Cats opens in Sydney

2008-2010 cast of Cats Australia/Asia Tour
Statistical Cats and Mystical Cats - The cast of Cats perform the opening number

The revival touring production of Cats has opened at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre for its limited three week season.

It is understood the season is all but sold out.

The opening night performance at the Lyric Theatre was followed by a sensational after-party, attended by invited guests as well as the cast.

It seems pointless to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of a production that’s just slightly older than the current generation of young theatre-goers.

Really, what remains to be said? The plot is… well, it isn’t. The staging and visuals, phenomenal as they were in 1981, now look tired in the shadow of shows like Wicked, or even the revamped touring production of Miss Saigon.

Thankfully, Cats in 2010 does have one great asset. A game and talented cast, determined to make it work. Shaun Rennie is the highlight, providing a charismatic and engaging narrator in the role of Munkustrap. The cast’s dancing and movement can’t be faulted either, though this momentum is weighed down by lengthy and frequent static numbers. Sure, some of these songs are quite moving, and require a more subdued approach. But many of the more upbeat tunes lack the choreography to match, and during these, it becomes painfully apparent that an actor in cat makeup, standing still on stage singing, is not inherently interesting. Particularly not from across the vast expanse of the 2000 seat Lyric Theatre.

Therein may lie the problem. Cats is a guaranteed money spinner, capable of packing such venues. It’s easy to forget that on the West End and Broadway, the show played to theatres less than half the size. One assumes something has been lost in translation and maybe – just maybe – some enterprising young director on the West End will one day craft an all new production of Cats, more suited to behemoth theatres like the Lyric and Regent.

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