July began with a trip to see the current UK tour of Cats at our local (ish) theatre in Milton Keynes. Incidentally, Milton Keynes Theatre is one of the most stunning modern theatres around, definitely worth a visit.
Now, I must confess, I have an array of emotional ties with the musical Cats. It was one of the first shows I saw as a child, I have fond memories of sitting on the steps inside the New London theatre, excited about what was to come; then being in awe (and slightly scared) when all of the ‘cats’ began to infiltrate the auditorium. My childhood was also full of tales from the original London production. With a relative in the original cast, my parents attended opening night; I’ve heard countless re-tellings of the bomb scare that ensued. Cats sweatshirts, mugs, coasters and costume prints have adorned my family member’s homes for as long as I can remember. With this wealth of baggage, it was with trepidation that I booked tickets for the touring production. Would it be as good as I remembered? Would it live up to my internal hype? Would my childhood memories be squashed in 2.5 avoidable hours?
I needn’t have worried.
For those that are unaware, Cats is based on a series of poems by T.S.Elliot; most songs depict the life of a certain type of Jellicle cat. The premise of the plot being the choice regarding which cat will ascend to the ‘Heaviside Layer’… essentially being granted a new life. Admittedly it’s not highbrow entertainment, but who cares when you’re having so much fun?
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score and Gillian Lynne’s choreography work seamlessly together. The dance sequences involving the entire ensemble are a pure joy to watch; they’re timeless and universal. There are certain phrases throughout the score, most prominent in the opening number that sent and will always send tingles down my spine. Songs such as ‘Mr Mistoffelees’ and ‘Skimbleshanks’ were buzzing around my brain for days.
The touring set was an almost carbon copy of what I recall from London and the cast was definitely top notch. Of notable mention was Joanna Ampil’s portrayal of Grizabella, I may have had to wipe away a few tears during ‘Memory’.
I will always adore this musical, but the current tour definitely didn’t disappoint. I think every child should have the opportunity for Cats to introduce them to the world of theatre, who knows? that night’s entertainment may stay with them forever.