Any musical theatre enthusiast alive in the 1980s (or maybe just anyone alive) will remember the immense popularity of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “CATS,” winner of seven Tony Awards® including Best Musical in 1983, and Broadway’s fourth-longest running show. With a score that includes some of musical theatre’s best-known and beloved songs, this new touring production now at the National Theatre is a golden opportunity to reminisce or even better, introduce the uninitiated.
…features a high caliber of dance talent…
Based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” a poetry collection by T.S. Elliot, the story is about a tribe of cats known as the “Jellicles,” who are attending the Jellicle Ball and anxiously awaiting the arrival of their leader, Old Deuteronomy (Cameron Schutza). Each year, Deuteronomy chooses a cat to be reborn into the Heaviside Layer, and the multiple contenders are introduced to the audience in brief vignettes that feature the cats’ distinct personalities, interests, and life stories. The excitement builds as each cat makes its case, but of course, only one will be chosen.
This production features a high caliber of dance talent, with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, based on Gillian Lynne’s original work. The performance opens with “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats,” that sees the entire cast take the stage for a high-energy dance number, followed by a demanding ballet piece performed by Victoria (Yuka Notsuka), a shy white kitten renowned for her grace and beauty. Finally, Jennyanydots (Michelle E. Carter), a large and lazy tabby cat, delivers a joyous and rousing “The Old Gumby Cat” that includes the full cast in a dazzling tap dance number.
Other notable performances include “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer” (Brian Craig Nelson and Taryn Smithson – read her Quick 5 interview here), whose athleticism and acrobatics seem to defy gravity. “Magical Mr. Mistoffelees” (Ibn Snell) provided some of the evening’s finest dancing. Grizabella’s (Tayler Harris) rendition of the musical’s signature piece, “Memory” was nothing short of spectacular.
Audiences have been fascinated by the “CATS” costumes since the musical premiered. Extensive makeup and fur along with wildly creative outfits (costume and scenic design by John Napier) assist in bringing out the uniqueness and quirks of each cat. The orchestra, under the direction of Jonathan Gorst, is heard but not seen, hidden behind the back alley set—an ideal spot for a magical gathering of the Jellicle cats.
Running time: Approximately two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Ages 5 and up.
‘CATS’ runs through January 22, 2022, at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here. Masks are strongly recommended but not required for all ticketholders.