BWW Review: North American Tour of CATS Epitomizes Excellence
Opening this week at Bass Concert Hall is the North American tour of CATS, presented by Lexus Broadway in Austin and Texas Performing Arts. This record-breaking phenomenon by Andrew Lloyd Webber that has delighted audiences for over thirty-five years is back onstage with an updated new look. Under the direction of Trevor Nunn, CATS first premiered in London in 1981 and quickly made its Broadway debut in 1982. Both productions ran for twenty-one and eighteen years, respectively, setting records as two of the longest running productions on Broadway and The West End. By the early nineties, the musical which features the hit song "Memory," had grossed over 2 billion dollars as well as several Tony and Olivier awards. In Summer 2016, the show returned to Broadway as a revival and played nearly six hundred performances before it closed in December 2017. There is also a feature film version directed by Tom Hooper scheduled to hit theaters December 2019.
Based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Elliott, CATS tells the story of a clowder of cats called "Jellicles." The musical opens on the night of what is known as the "Jellicle Choice," where one cat will be chosen to go to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life. The audience is introduced to a host of colorful characters and their distinctive features throughout the show. Munkstrap (Dan Hoy), the show's main narrator introduces Jennyandots (Erin Chupinksy), Rum Tum Tugger (McGee Maddox), Mungojerie (Tony D'Alelio) and Rumpleteazer (Rose Iannaccone), and the tribe's leader, Old Deuteronomy (Brandon Michael Nase). There's also Mister Mistoffelees (Tion Gaston), the sinister Macavity (Tyler John Logan), and Grizabella (played this performance by Tricia Tanguy), the former glamour cat. But the question of "who will it be?," still hangs in the balance as the Jellicles await their fate.
The success of CATS is understandable and undeniable after witnessing the production's spectacle firsthand. Every piece of the puzzle fits perfectly. Andrew Lloyd Webber's brilliant score illuminates the words and rhymes of Elliott; all of which are made further astounding by the remarkable choreography originally by Gillian Lynne and revitalized by Andy Blankenbuehler. New scenic and lighting design by John Napier and Natasha Katz, respectively, also breathes new life into beloved production while paying homage to the show's classic design elements. Oversized tires, old shoes, and Tin can Footlights marry the look of a dilapidated alley with the charm of an old-timey theatre.
The absolute triumph of the show is the remarkably talented cast. While the songs are a well-known delight, the choreography and movement are equally mesmerizing. Each actor, a number of which are making their national tour debut, possesses feline-like movements with the only remotely human trait being their felicitous vocals and harmonies. Each is an individual, but functions as a well placed cog in ensemble numbers. Favorite numbers include the show's opening "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats," "The Old Gumbie Cat," "The Rum Tum Tugger," Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer," and "Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat." The hands-down best numbers of the night belong to Tion Gaston and McGee Maddox's "Magical Mister Mistoffelees," and powerhouse, Tricia Tanguy's emotionally charged rendition of "Memory." Other notable performances are given by the entire cast, but specifically Dan Hoy as Munkstrap, Ahren Victory as Sillabub, Caitlin Bond as Victoria and Brandon Michael Nase as Old Deuteronomy.
This production of CATS epitomizes excellence in musical theatre. Putting a show of this caliber in the capable hands of this almost universally young cast is a move that pays off. With fresh, revitalizing energy, soaring music, and jaw-dropping choreography, CATS is sure to delight fans of the original show and a whole new generation of theatergoers. Hurry up and catch this spectacular show before it leaves Austin on May 12th.
CATS is now playing at Bass Concert Hall (2350 Robert Dedman Drive, Austin 78712) until Sunday, May 12th. Performances Thursday, Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday at 1:00pm and 7:00pm.
How To Get Tickets
Running Time (approx.): Two hours and thirty minutes with a fifteen-minute intermission
Tickets: Start st $30
For groups of 10 or more, call (877) 275-3804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org