BWW Review: CATS at Majestic Theatre
At any given day, in any given town, in any given house, in any given room, cats are beloved pets of millions of people all over the world. As such, stories can be told about how this cat or that cat stood out from the rest of the cat population to the cat owner who adores their fun furballs. But, has it ever really been understood what really goes on in a cat's mind? Do we really understand cats? Is it ever possible? T.S. Eliot adored cats and because of that, wrote Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. This was the inspiration behind Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS. This acclaimed and beloved musical is currently playing in San Antonio, Texas at the Majestic Theatre and opening night proved to the audience that the story of CATS continues to entertain and enthrall theater goers.
As the show begins, the lights are dimmed, and it appears to be cats everywhere. As the live orchestra begins to play, the cats come out to the darkness of the night where cats are most awake and ready for fun. The actors, dancers, and singers brought the cats to life as the lights flooded the stage and there were glimpses of many cats. The first impression is that of the dancers performing flawlessly and movements that resemble a real cat. It almost makes you forget that they are not real cats...almost.
All the performers were memorable and engaging throughout the performance. However, there were some real standouts. The part of Rum Tug Tugger needs to be a strong talent that can hold his own and McGee Maddox proved that he was that strong talent. He commands the stage in a way that Rum Tug Tugger should. Maddox belted out with confidence "The Rum Tug Tugger" song. He left many audience members a bit star struck and verklempt.
Another talent that needs to be mentioned is the actress who played Grizabella. Keri Rene Fuller as Grizabella drew the audience in immediately when she stepped out onstage. She gave a truly amazing performance as the aging and weak Grizabella who had really had a tough life as a cat. And, her rendition of "Memory" had the audience weepy. It was evident that Ms. Fuller displayed natural talent but, also that she worked hard to be a part of this remarkable show.
Deuteronomy was played by Brandon Michael Nase. It's no wonder he got the part, because he owned it. For a young actor, Nase embodied that of an old cat who shared wisdom with the other cats. Sharing the stage with the other cats, Nase sang "Old Deuteronomy" so well. And the song, "The Moments of Happiness" requires the voice of a well-trained singer. Nase's training from NYU and their master's program as well as his natural talent helped him to receive from the audience a well-deserved applause.
Timothy Gulan played a few of the cats including that of Bustefur Jones and Asparagus (Gus, The Theater Cat). It was so much fun to watch him play these characters because he seemed to take on the personality of that particular cat he was playing at the moment. Gus was obviously an audience favorite and singing "Gus the Theatre Cat" and "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and Pollicles" solidified that when the audience chuckled and applauded Gulan as he sauntered across the stage. While the comedic parts of the characters he played were important to note, the songs proved that Gulan was up for the task of sharing his strong vocals also.
Some other standouts included the part of Munkustrap who was played by Dan Hoy. He seemed genuinely excited to be on the stage and exuberated that enthusiasm. The other cats that don't seem to get much reignition are the dancers who share their talents and the stage with the amazing cast assembled for this North American Tour.
If you haven't seen CATS in a long time, maybe it's time to go back. Reimagining a classic gives it a new and fresh opportunity for audiences to fall in love with this classic all over again. The scenery and costume designs of John Napier give an authentic look to the back alleys and feral cats found in them. CATS will be at the Majestic Theatre from October 29-November 3, 2019. Go to Majestic's website to get your tickets soon.
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Murphy