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28 October 2014

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CATS at the Alexandra Theatre
Reviewed by Kaylois Henry, site user
CATS the musical
CATS, one of the world's most successful musicals has come to The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham. Check out Kaylois Henry's review below.
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First of all, let me start off by admitting this: I’m not a cat person. When it comes to pets, if I had to choose, I’d take a dog over a cat any time. Felines are a dichotomy: they are seen as either being haughty or independent, lazy or graceful; inscrutable or wise. Dogs are just dogs. You know where you are with them.

I mention this only because, like the real felines, I found "Cats" the musical difficult to fathom. Ostensibly, it’s about a group of cats that get together one night of year for a party and for one of them to be picked to go to the equivalent of kitty heaven to be reborn. It’s based on poems by T.S. Elliott, which should have been a clue about its non-linear nature. As my companion said: "trying to understand this musical is like trying to understand cats."

Nothing much happens in the first half, save a lot of prancing around on stage and some frankly inane singing (what can rhyme convincingly with ‘Old Deuteronomy’ ?!) . During the interval, my companion and I just looked at each other and wondered why this play had lasted so long in the West End.

In the second half, we got a glimpse as to why. The show picked up the pace with athletic performances by Matthew Gould as Skimbleshanks (the railway cat), and Guy-Paul Ruolt as Mistoffleles, the cat conjurer.

Then the moment came for THAT song. "Midnight" is the famous aria from the musical and I was dreading it. There was a time when every stage school or am-dram audition rang out with that song, badly sung.

I needn’t have worried.

This moment in the show is truly moving. Chrissie Hammond, playing Grizabella (the glamour cat who’s left the fold to return tattered, torn and unwanted), gives a wonderful rendition of "Midnight", taking it away from the syrupy sweetness of a thousand karaoke clubs, and turning it into the plaintive, beseeching speech it was meant to be. You understand what happiness was. You can see why she’s redeemed in the end.

"Cats" is the sort of musical that will divide people. If you’re the sort who loves a good sing along and a dance, then you’ll find this travelling show a feast for the eyes. But if you want your musical with a something resembling a storyline, you will come away puzzled.

Because just like with the real felines, you either love ‘em or hate ‘em.

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