Cats (Tour – Manchester)

The Cats in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical of that name, are independent, free thinking tabbies, tortoiseshells,  and scruffy old moggies.  Calling themselves Jellicles, some are proud, some are sly as they prowl and dance in feline fashion as reflected in T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s book of Practical Cats.
They have human characteristics and gather at the Jellicle Ball hoping that wise Old Deuteronomy, their leader, will choose them to go to the Heaviside layer and be reborn into a new Jellicle life. Nicholas Pound in that role is a wise old puss indicated well by his poise, movement and commanding voice.
They meet on a moonlit junk yard to tell tales in song, dance and verse. The collective noun for cats is a clowder.   This clowder of cats played by a brilliant cast are all talented so it is almost impossible to single out individual performers.
The lively and expressive dancing is continuous and that wonderful number, “Memory” weaves in and out like a golden thread. The final rendition by Joanna Ampil as glamour puss Grizabella when she becomes the chosen one, is truly moving.
Joseph Poulton dances Mr Mistoffelees, the conjuring cat immortalised in a song, with sleek grace.
Appropriate to the venue there is a theatre cat. Thankfully, Paul F Monaghan, a versatile performer of three roles, confines himself to the stage and doesn’t go catching mice in the dressing rooms!
The dressing rooms are, of course, where the cast change into their realistic cat costumes designed by John Napier.
Thank god this hit musical has come back, as it’s show that can truly call itself the cats’ whiskers!

– Julia Taylor