The Palladium is currently hosting the 12-week run of the West End revival of Cats, and the entire creative team has once again joined forces in the hopes of re-examining the work they did over 20 years ago. I took my seat enriched with the vivid memories I had as an eight-year-old, blown away by the incredible show.
I was overwhelmed by John Napier’s set design and the magnificent lighting: spell-like in its illumination of the auditorium, the effects are superb throughout. Similarly, the costumes adorning the cast seduce the eye, blending dancer and choreography.
The cats are introduced with an accompanying song and dance. This descriptive style repeats itself, without narrative, which makes me question whether it will satisfy a modern day audience. An enthusiastic attempt at modernising the show is the reinvention of the cat Rum Tum Tugger, played by Antoine Murray-Straughan. He is reincarnated into an eighties hip-hop dancer, swapping his jazz shoes for trainers, and it reminds me more of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air than being a fresh interpretation. Clearly Murray-Straughan is an exceptional dancer, but the excerpt stands alone, alien to the environment surrounding it.
Feline flourishes decorate the action with full and vivacious commitment from all members of the cast. I was drawn to the detail and idiosyncrasy of each and every cat. The imagination and initiative from the performers is palpable, particularly from Cassie Clare who plays Cassandra. Despite being a smaller role, her playfulness and mischief are joyous to catch sight of amongst the flurry of fur! Cameron Ball plays Macavity and Admetus and is one of the cats to come close to us in the stalls, unafraid to sing in our faces with such character and conviction.
Numbers that include the whole cast such as ‘Old Deuteronomy’ and ‘Mr. Mistoffelees’ truly took my breath away as the performers showcase their extraordinary skills. The glorious choreography by Gillian Lynne demands an enormous amount of energy, and the dancers seize each moment fearlessly. Joseph Poulton as Mr.Mistoffelees marks his territory, making magic on stage, and his energy is electric. Graceful and authentic choices are made by Paul F. Monaghan who plays Asparagus/Growl Tiger, and Nicholas Pound who plays Old Deuteronomy. These sections gift us with a little more of the literature that Nunn and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber took their inspiration from.
Nicole Scherzinger does her absolute best to look dishevelled and ‘over the hill’. Unfortunately her reputation and beauty are too significant for me to put aside, as much as I try. Aside from her formidable voice – almost raising the roof as she sings ‘Memory’ – I can’t help but question whether an older actress may have been a better choice to tell the story of the unravelling of this once glamorous cat.
Trevor Nunn’s work in bringing to life the poems of T. S. Eliot is undoubtedly miraculous, and revolutionised theatre for adults and children worldwide in its infancy. I’m not sure it’s as groundbreaking this time round. I see this production as a celebration of skill and of a show that once changed the world but, unlike our fascinating friend the cat, I am not certain it has its nine lives.
Cats is playing at the London Palladium until 28 February 2015. For more information and tickets please visit the Cats website.