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BWW Review: CATS at Orpheum Theater

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The cat is out of the bag... Broadway has returned to Omaha

BWW Review: CATS at Orpheum Theater

The cat is out of the bag.... Broadway is back in Omaha!

Andrew Lloyd Webber's smash hit Cats returns to Omaha to open the 2021/2022 Broadway in Omaha season at the Orpheum Theater. Based on T.S. Elliots "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," which is made up of a collection of poems Elliot wrote, this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical opened on the West End in 1981 and successfully ran for over twenty years before closing in May of 2002. Following on the tails of the West End production, Cats also opened on Broadway in 1982, where it stayed until the final performance in September of 2000. While critical reviews have varied over the years, it is a show that is without a doubt an iconic staple in the theatre world, and continues to gain new fans with each production.

Wednesday night audience members were buzzing about with excitement at the return of Broadway in Omaha and understandably so. The music of Cats is acrobatic vocally, and when you tie in the challenging choreography it truly is an experience you have to see (and hear) to believe. The lighting and stage design were just as beautiful as I remember, and the youthful cast this production brought a new energy to the show that was very enjoyable. The group vocals were thrilling with harmonies and haunting melodies, but I do wish the sound system had pumped everything up a bit to truly envelop the audience and immerse them in the world of these musical cats. I felt myself straining to hear some of the vocalists at times. There were also a few numbers that suffered from lack of diction, although not enough to detract from the quality of the production overall. Also, having been a fan of the musical Cats since my mom first took me to see it as a child in New York City, I would be remiss not to mention that some of the key moments and choreography Thursday night didn't seem familiar at times. Whether it was due to updated choreography or musical arrangements, or simply due to it being a few years since my last visit to the junkyard to spend an evening with these fabulous felines, I found myself taken out of the moment while trying to decide what was different instead of being present and completely invested in the story. A few of the numbers would have benefitted from a bit more energy as well, as some numbers were thrilling and others felt as though they were being marked to preserve energy for those other numbers. Knowing that this talented cast is still only just beginning their journey, I am confident many of these issues will work themselves out over time as the company continues to mesh together.

Standout performances Thursday evening were delivered by Lauren Louis and Chelsea Nicole Mitchell, who play Demeter and Bombalurina respectively. Their performance of "Macavity" was a highlight thanks in part to the strong vocals and tones, but also due to the precise timing and togetherness of their movements as a duo. They truly were a dynamic duo on that stage. And speaking of dynamic, Aiden Pressel radiated energy and power as Macavity during his big dance number in act two. The electricity in his movements was thrilling and I only wish we had the chance to experience more. I also would have liked more dancing features from Mistoffelees, whose precision in his turns left me with my mouth agape. Both dancers were exceptional. Another crowd and personal favorite was Jennyanydots, whose tap number was just plain fun and left a smile on my face long after her shoes stopped tapping. Add in her strong vocal chops and it's a home run casting choice. The applause after her number, "The Old Gumbie Cat," was only exceeded by the wild applause for Tayler Harris's rendition of "Memory" towards the end of act two. Harris's Grizabella made my heart ache, and I found myself in tears without warning as she was cast aside and made to watch the other cats dance a routine she clearly had also performed in her prime.

If you are looking for a family show with music, dance, and a surprising amount of heart, grab your tickets to spend an evening with the most talented felines in town. Cats is running at the Orpheum Theater now through October 3rd. Tickets can be purchased at https://ticketomaha.com/Productions/cats_2021?biuid=null&bioid=5f0f43017870970bb48a0d71&_ga=2.168228776.887221825.1633033371-1076689787.1633033371.

*Please Note: COVID protocols are in place and masks are required while inside the Orpheum Theater.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy


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