Memory makes mark as Cats opens at Crown Theatre Perth

Cats. Picture: Will Russell.
Cats. Picture: Will Russell.

NOT surprisingly, Cats remains one of those divisive musicals for theatregoers.

An escapist adventure built entirely upon dance and song struck from T.S. Eliot’s verse, it tells the whimsical story of the Jellicle cats as they come out to play on one special night of the year for the Jellicle Ball.

One by one, they tell their stories for the amusement of Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, who must choose one of the Jellicles to ascend to the Heavyside Layer and be reborn into a whole new life.

Lost already? You are not alone, with this reviewer having to recall scenes from the 1998 made-for-television version of the musical to guide me through the fantastical plot.

Thankfully, much of Cats has not changed since it was conceived by Andrew Lloyd Webber for London audiences in 1981 and subsequently revived in 2014.

This 2016 Australian tour is a tweaking of the most recent season in the West End by the original creative team, including director Trevor Nunn, choreographer and associate director Gillian Lynne, set designer John Napier and Lloyd Webber.

But a welcome and perhaps most obvious nod to the 21st century sits with the character of Rum Tum Tugger, played brilliantly by Daniel Assetta, who has been reimagined as a rapping, breakdancing, drop-crotch-wearing alley cat with street cred and dreadlocks.

And the crowd-pleasers have remained.

The Mungojerrie/Rumpleteazer duet, sharply performed by Brent Osborne and Dominique Hamilton, did not fail to bring a collective smile across Sunday night’s audience at Crown Theatre.

Christopher Favaloro’s turn as Mr Mistoffelees was a highlight of act two, with his scene-stealing string of fouettes en tournant and flashy pyrotechnics helping add to the Conjuring Cat’s magic.

Cats veteran Delia Hannah, who has played the role of Grizabella in three different Australasian touring productions, looked wonderfully sad and had the heavy responsibility of belting out the most famous song from the musical.

What started with a soft fragility culminated in a powerhouse delivery of the heart-rending Lloyd Webber/Nunn hit Memory, which completely stole the show, as it always should.

Cats runs until May 8.

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