Cats, the musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber has been running for almost 40 years and has become one of the stalwarts of musical theatre. An adaption of a book of cat poems by T. S. Eliot, Cats has made billions in ticket sales and seen countless translations and stagings over the decades.
Cats, the film directed by Tom Hooper has been running for one month and is a garish, unsettling phantasmagoria, making dollars at the box office and polarising fans of both the performers and the source material.
Cats, performed by the Young Australian Broadway Chorus has been running since last week and whose qualities thankfully align more with the former than the latter. Their production is a fun, delightfully (near hypnotically) incoherent, and entertaining show that treats the fourth wall like a scratching post. Actors – all suitably cat-attired and face painted – crawl, pace, and writhe around the audience and among the seats from before the show starts and all the way through.
And there are a lot of them. Indeed, some of most memorable scenes come from when the stage fills with performers of a range of ages, confident and strong. Despite the bustle, the furious choral work is a credit to director Robert Coates and the choreography team of Jacqui Green and Victoria Rimington.
For all the pomp and hallucinogenic spectacle, the piece itself – what constitutes its story – is more contemplative rather than a surging narrative. As much as the principals quickly get lost in the feline melange once there’s many cats on stage, they each have moments where they stand out:
Matthew Casamento and Adeline Hunter as the respective Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer threatened to steal Act 1 with their wonderful duet; James Keam channelled 1972 Bowie with a terrific performance as Rum Tum Tugger; Moments of Happiness featured beautiful work by Harrison Dart as Old Deuteronomy and Hannah Simos-Garner as Jemima; and Suzannah Bourke who, as Grizabella, made any weight of expectation in delivering the classic song Memory seem effortless with a lovely rendition.
With its run coming to a close at the end of the week, from design through to the performances, this YABC production of Cats deserves an audience.
The National Theatre, 20 Carlisle Street, St Kilda
Performance: Saturday 18 January 2020
Season continues to 25 January 2020
Information and Bookings: www.catsmusical.com.au
Image: Declan Ahern stars as Mr Mistoffelees in CATS – courtesy of Young Australian Broadway Chorus (YABC)
Review: David Collins