Problem. I have to examine my life priorities. Until this week I’ve always been a dog person but since meeting Munkustrap, Carbucketty, Demeter and Macavity I’ve had a re-think. These are very individual cats and at the moment they are, quite literally, roaming the confines of the Grand Opera House.
Sitting in the comfort of the auditorium looking at a landfill site sporting old cars, done washing machines, bed ends and huge tyres, you do wonder what’s coming. Then the lights go out, flashing of cats eyes appear all round; lights on, strings of coloured bulbs draped all around us, hanging from the ornate ceiling, and round the walls. Magical effect. Then came the cast, sensuous catlike movements down the aisles right into the audience and, eventually, up onto the stage and so began Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats.
It’s midnight, not a sound from the pavement, cats from all arts and parts are meeting for the annual Jellicle Ball.
How to sum it up?
Spectacular, a ballet, an opera, a rock opera, a story of jealously and hate, of love and power. The cast engage with the audience, often leaping down to purr beside a surprised patron! In the interval, the leader of the pack, Old Deuteronomy, remains on stage sitting amongst the litter and little children are invited to go on stage and have a chat and get an autograph. What a thrill.
In my experience a touring company often falls short of perfect. Although the chorus are usually excellent, the ‘faces’ brought in from television soaps or talent shows to take major rolls are without the stage experience necessary to carry it off. In this touring production everyone without exception is superb, the energy and the standard of singing and dancing, the magic, the staging – some big surprises here – is awesome.
Am I going over the top a little? No, up to 25 athletes took us from 7.30 until just after 10 p.m. and it was riveting. As we began to identify the cat personalities we had our favorites, we begin to understand cat characteristics just as the author T.S Eliot intended when he wrote ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ for his godchildren in the 1930s. Lloyd Webber took the fantasy and put it on the stage in London in 1981, since then it has toured the world over and over.
I will now view the cats that come into our garden in a new and more tolerant way, the death cat will become Old Deuteronomy, the tortoiseshell will be Jennyanydots, the white moggy is certainly Victoria and as for the fine, proud, attractive tabby, well he will certainly be my favourite, Munkustrap.
All these talented men and women were fantastic and, even if I knew who played who, it would be unfair to pick anyone out of this ensemble performance, bar sound, lights and orchestra, they deserve a special word of congratulations.
The big number is Memory sung by Grizabella and on the way out of the Opera House into the cold November air, people were humming it under their breath proving that the whole night provided us with a lasting memory.
In life, a cat hardly ever puts a foot wrong, here we have upwards of 25 cats and not a wrong paw amongst them.
Cats runs until Saturday 16th November 2013 More details: www.goh.co.uk
Review by Anne Hailes