not Grizabella the mangy old cat, but Leona Lewis, pop star and seller of 20m records, just as, a few years ago, when Catherine Zeta Jones played Desiree in A Little Night Music (also directed by Nunn) she busted out of role to sing Send in the Clowns with the zip of the Incredible Hulk busting out of his shirt. Perhaps this doesn't matter. A song sung on these terms can still be highly enjoyable, although in this case I found the performance of Memory rather stressful, particularly the crescendo at the end and the bits when Lewis listed dangerously to one side while doing some Acting. It was a relief when the story moved on.

David Cote, TimeOut NY: Today, Cats feels experimental only in the sense of writing a show as if Oklahoma! and Company never happened. Lloyd Webber's ability to craft a coherent book musical has always been shaky (School of Rock being a late-career exception to the rule). Cats is an attenuated high-concept revue that grows tedious by its second act. A bunch of cats slink out one night, introduce themselves and, by the end, two of them go to kitty heaven. Now and then you may catch a word not normally heard on Broadway: "ineffable" or "perpendicular."

Jason Clark, The Wrap: ...the production's hopes of updating one of Broadway's more maligned hits - and justifying its popularity - seems to have floated up to the Heaviside Layer that these cats so desperately crave. This revival provokes but one response to the show's onetime tagline: now and whatever.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: "Cats" is full of catchy pop tunes many of us have known for decades. Webber's songs don't have the tightest of melodies, but I'll take "Cats" over "School of Rock" any day. As a wistful recollection, "Cats" is guaranteed to leave you feline groovy-it's here now, though I wouldn't bet on it lasting forever.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Memories could be fatal to this revival of "Cats" - specifically, the memory of Betty Buckley as Grizabella, singing "Memory" as it's meant to be sung, with heartbreaking beauty and exquisite pain by a great stage performer. Leona Lewis, the British pop star anointed by Andrew Lloyd Webber himself, isn't in her league. Happily, nothing as catty can be said of the rest of this fabulous revival of the 1981 musical phenom that padded its way around the world on little cats' feet.

Jesse Green, Vulture: To be fair, Cats is not quite as bad as cultural elites liked to suggest; there were far worse shows during its 18-year run. But Cats was both pretentious and déclassé, dragging the musical form down from its recent supposed glory just as it dragged Eliot down from Prufrock to Pouncival. This was, after all, the megahit that opened the door for the invasion of European pop operas that all but smothered the native product for two decades. Seeing it 34 years later, in a Broadway environment that has recently produced the likes of Hamilton and Fun Home, is to experience something milder and less dangerous than it once seemed. It's not so much feline as bovine, as if Nunn and Lloyd Webber had spliced in some genetic material from another Eliot poem of the same period: "Cows."

David Finkle, Huffington Post: It's undoubtedly coincidence that Cats arrives on cats' feet just after the national political conventions have concluded. Patrons seeing it this week and in the weeks to come may find themselves reminded of those congregations. Truth to tell, they're more likely to see the Democrat Convention echoed rather than the Republican Convention. The diversity of the former outshines the divisiveness of the latter-the many unison dance routines being a visual metaphor for cohesion and promise. And it may be that when Grizabella, a woman, is selected to rise to new heights, more than a few spectators will flash on the Democrat's 2016 nominee ascending to her next vaunted level.

Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter: Although it remains to be seen whether this revival will live up to the original production's tagline of "Now and Forever," enough time has passed for a new generation of theatergoers to embrace the show, while those who saw the original (and liked it) will probably want to return for a blast of nostalgia. And with the dramatic upturn in tourists to the Big Apple in recent years, there's no reason to think that this Cats won't be purring on Broadway for a very long time.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: And whatever other misgivings you might have, wading through the thin story of the ascension of Grizabella the Glamour Cat (British vocalist Leona Lewis) to the redemptive Heaviside Layer, the cast assembled for the revival is gangbusters. Andy Blankenbuehler, the Tony-winning choreographer of "Hamilton," has been recruited to tweak the dances of "Cats's" original choreographer, Gillian Lynne (another Tony winner). His refinements inject precision and verve and allow several of the performers, in their equitably distributed spotlight moments, to show off grandly. Among the most exciting are Ricky Ubeda as the magician cat, Mistoffelees; Tyler Hanes, playing Rum Tug Tugger, the rock-and-roll cat, and Jess LeProtto and Shonica Gooden as the mischief makers Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer.

Linda Winer, Newsday: Best of all is the refreshed choreography by Tony winner Andy Blankenbuehler ("Hamilton") who has replaced Gillian Lynne's compilation of stock moves with variety and invention. Except for a preponderance of butt-waving, the taffy-jointed dancers have some of the angular, sudden, inexplicable moves of catliness. Highlights include balletic Georgina Pazcoguin, all in white, who moves as if she loves being in her skin, and Ricky Ubeda as Mr. Mistoffelees, who unspools turns and leaps with soft-paw landings.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: The whisker of a plot and lyrics are drawn from T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." A posse of pusses gather to see which one gets a shot at a new life. Who could it be? The Rum Tum Tugger (Tyler Hanes), who struts like a rock star? Twinkled-toed Jennyanydots (Eloise Kropp)? The frisky and nimble Skimbleshanks (Jeremy Davis)? The amazing often airborne Mistoffelees (Ricky Ubeda)? Or a dozen others? It's not much of a spoiler that it's shunned and bedraggled outcast Grizabella (Leona Lewis). After all, she gets "Memory." Too bad she inspires so little sympathy. The show's first tagline was "now and forever." More fitting for "Cats" 2.0 - now and whatever.

Matt Windman, amNY: The revival could be better in some respects. The original production provided a more transporting experience because it played on a wider stage, which increased the intimacy, and its theater was more extensively transformed to suit the show's unique physical environment. Musically, the size of the orchestra has been cut in half.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly: I have a bone to pick with Andrew Lloyd Webber about Cats. For the past few days, since I saw the first-ever Broadway revival at the Neil Simon Theatre, that's all I've had running through my head. And I'm not talking about "Memory," the showstopper made famous by Barbra Streisand before Cats even opened on Broadway in 1982. I mean the almost hypnotically repetitive prologue "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats"; the jazzy, doo-wop ode to Jennyanydots, "The Old Gumbie Cat"; and the singsongy "Magical Mister Mistoffelees" ("Oh! Well I never! Was there ever a cat so clever..."). Will anything - short of the "It's a Small World" theme song - banish these insistent melodies from my brain?

Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph: Directed by Trevor Nunn, and choreographed by the great Gillian Lynne, this Cats remains an evening of fluff and nonsense, really, with leg-warmers and cutesy costumes that should be risible to a cynic's eyes. Yet such is the innate confidence and innocent zest of this bizarre, feline spectacle that all cynicism just moults away.

Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: It's kitschy and fun, sometimes quite touching, and marvelously well done. It'll likely be very nostalgic for anyone who saw the show before, and, I'm guessing, a treat for people who haven't, and don't go expecting a profound theatrical experience. "Cats" is a one-of-a-kind entertainment, and I can't imagine a young, budding theater-lover, in particular, not being entranced.


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