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Review: CATS THE MUSICAL, International Tour

Review: CATS THE MUSICAL, International Tour

The show will tour in Norway, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland, Germany and Portugal

It was my honour to get invited to review Cat's international tour, which reached Finland's capital Helsinki on 4 November. I sent my accreditation request as early as in early 2022 when I saw the first advertisements. I consented that "I'll get an invitation a few days before the show" if I'm accepted. Oh, a year ahead to wait, I thought.

But it was worth it. Though on behalf of Live Nation Finland there wasn't any guidance for a press: I didn't get (nor find from the humongous hall filled with sausage kiosks) the programme and my seat was quite far away so I hardly could see the gentle changes in expressions I'd loved to get absorbed. Nevertheless I enjoyed as much as I could and let me say, it was not a struggle in front of this show.

Everything starts from dimness. The iconic tune starts to play, which sounds like a cat prowling on a keyboard at times. We see see pairs of glowing dots on the stage one could interpret as eyes just like in the advertisement.

Let's cut to the chase: Cats was ahead of its time in 80s. The great hook in the show are definitely the costumes, the set design and the way our performers move.

Something delighting I noticed was precisely in the choreography: in addition that performers had the skill to rotate their spine extremely well and move different body parts in separate rhythm - just like a cat - was that the movements done in a group choreo were "simple" and small enought to execute in sync. That is something I've thought about too. Preferably simple movements excellently rather than complex movements with little mistakes here and there.

Of course the details are also thought out: for example I enjoyed how one cat did stretches and in middle of one shivered. It looked very authentic.

On the contrary to simple group scenes I also enjoyed an intimate bit where there were only two performers on the stage singing about Macavity. When the other moved, the other paid attention and the stage was used creatively in all directions.

Review: CATS THE MUSICAL, International Tour

Before this bit there was also Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer's scene which brings me to my favorite few performers. Naturally there were no weak links but the artists whose techniques I was most interested in were Rumpelteazer (Ella Kemp), Skimbleshanks (Philip Bertioli) the Railway Cat and Gus (Hal Fowler) the theatrical Cat. Rumpleteazer was very lively, Skimbleshanks was very present and assertive and Gus' charisma reached and thrilled me from 10 meters apart.

They all were very in tune with their own energy as well as other energies: co-performers, audience and the general flow. They did not "push" any expressions nor used theatrical gimmicks but actually lived on stage and enjoyed. If they didn't enjoy they at least had some excellent technique to hide it.

I've sent some questions for them to answer, which I hope I get to publish soon!

The fourth wall is broken in many ways. In the beginning our cats spring from behind the audience on stage, their eyes glimmering the same way as on stage. Also the lightbulbs hung above the audience.

Gosh, I have so much to write about. Just carry on.

Fourth wall is also broken in the first song when a Cat sings the thoughts of an audience aloud, pointing an audience member: "There's a man over there with a look of surprise,

As much as to say, "Well now how about that!" Do I actually see with my own very eyes

A man who's not heard of a Jellicle cat?"

Jellicle term is quite like Smurf, I blurt to my Finnish mother as an easy example.

I waited for a plot, but the show was more about introducing different cats of the Jellicle's and their past and specialities. Perhaps they all were interested in getting a new Jellicle life? Also the very beginning foreshadows it as the Cats come on stage with different styles to different musical tones. The orchestra was flawless, by the way, though at first the electric quitar was way too loud but was fortunately fixed in the second half.

Due to these different musical numbers, which also vary in style, including acrobatics, magic and special effects. I'd argue this show leans towards a cabaret. It keeps our interest up: what - or who - comes next?

Also the color designs of lights and costumes entertain our senses in this spectacle, still telling us and supporting the stories of the characters. A perky cat step dances in their bright orange costume in front of blue hues. The Rum Tum Tugger is introduced in golden, luxurious lights. Cheerful music abruptly stops and the stage is lit up in red - the danger is coming. I adored that very moment because I've thought to myself that a scene like that would work so very well in a production.

Loved how the spot light lived and changed with the music when the Magical Mr. Mistoffelees danced. In the end he blew it away but during the excellent dancing the light's movements could have been in more specific moments: when I first noticed it I eagerly waited for it a long time before it happened again. I tried to find a patter for it, but it seemed to happen in quite "random" (of course planned for the team) moments, but for the audience it didn't offer "butterflies in the brain". If it would have been linked to an instrument or some rhythms every now and then, would it have worked better?

The show also knows how to play in contrast, not only in the color design. The stray cat, ex-glamorous Cat Grizabella's (Jacinta Whyte) entrances are a symbol of loneliness. All the others dance joyfully to cheerful music, but when Grizabella walks on the empty stage, the atmosphere goes blue, music becomes minimalistic and sad. She mimics the movements the young cats did, in vain. We're hit with the most recognizable song Memory, which se executes excellently. Her looks are also well designed: the long hair tells me she hasn't taken care of herself and is evidently an outcast in comparison to the puffy furs of others. There is also some kind of a collar or a hoodie that gives an impression that her head hangs low and shoulders are up - which isn't physically possible at the same time when she sings so well. So a splendid trick from the costume team!

All in all Cats has deserved its place on a musical pedestal. It's filled with tricks, details but most of all talent of all aspects of Cabaret-like theatre making. This family friendly show gives something for everyone from combat choreos and special effects to amusing moments when a senior remembers he has in fact one more story to tell. And we did listen, not sparing applauses.

SCIENCE EXTRA: there's an interesting study on hypermobility - which means your joints are very mobile. It's a challenge, though an advantage to many performers. See, being hypermobile has a link in being neurologically sensitive and emotional: "The hypermobility group scored higher for interoceptive sensitivity yet were not significantly more anxious. Our findings specifically link hypermobility to the structural integrity of a brain centre implicated in normal and abnormal emotions and physiological responses." Link to the study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3365276/

Review: Rosanna Ilo Liuski, Finland Admin est. 2018

Review: CATS THE MUSICAL, International Tour
@iloliuski


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From This Author - Rosanna Liuski

Rosanna Liuski has been passionate about theatre for the past decade. Her biggest achievements as an actor have been in Rambo at Finnish National Theatre, directed by Elina Kilkku, 2015; ... (read more about this author)


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