Sunday, February 27, 2011

NAC Broadway Across Canada: CATS

From Feb. 8-13 the North American touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats stopped in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre.  First performed in London in May 1981, and moving to Broadway in 1982, a film version was made in 1998, and since 2003 it's been on tour.  Talk about a long history, and one filled with award winning highlights.  In 1983 it won 7 Tony's.  Most of which make sense, but "best book" I'm not so sure about.

We just made it to our amazing seats (row E, right in the centre) as the lights were dimming (thank you Winterlude road closures), but we made it!  I went with a dancer friend, and my conclusion is it's a dancers show.  She found the choreography a bit repetitive and not as interesting as previous versions, but agreed the acrobatics were mostly impressive, especially for a touring production where a lot of the performers would have a musical theatre background rather than be purely trained dancers.  The music is obviously good, although they hid the minimalist orchestra (~6 musicians on keyboards, guitar, bass and drums) behind the stage, and I do like a richer orchestra sound with real strings.  The make-up was fantastic, as was the ability of the performers to stay completely in character with decidedly feline motions.

"The Naming of Cats" was tricky to understand at times, given that about 27 people are saying the same thing at the same time, which diction wise is a challenge.  But overall the singing was extremely well done.  It's one of the first times I've understood the verse of "Memory", so kudos to Kathryn Holtkamp.  "The Jellicle Ball" is probably my favourite piece music wise, although I also like "Macavity" and "Mr. Mistoffelees".  The Rum Tum Tugger character was over the top, which I suppose is the point, and Matthew Taylor's characterization I'd say was a complete combination of Mick Jagger and Elvis Presley.

The changing of the set for the pirate play within a play of "Growltiger's Last Stand" was well done.  As was the spaceship light type thing which descended during the overture and reappeared to take Grizabella to wherever she gets "reborn".  Although I found its similarity to a UFO perhaps too amusing.  The lighting throughout was a highlight actually; from the flashing "eyes" during the overture, to the Christmas type strands they had running from the lower boxes to the stage.  I also had to chuckle at the the flying tire and the "a cat is not a dog" line in the finale, which the actors were singing in all seriousness yet seems so obvious.

Overall, I wouldn't claim it as my favourite show, but I had an enjoyable evening even if the plot is a bit sketchy, and I'm glad I took the opportunity to see the performance.  The score does come alive when accompanied by the action on stage.  Additionally, by considering the plot in segments, some of which don't have all that much to do with an overarching story of Grizabella being accepted, it was quite entertaining, and isn't that the point of a musical?

No comments:

Post a Comment