Review: Bristol Hippodrome welcomes Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit show Cats
THE second longest-running musical in the world showed no signs abating when it arrived in Bristol this week.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Macintosh hit show Cats, which first opened in London in 1981, has been modernised, the costumes have changed and the make-up and wigs are now so feline-like it is hard to recognise the actors underneath. But for stalwart fans of the show, myself included having seen the show for the 10th time on Wednesday night, the music which has made Cats such a global success is still at its heart.
Based on T S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, each poem has been expertly crafted into a story depicting a particular type of cat – from the hip-thrusting Rum Tum Tugger (Oliver Savile) to the acrobatic, burglar duo Mungojerrie (Barnaby Thompson) and Rumpleteazer (Katie Warsop) and the magical Mistoffelees (Joseph Poulton) to the once glamorous Grizabella (Sophia Ragavelas).
As the actors creep and claw their way through the audience, sitting on laps, purring at startled Cats virgins and staring so intently for such a length of time, the relief of laughter amongst theatregoers afterwards was audible, the entire auditorium is captured in a cat-only world where humans are simply observers.
The entire ensemble take on their own unique cat character with complete commitment throughout the whole show. There is not a moment on stage when you will catch one of them slipping back into human characteristics and even as Old Deuteronomy (Nicholas Pound) sits on stage throughout the interval signing youngsters’ programmes, as goes the Cats tradition, he remains in essence a cat.
But as with most Lloyd Webber shows, the songs are what makes it so memorable. And with so many unforgettable numbers to chose from – The Jellicle Ball, Old Deuteronomy, Macavity and my personal favourite Mr Mistoffelees - it’s no wonder the queues to buy the soundtrack after the show were so long.
Of course, the reason so many people know of Cats is because of its biggest hit. Memory was originally performed by Elaine Paige and remains one of the most universally-known songs to come out of the West End. Sophia Ragavelas takes on this mighty song with determination and guts, showing Grizabella’s sensitivity to being an outcast, pride having lost her youth and desperation to move back into the limelight. Hitting all the big notes with perfection, it’s difficult to criticise her portrayal of the saddest cat of them all.
Some may say the show is now too dated, one of the reasons its record-breaking West End run ended more than 10 years ago, but if you call yourself a musical theatre lover and you haven't seen Cats, well, you are not a true fan.
Cats is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, October 26.
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