BWW Review: CATS is a Memory that Lingers On and On and On
This review is slightly bittersweet in that it is my last review for Broadway World. I have resigned my position as one of the contributing editors in Raleigh to pursue my freelance career.
As a performing arts journalist, I've been asked numerous times, "What's your favorite show?" Honestly, I can't answer. Why? It is because so many of the shows I've seen are connected to memories and experiences. And it is those experiences I remember fondly, which is why I love the theater and can't pick a favorite production.
So, it seems fitting that the last show I'll cover for Broadway World is CATS. I've seen this show at least a half-dozen times, and for me, it's a time capsule of sorts. The first time I saw it was in its original home at the Winter Garden Theater during a high school class trip to New York. A few years later, I returned to the Winter Garden to see the show with my sister who admittedly hates the theater. Consequently, I bought the cheapest tickets possible, partial view I was told. They were indeed partial view, but that was only because we were sitting on the stage in the set. Again, it was an experience that neither my sister nor I will ever forget.
Over a decade later, I took my young son to see the 2006 touring production. It was his first show and an experience that marked the beginning of his love of the theater. In fact, three years ago, towards the end of his senior year in high school, he asked me to take him to New York to see the Broadway revival. I'll always remember the eager expression on my son's face waiting for that show to start. Chronologically he was 17, but for just over two hours that night, I got a glimpse of my five-year-old little boy. It was a mom moment (those of you who have kids may understand), a metamorphic trick of the eye, wherein I could see the man he was becoming and the little boy he once was.
Let's face it, CATS is not a great show. Some may say it isn't even a good show. For some, it is a dance fest, for others, a snooze fest. It's a spectacle for sure, and frankly, the current touring production playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center this week is not even one of the strongest productions to date. It lacks some of the verve of the show's previous incarnations, including the 2016 Broadway revival on which this tour is based. But that's okay. It was clear earlier this week when the show opened to an enthusiastic crowd that for many people in the audience, including me, it was part of some collective shared experience, a nostalgic memory, a moment of happiness if you will, that continues to live again (and again and again and again). And for fans of this feline fantasy, this show has at least one more life left, a film version starring a who's who of stars, scheduled to come out later this year. Perhaps then it can retire to the Heaviside Layer, at least until the next Jellicle moon appears.
CATS runs through Sunday at the Durham Performing Arts Center. For more information visit: https://www.dpacnc.com/.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.