Spanning more than thirty-five years, Cats remains one of the top dance musicals of all time. With a few tweaks and star billing, the London Palladium revival production has opened in Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre at QPAC for a limited season.
With a loose over-arching plot, it is the extraordinary talent of the dance ensemble that makes this production impressive. The show is more similar to a revue musical: vignettes introduce the various characters, which in this case are all ‘Jellicle’ cats.
This style lends itself to a unique musical score which changes tone to complement each cat’s personality, from the tap-dancing gumby cat, Jennyanydots (played by Holly Meegan), to the beautiful opera singing theatre cat, Asparagus (Josh Piterman), and the animated rap cat, Rum Tum Tugger (Daniel Assetta).
All the cats did an outstanding job with the choreography, characterisation, and the energy they brought to the stage, especially in the ensemble numbers. However, standouts from the cast were Christopher Favaloro as Mr Mistoffelees, the magical cat, whose dance moves were awe inspiring, and the cheeky duo of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, played brilliantly by Brent Osborne and Dominique Hamilton. Cassandra, the Egyptian sphinx cat was also eye-catching with her svelte costume and elegant demeanour.
In her musical theatre debut, Delta Goodrem plays the coveted role of Grizabella, the glamour cat, with grace and power. Grizabella is one of those roles which many female performers aspire to play, but once cast, feel the inevitable pressure to live up to expectations. Delta did not disappoint as her powerful pop voice cut above the rest in her deeply engaging rendition of ‘Memory’. The theatre was pin-drop silent as the audience was totally transfixed by Delta’s sheer stage presence and vocal chutzpah when she hit the money note.
While one may not be a fan of star power casting, the addition of Delta was the needed ingredient to raise the bar and provide a unique offering for those who have seen the show before.
Based on the 2014 revival at London’s Palladium Theatre production by the original creative team, director Trevor Nunn and choreographer Gillian Lynne, Cats has been reworked to include a more impressive tap number and altered characterisations for Grizabella and Rum Tum Tugger, the once rock-god, now rapping cat.
In 1981 when Cats first opened, the innovative stage spectacular heralded in the first block-buster musical with its extraordinarily huge junkyard set and backdrop of stars. Fast forward thirty-five years with the advancements of technology with the likes of Wicked and the magic of Mary Poppins, Cats seems to have lost a little of the lustre and novelty it once had.
Regardless, Cats remains a unique theatrical experience, and one that a new generation of children would especially be fascinated by. Cats is playing now at the QPAC’s Playhouse till February 14.