Review: A 'Practical CATS' Performance at Proctors

For an evening of toe-tapping tunes and awe-inspiring movement, CATS continues to deliver – Now and Forever.

By: May. 05, 2022
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Review: A 'Practical CATS' Performance at Proctors

The '80s delivered endless iconic pop culture trends like leg warmers, neon, Walkmans, Whitney, and Madonna. Broadway in the '80s also saw a unique culture shift as British mega musicals like LES MISERABLES and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA began to take over the American stage. First on the scene, though, was CATS, which uniquely married the worlds of theater, ballet, spandex, and synthesized music in 1982. And although CATS has purrhaps only grown more hair-raising with age (not to mention enhanced audience expectations), the song-and-dance spectacle continues to mesmerize and mystify audiences more than 40 years after its inception.

Famously based on T.S. Eliot's poetry collection, titled Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, CATS has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by poet Eliot, Production Director Trevor Nunn, and Richard Stilgoe. It's admittedly a paper-thin plot about literal cats, who gather for something called The Jellicle Ball, where one cat will eventually be selected for rebirth (although whether this is one of their nine lives, or an additional nine remains unclear). Through a series of dimly lit musical numbers amid a larger-than-life junkyard landscape, each cat offers their personal pitch over the course of two and a half hours of intricate technical dance. What the show lacks in storytelling, it makes up for in musical theater magic, using only the performers' tightly dressed bodies as the evening's special effects.

On the endlessly talented stage, scene stealers include tap-dancing tornado Michelle E. Carter as Jennyanydots, Nick Davis as ringleader Munkustrap, the comic duo Max Craven and Allison Lian as mischievous Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, Paul Girratano as the charming and slick-footed Mistoffelees, and powerhouses Lauren Louis as Demeter and Chelsea Nicole Mitchell as Bombalurina. Zach Bravo's Rum Tum Tugger milked the audience all he could, and Tayler Harris received the standard ovation for her spin on Grizabella's power ballad "Memory," but both artists failed to offer interpretations that added to or enhanced the show's star-making legacy.

The true highlight of the show, as always, is the intricate choreography by the late Gillian Lynne, whose ability to create dances full of power, patterns, and pizzazz is unparalleled. This new tour (based on the 2016 Broadway revival) features additional choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, fresh off his HAMILTON fame. Although Blankenbuehler's efforts offer some exciting new steps throughout the show, his approach occasionally robs the audience (and performers) of some formerly magical moments, like Mr. Mistoffelees' famous conjuring turns, which are inadequately replaced by some underwhelming contemporary footwork.

This cast of CATS is full of true triple-threat performers, who manage to collectively sing Webber's wordy score with more strength and clarity than the 15 stage cast recordings that precede them. They're occasionally upstaged by the synthesized piano that echoes an otherwise forgotten MIDI file quality, but their voices truly shine through the full score.

CATS has long polarized audiences, and the missteps of the dreadful 2019 film certainly did the brand no favors. But for an evening of toe-tapping tunes and awe-inspiring movement, CATS continues to deliver - Now and Forever.

CATS continues on the Proctor's stage through Sunday, May 8th. For tickets and more information, visit

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