REVIEW: Cats at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall

Photo by Allesandra Pinna
Photo by Allesandra Pinna

The memory lives again as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical masterpiece Cats returns to Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall.

With a display of dazzling dance sequences accompanied by a catchy score, this well-loved musical never disappoints.

Based on TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the performance tells the story of the Jellicle cats, who meet once a year at the Jellicle Ball to decide which one of them will be chosen to be reborn.

Cats is an unusual stage production in that it relies a lot more heavily on its choreography and music than it does on plot. It helps if you have seen the show before to really get the most out of it - as being familiar with the songs and characters helps to deepen appreciation.

However, because of its uniqueness and flair, Cats is a show that grips your attention and ensnares the senses from the first note and doesn’t let go until the final curtain touches the floor.

Having first seen the show 12 years ago, it was interesting to see some changes had been made.

Gone is the Elvis-like, hip swinging Rum Tum Tugger of the original show, replaced by a street-dancing, crotch-holding rapper (played by Marcquelle Ward). Having not heard the news of Lloyd Webber’s decision to change the character to appeal to a different generation, it came as a surprise. Although the new cat was entertaining to watch, I couldn’t help but feel that he lacked a certain ‘heart throb’ quality, which John Partridge gave us in abundance in 1998 and is essential to the cat’s character.

A highlight of the show as always was the costume and makeup, as well as the delicate, inhuman way the actors carried themselves on stage. You almost start believing they are cats.

It is impossible not to marvel at every dancer, knowing how physically and mentally demanding it must be to learn two hours of non-stop dance sequences and perform without error.

To top it off, one of the true high points of the show was the hauntingly beautiful reprise performance of Memory by Grizzabella (Marianne Benedict). Although at first she seemed a little young to be in the role, she really showed off her vocal talents here. The final key change was enough to give you goosebumps on your goosebumps.

An experience like no other, Cats is one musical you should definitely not live your whole life without seeing.

Cats is at the Royal Concert Hall until August 6. Visit trch.co.uk or call 0115 989 5555 for tickets.