BWW Reviews: Theatre by the Sea Stages High-Energy, Highly-Entertaining CATS

Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS is an ambitious undertaking for Matunuck's Theatre by the Sea. The venue's small stage area poses a challenge for the acrobatic, dance-heavy production, but the TBTS cast and crew meets and overcomes that obstacle with grace and lots of style.

CATS is based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, a slim volume of fanciful poems penned by T.S. Eliot. Eliot's verses focus on individual felines from all walks of life, including magical cats, theatrical cats, and cats living at the railway station. Lloyd Webber unites the tales together under a larger narrative: these cats, the Jellicles, meet together once a year at a junkyard ball to tell their personal stories and to choose one of their own worthy to be reborn into a new life.

Matunuck's cast boasts a wealth of talent both in song and dance. Peter S. Adams lends his strong, rich singing voice to Old Deuteronomy, the Jellicle patriarch, and he plays the character with humor, warmth, and wisdom. Katy Blake shines as Grizabella, the tattered former glamour cat, who sings the signature song of the show, "Memory." Blake is an outstanding vocalist and her layered performance brings depth and heart to her own scenes and, ultimately, to the crux of the Jellicles' gathering.

Felipe Barbosa Bombonato and Lucy Horton bring down the house as Gus/Growltiger and Jellylorum/Griddlebone, mingling a lighthearted comedy routine with a truly impressive operatic duet. Ian Parmenter has great stage presence as Munkustrap, the heir apparent to Old Deuteronomy, and he shines both in song and dance. Amanda Pulcini brings personality and pizazz to the vermin-reforming, tap-dancing Jennyanydots. Arnie Rodriguez, Blayne Gregg-Miller, and Jordan Dunlap also deliver standout performances as Skimbleshanks, Bombalurina, and Victoria, respectively.

Dance numbers that involve the entire cast are rather snug on the TBTS stage, but the company never misses a step as they weave around each other. The dancers also make judicious use of the aisles to allow for less constrained movement.

Anthony R. Phelps admirably recreates the Jellicles' junkyard setting with sewer pipes, rusted vehicles, and even the famed, hydraulically-powered flying tire. Stephanie Harrop provides finely-detailed makeup for the production, and costumes by the Kansas City Costume Company - with a few uneven exceptions - are well crafted and mimic the design of their London/Broadway counterparts.

Performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS run through July 13, 2013 at Theatre by the Sea. Tickets range from $39-59 and can be purchased online at www.theatrebythesea.com, by phone (401) 782-8587, or in person at the TBTS box office, 364 Cards Pond Road, Matunuck, RI.

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Photo by Steven Richard Photography

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From This Author Veronica Bruscini

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