The Cats are here! The fourth longest selling Broadway show and the sixth longest selling West End show played in Zurich this month. Based on a T. S. Eliot book, this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical takes the viewer into an imaginary world of cats.
Set in a giant garbage dump, the story presents the world of cats with characters quite similar to real people . Among the many cats are Grizabella, the glamourous one who has lost her sparkle and just wants to be accepted, Macavity – the criminal, Shimbleshanks – the railway cat who is an indispensable part of the train to Glasgow, Victoria – the ballet dancer, Mistoffelees – the magician cat, Bustopher Jones – the upper class St. James Street cat, Gus – the old theatre cat, and Jennyanydots – the tabby cat who teaches mice and cockroaches to do better with their life.
The storyline revolves around the cats belonging to the Jellicle tribe celebrating a Jellicle Ball to select a cat (Jellicle Choice) that will ascend to Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.
CATS stands out in many ways. In contrast to the present day norm of using multiple set changes, it opts for just one set all through the show – a very well designed and dimly lit giant garbage dump! The entire story plays out here. The only distractions are the occasional sound of a car passing by, a giant shoe being thrown in the garbage dump, and the rumor of Macavity, the criminal cat, being on the prowl, which sends all the cats scurrying into their hiding spots. CATS is sung-through musical with no book (spoken dialogue between songs), and most of the show is mainly chorus with very few solos. It has its cat characters making an entry from the audience, not once, but multiple times, and even singing major portions of a few songs from within the audience area.
The cats coming out of their hiding spots in the garbage dump reminds one of the stray cats popping out of garbage cans in multiple Tom and Jerry episodes. The tap dance number by the cockroaches (‘The Old Gumbie Cat’), the very well executed feline movements in ‘Macavity – the Mystery Cat’, the soulfully sung ‘Memory’, and the brilliantly created train using pieces of junk in ‘Shimbleshanks the Railway Cat’ stand out in memory much after the show.
CATS is a bit long and has a very weak storyline to the point of being nearly absent, but some of the cat characters remain etched in memory for their resemblance to people’s attitudes and conduct and that is the take away. The songs, the costuming and the overall presentation more than make up for the storyline and keep you hooked.
(CATS recently played at Theater 11 in Zurich from the 12-24th of February)
(Pictures Copyright: The Really Useful Group)
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