Cats

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on the poems of T S Eliot
Sunderland Empire and touring
(2006)

Production photo from a previous tour

Cats does polarise audiences! At the interval I heard a twenty-something couple arguing: she was saying "I can't stand any more of this" and he was trying to explain why it is so good. Some - a few - didn't return after the interval but the majority were hugely enthusiastic. It doesn't seem to be the kind of show to which you can be indifferent: people seem either to love it or hate it.

Ths was my fourth or fifth time of seeing it, so I suppose I fit into the former category. I haven't seen it this century - and doesn't it still feel odd to be able to ay that? - so I was interested to see what changes, if any, had been made. There were many: some (comparatively) new material seems to have crept in, which means additional choreography; Old Deuteronomy is more active than I remember him and, naturally, advances in the technical side of theatre have made the whole thing mnore impressive. The lighting seems brighter, although the atmospheric shadows remain, and the special effects, such as the train in "Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat" and, particularly, the ascent of Old Deuteronomy and Grizabella on the tyre towards the end of Act II looks much better than I remembered.

On the downside, although the sound was well balanced, the singers' diction was not always what it should be and I found myself struggling at one or two points to follow songs that I thought I knew well.

The wonderful movement language of Gillian Lynne's original choreography retains its freshness and imaginativeness and the young singers/dancers impress with their athleticism and sheer stamina. And the show's great hit "Memory", even after Elaine Page's chart-topping version and the hundreds of cover versions that have followed, still retains its ability to move, particularly in its final appearance just before Grizabella's ascent. And Diane Pilkington made a superb job of it, especially at that point, making it feel fresh and emotional.

Well worth reviving, even after almost 25 years, and a goodnight out!

Reviewer: Peter Lathan