Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway

The limited run has extended now through Sunday, July 28, 2024. Performances began on June 13, 2024. 

By: Jun. 20, 2024
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Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway
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Read the reviews for “Cats: The Jellicle Ball” at PAC NYC. As previously announced the limited run has extended now through Sunday, July 28, 2024. Performances began on June 13, 2024. 

The company includes Baby (Victoria), Jonathan Burke (Mungojerrie), Emma Sofia Caymares (Skimbleshanks), Tara Lashan Clinkscales (Ensemble), André De Shields  (Old Deuteronomy), Shelby Griswold (Understudy), Sydney James Harcourt (Rum Tum Tugger), Antwayn Hopper (Macavity) Dava Huesca (Rumpleteazer), Dudney Joseph Jr. (Munkustrap), Capital Kaos (DJ), Junior LaBeija (Gus), Dominique Lee (Understudy); Robert "Silk" Mason(Mistoffelees), “Tempress” Chasity Moore (Grizabella), Shereen Pimentel (Jellylorum), Primo (Tumblebrutus), Xavier Reyes (Jennyanydots),  Nora Schell(Bustopher Jones), Bebe Nicole Simpson (Demeter), Kendall G. Stroud (Understudy), Frank Viveros (Ensemble), Garnet Williams (Bombalurina) and Teddy Wilson Jr. (Sillabub).

This production will be a radical reimagining of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic dance musical Cats based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot.  Inspired by theBallroom culture that roared out of New York City over 50 years ago and still rages on runways around the world, it will be staged as a spectacularly immersive competition directed by Zhailon Levingston (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Chicken & Biscuits) and PAC NYC Artistic Director Bill Rauch (All the Way), with all new Ballroom and club beats, runway ready choreography, and an edgy eleganza makeover.  Come one, come all, and celebrate the joyous transformation of self at the heart of Cats and Ballroom culture itself.

The creative team includes Directors Zhailon Levingston and Bill Rauch, Choreographers Arturo Lyons and Omari Wiles, Rachel Hauck (Scenic Design), Qween Jean (Costume Design), Adam Honoré (Lighting Design), Kai Harada (Sound Design), Brittany Bland (Projection Design), Nikiya Mathis (Hair/Wig Design), William Waldrop (Music Supervision and Music Direction), David Lai (Music Coordinator), Trevor Holder (Beats Arrangement), Capital Kaos(Ballroom Consultant), Josephine Kearns (Dramaturg & Gender Consultant),  X Casting/ Victor Vazquez CSA, and Sujotta R. Pace CSA (Casting).

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway Jesse Green, New York Times: I should say at this point that, no, I haven’t turned into a fan of the show itself, the one you can see at your community theater or license for your high school. I don’t believe musicals should need whisker consultants. But as happens occasionally, the right idea can transform the wrong material. If “Cats: The Jellicle Ball” has managed a Grizabella turn, reincarnating itself in fabulousness, do not expect an 18-year run or, pardon me, copycat productions. It’s a lightning strike: not now and forever but now and once.

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway Sara Holdren, Vulture: Cats: “The Jellicle Ball” is the vogueing, waacking brainchild of co-directors Zhailon Levingston and Bill Rauch. It’s a high-spirited mash-up of Lloyd Webber’s possibly most dunked-on musical (the one about cats) with the culture and choreographic stylings of the ballroom scene immortalized in Paris Is Burning. It’s also a tribute to the legends of that scene, living and dead, and an energizing act of cross-community collaboration. A mix of more traditional triple threats with dancers, newcomers, and elders from the ball circuit—as well as a DJ to scribble, juggle, and sample along with the live band—creates a palpable effervescence in the room, banishing any theater in-crowd stuffiness. At intermission, I heard whispers about Steven Tyler being in the crowd. People are stoked, both onstage and off-. It’s, as the kids say, a vibe.

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: This is obviously not the first deconstruction of a classic Broadway title, but what makes this one different from say, the very chilly Daniel Fish “Oklahoma!” or the recent inuring “Cabaret,” is that this “Cats” doesn’t shock or confront but meets audience members of different ages and persuasions wherever they may land. (Rauch, especially, has a long history of knowing how to include everyone.) The show, sexy throughout, comes off as a celebration of love and resilience, timeless Broadway themes long proven to work with middle America. and what is yet more impressive (and, frankly, surprising) is how much crew actually respects the material. You read that right. They respect “Cats.” They dignify “Cats.” They elevate “Cats,” and certainly make it work for a new moment where queens now sit on thrones unimaginable in 1981. There are some fresh, more percussive orchestrations but I know this show well, and as far as I can tell, they play every note of the score. And speak almost every line, with a few lively additions.

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: A revival of Cats, at least in theory, might well give you paws. After a then-record 18-year run on Broadway—with a tagline, “NOW AND FOREVER,” that began to sound a bit like a threat—Andrew Lloyd Webber's synthtastic 1980s musical finally hung up its leotards and yak-hair wigs in 2000. Its comeback efforts since then have been less than thrilling: a taxidermic 2016 revival, a widely mocked 2019 film. It seemed almost as though the show had been condemned to obsolescence, humbled and disavowed like its own once-grand Grizabella the Glamour Cat. But now along comes a thrilling reconception at the Perelman Performing Arts Center that not only rescues Cats from the oversize junkyard but lifts it, like Grizabella herself, to unexpected heights.

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway Robert Hofler, The Wrap: “Appropriate” is the dirtiest word in the arts today, and one might feel sorry for Lloyd Webber for having his material spayed in this way by directors Zhailon Levingston and Bill Rauch. In fact, the only thing that makes this “Cats” worth watching is the ballroom environment of high and low drag that has been dropped like a bottle of Pooph odor eliminator onto Lloyd Webber’s litter box of a musical.

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: The hottest club in New York City right now is downtown Manhattan’s Perelman Performing Arts Center, home to a must-see musical revival you never knew you needed of the show you swore you’d never see again—especially after Tom Hooper’s legendary misfire of a movie: Cats.

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway Johnny Oleksinki, The New York Post: All of these unlikely pieces fit together seamlessly. What surprised me most was that the ballroom concept, beyond its initial rush of novelty, unexpectedly unearths laughs and heartfelt moments that were always there, but were kept down by whiskers and Spandex.

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway Kyle Turner, New York Theatre Guide: Cats: The Jellicle Ball is one of the best musicals, revival or otherwise, to be staged in New York, not only for the ingenuity, dramaturgical soundness, and pure joy of its reimagining, but because it grounds the notion of the “dance musical” in an expansive history of queer joy, full of potential for nine lives and beyond.

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway Zachary Stewart, WhatsOnStage: It’s unexpectedly poignant, yes. But more importantly, it’s so much fun. We feel that from the moment the cats vogue down the runway (authentic and death-droppingly athletic choreography by Omari Wiles and Arturo Lyons). The crowd goes nuts, cheering, clapping, and clacking fans in appreciation, making this event feel like a real ball.

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway Helen Shaw, The New Yorker: Levingston and Rauch’s melding of “Cats” and the queer ballroom scene is so effortless that it seems to have required only the slightest alterations. The synthesizer groove has been juiced up with some new club beats by Trevor Holder, the directors have added a plotlet about the naughty thief Macavity (Antwayn Hopper) getting rumbled by the cops, and the entire number “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” in which the titular tom hates “cats of foreign name and race,” has been tastefully deleted. The true difference, though, lies in the piece’s shift from commercialized kitsch to camp sincerity.

Review Roundup: CATS: THE JELLICLE BALL Opens Off-Broadway
Average Rating: 85.0%

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