by Sydney Moxley | photo courtesy Matthew Murphy
There are few Broadway productions that have the same amount of fame, renown, and love as Andrew Lloyd Weber’s CATS. The musical, first performed in 1981, has captivated audiences for nearly 40 years, and its latest touring cast is equally as captivating. From start to finish, I was mesmerized by the theatricality, costuming, choreography, and vocal performance of this rendition of the beloved production.
Based on T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats“, “CATS” originally began as a writing exercise for Lloyd Weber to see if he could put music to pre-written text. After he realized its potential, he took out a second mortgage on his house to finance the project on the West End. Thankfully, the production proved to be highly successful and is a well-known classic to this day.
Unlike many Broadway productions, “CATS” is all music – there is no dialogue. The loose narrative, told only through songs, follows the Jellicle Cats as they prepare for the JellicleBall, the annual event where one cat is chosen to ascend to the Heavenside Layer. Each cat steps up to nominate him/herself or another cat for ascension, which are portrayed in the different musical numbers.
There are a few things that made this performance of “CATS” particularly fascinating. True to tradition, cast members walked up and down the aisles at different points in the show. In addition, lights were strung from the stage up to the balcony and changed colors at different moments. Both of these things were effective in making the stage extend past the boundaries of the curtain and brought the audience in more. The set, costumes, and makeup were exquisite; the choreography was spectacular; and the singing was phenomenal, especially that of Grizabella, played by Keri René Fuller. The theater rang with applause as she sang “Memory”, and I myself got chills. As a caveat, it may be triggering for those who are sensitive to bright or flashing lights, or who may feel uncomfortable being approached by cast members in the aisles – use your best judgment.
Overall, it was a fantastic performance that will be sure to captivate audiences of all ages and familiarity with musical theatre. I myself had never seen “CATS” before and loved every minute of it. This is a wonderful opportunity for the whole family, so be sure to see it now through November 24 before it moves on.
CATS by Andrew Lloyd Weber
Tennesse Performing Arts Center, Andrew Jackson Theater
November 19-24, 2019
Buy tickets online at tpac.org