David Ian Productions in association with Michael Watt return to Norwich to present Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats.
Photo: Theatre Royal Norwich
All the seats in the house were full and it only took a momentary glance at the stage and the amazing set to know that this was going to be an unforgettable performance. The audience were introduced to the world of cats through the cat’s home of an old junk yard. Credit must be given to the stage manager – James Lovett in taking the detail to create such an authentic and impressive setting, from a discarded oven, tires, and windows, all to the scale that they would be for a cat.
The performance began with the classic Cats tune playing while bright flashing lights dazed the audience into a state ready for the weird and wonderful. The lighting and electrical department really outshone themselves bringing a spark into every song, especially with Mr Mistoffelees – the magic cat and his magic tricks and mini explosions.
Not only was the set and staging faultless but the whole cast could do everything! They were all very talented singers, dancers and actors. It was evident that they all had great technique as dancers especially the white cat Victoria, Alicia Beck, who had a beautiful balletic quality to her dancing. The group numbers were particularly impressive, dancing all as one in exact timing. Although they were all in perfect synchronization, each member of the cast still kept something individual about their character in the group, with their personality always shining through, especially Cassie Clare as Cassandra. The dances in the show were all enjoyable; covering a wide range of styles from the cat Jennyanydots dancing with tapping cockroaches to the cheeky and very funny song of The Rum Tum Tugger played fantastically well by Filippo Strocchi.
What really makes Cats such an amazing and unique show is the wonderful music and songs. The songs are based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S.Elliot, and the way the music and words fit together creates an unusual and ground breaking piece of theatre. This brilliant score played by the Cats Orchestra sounded like the very personalities and movement of the cats. It also created the perfect atmospheres needed for certain moments from the song of Macavity with plenty of attitude and sass, to the incredibly moving performance of Memory. Joanna Ampil who played the neglected Grizabella brought an emotional intensity to the song Memory and stirred the hearts of all the audience members.
The idea of Cats is in itself a challenge because the cast must consistently keep up the appearance of being cats. But this cast acted in such a convincing way it was as though being cats was their second nature. They all constantly moved in feline ways, even when they were sitting or lying down they kept up their cat persona, pawing at the floor or nuzzling each other, with the occasional meows and hisses. The costumes and wigs were incredible and an important part of creating this illusion of real cats before the audience. It was wonderful to see such care taken by the wardrobe and wig team, Trish Mcauley and Steve Frizzell, with each individual cat and the variations of their colours and markings. It was almost a shock when it came to the end of the show and everyone went back to reality and remembered that the performers were not real cats! But standing ovations said it all and how much the audience enjoyed the show.