Entertainment Hive 2017

Cats

Adelaide Festival Centre, Festival Theatre until April 10

Review by Honey B

This old theatre cat is still pretty spritely after all of these years. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s groundbreaking musical debuted 35 years ago in 1981 and it was a slick piece of theatre with its infectious pop-synth tunes and high-energy dance routines. While reviewers love to lament that the production is stuck in the era it was born, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying an old favourite even if it comes with synthesizer music and lycra suits. Hell, someone other than cyclists have to don the lycra! Cats conjures up so many memories for many – it was the first big musical theatre piece I watched as a teenager and I’ve seen it four times since. This time the memories will be just as strong as I introduced my three children, 10, 8 and 4, to the joy of Jellicle Cats and they lapped it up. The music was so powerful that the three were singing the tunes on the way home in the car. Cats is based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Cats and the musical makes Eliot’s writings easier to understand for the younger generation - the musical is a fantastic introduction to the book. There was a great consensus among my family and the audience that Mr Mistoffelees (played purr-fectly by Christopher Favaloro) was the highlight of the show. Cat calls could be heard throughout the theatre as the magical cat dazzled and danced across the stage and finally unveiled Old Deuteronomy – the catnapped Jellical leader. This was followed closely by Skimbleshaks, the railway cat (Ross Hannaford), who was very dapper indeed and it’s always thrilling as the ensemble cast make a train out of the junkyard set. The mischievous duo of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (Brent Osborne and Dominique Hamilton) were cheeky, lithe and funny. While Cats fans love all of these characters, the original creative team of Lloyd Webber, choreographer Gillian Lynne and director Trevor Nunn decided to rejuvenate this show and they messed with a favourite character – Rum Tum Tugger. This audacious feline was the rock god of cats, think Mick Jagger or Michael Hutchence, he had charisma dripping off of his paws and the kittens went wild for him. Unfortunately this was not the case at Sunday night’s performance and probably not the case worldwide anymore – not since this “new’’ production debuted at the London Palladium in 2014. This version of Rum Tum Tugger was completely underwhelming as he has been turned into some rap/hip hop reggae cat with dreadlocks and low slung loosely fitting pants and some massive gold bling around his neck. There were no appreciative cat calls from the audience and it was quite disappointing. Daniel Assetta as Rum Tum Tugger did his utmost in this role and it was certainly not this talented performer’s fault that the character has been changed so dramatically and divisively. This triple threat cast of dancers, actors and singers were all enticingly engaging as they prowled the stage and throughout the audience. However the highest of praise must be reserved for the powerful Delia Hannah as the former Glamour Cat, Grizabella. Hannah is a seasoned musical theatre performer and she hit every emotion and note perfectly throughout her performance and the show-stopping number – Memory. There was no other Grizabella anyone needed to see but Hannah. Cat obsession is well and truly alive.
Photo by Hagen Hopkins
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