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Cats (Tour - Southampton)

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When I first saw Cats in London many moons ago, the headliners were Brian Blessed, Elaine Paige, Bonnie Langford and Wayne Sleep.

Joanna Ampil as Grizabella
I was therefore a little nervous to see how this touring version of CATS would live up to my recollection of this magical yarn, based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic musical interpretation remains unchanged, and the mystic nonsensical lyrics written by T. S. Eliot, assisted by Trevor Nunn and Richard Stilgoe are still sharp and utterly spellbinding.

The remarkable set and atmospheric lighting draws one into the alleys and drainpipes which lead ultimately into a huge, seedy junkyard. The reality of this innovative set somehow suspends belief that we are in fact in the warmth and comfort of a theatre.

This show embraces the imagination of both adults and children alike, with the emphasis on the delights of song and dance rather than the predictable love affair associated with most musicals. There is no real storyline, but the action follows the lives of the Jellicle Cats through their trials and tribulations, as they meet on the night of the annual Jellicle Ball. This is the time when the leader of the Jellicle tribe, Old Deuteronomy, chooses the cat who will ascend to Heaviside Layer to be ‘reborn' into a new life.

The stars of this show are the incredibly multi-talented cast of cats, as opposed to individual performers. However, Joanna Ampil is exceptional as Grizabella and captivates the audience with her poignant, goose bump rendition of ‘Memory', the theme tune of which weaves its way throughout the performance. The small but stirring orchestra are well balanced with the voices on stage, sometimes difficult to achieve where the score has such powerful undertones.

The sheer dynamic, gymnastic athleticism and enthusiasm of the whole cast is electrifying. One forgets that these are humans, as their portrayal of feline beings is astounding. They interact with the audience throughout, silently weaving and tiptoeing through the auditorium. The costumes, make up and wigs are inspirational and add to the total belief that these are indeed real creatures, but certainly not your average ‘moggy'! The power of song delivery whilst leaping, slinking and dancing is a feat in itself. The choreography is just superb.

What more can be written about Cats, as this is an iconic piece of theatre which transcends time and is one of the longest running shows in the World.

A must see for all the family whether a cat lover or not!

- Veronica Crowley


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