Growing up, I was very lucky to have the opportunity to attend Broadway shows with my mom. It was something that I very much looked forward to each and every time I would get to go and it was an experience which, looking back, really helped in strengthening the bond between my mom and I. As an adult, I didn’t get the chance to go to as much, but in 2019 I promised myself that I would get back into immersing myself in live theatre. What better way to do that than to check out Andrew Lloyd Webber’s legendary and critically acclaimed Broadway show, CATS.
Taking place at the Hollywood Pantages from February 26 to March 24, 2019, CATS is one of the most iconic musicals to ever grace the stage. As per its description on the official CATS website, CATS, which is based on T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, centers on the Jellicle Cats who come out to play on one special night of the year – the night of the Jellicle Ball. One by one they tell their stories for the amusement of Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, who must choose one of the Cats to ascend to The Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.
Until this past Thursday, I had never seen any of the earlier iterations of CATS but was always aware of it due to the fact that it was such an iconic piece of musical history. As someone who is not a huge fan of the feline species, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a show that would appeal to me as I’m not well-versed in the obsession that people have towards these tabby pets of theirs. With that said, I was knocked sideways as CATS completely blew me away and made me question why I had such an aversion to these immensely independent felines.
I want to first talk about how incredible the production design was. On stage was a larger-than-life junkyard set drenched in a soft blue color which radiated from a moon set in the background. As much as I appreciate set design, what truly amazed me was how they used the lighting, which was designed by Natasha Katz, to their advantage. Whether it was the cat eyes at the beginning, which gave off a creepy vibe, or the string lights that signaled the excitement and jubiliation over the Ball, the lighting was much more than a piece of the set, it was a character in and of itself. Furthermore, the use of the set was done superbly by the cast as they used each and every piece to their advantage so as to present a visual feast for the eyes.
When it comes to the costumes, I didn’t think we would see much outside of the performers looking like cats, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The majority of the cast looked, and acted, like cats, but all their costume designs were unique to them. Some of the outfits were simple in nature, especially one that was made to resemble an Egyptian cat, while others were more flamboyant, such as Mister Mistoffelees. When I was able to see some of the costumes up-close and personal, I was amazed at how incredible the attention to detail was. There was a lot of time and effort, and I’m sure blood, sweat, and tears, that went into the design and construction of each and every single one of these costumes. I tip my hat to costume designer, and scenic designer, John Napier and his team for creating such breathtaking costumes.
Since this is a musical, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the music aspect. Composed by legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, the music is on a whole different level. Prior to the show, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be familiar with any of the songs, but that all changed when Grizabella (performed by Keri Rene Fuller) took the stage and belted out “Memory”. I felt this song in deep in my soul as the emotions of Fuller’s performances overtook the entire Pantages theatre. I also found it interesting that some of the music had an 80’s electronic/synthesizer vibe to it, which, funny enough, reminded me a lot of the scores composed in films from John Carpenter. As far as additional performances and musical numbers go, I also really resonated with Rum Tum Tugger’s (played by McGee Maddox ) performance of his own song “The Rum Tum Tugger”. Lastly, the most electric musical number goes to “Magical Mister Mistoffelees” (which was performed by Tion d’Alelio, McGee Maddox, and the rest of the Company) which was a spectacle for the ages and worth the price of admission alone.
The only critique that I can think of giving this musical was the storyline. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t fully understand it, I knew there was a Ball of sorts but because there were so many characters it was hard to keep up with each of their stories. I also was a little lost on the ending as I’m not sure if Grizabella died and was going to be reborn at a later time. With that said, CATS does have a lot of creepiness to it that I wasn’t expecting as some of the felines were a tad nefarious and aspects of the show had a very dreary and solemn undertone to them. There was also a character named Macavity (played by Tyler John Logan) who not only was mysterious but exuded an air of evilness that I really enjoyed. I actually would have loved to have known more about his story but alas, that was not this type of show.
In all, CATS was a masterful piece of art as well as a show-stopping musical that fans of the theatre will absolutely fall in love with. If you aren’t a fan of musical numbers, this might not be easily digestible as there are no speaking parts outside of them singing songs. However, if you already love musicals and Broadway shows then you are going to be in for a real treat with CATS. Furthermore, the repeatability of a show like this is high because there is so much to take in and a lot of details that will be missed the first go around. I, for one, am excited to revisit CATS again someday and I think many of you reading this will want to see the show for yourself. Though not horror, there are enough creepy and/or unsettling moments that will appease fans. Tickets are sure to sell out so make sure you visit HollywoodPantages.com or Ticketmaster.com to purchase them today!