Review: Cats at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall

Ben Palmer as Munkustrap in Cats at Nottingham Theatre Royal from April 15 to 26.

Ben Palmer as Munkustrap in Cats at Nottingham Theatre Royal from April 15 to 26.

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With a set depicting a rubbish dump, feline frolics dominated Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall stage as Cats returned to the city as part of a national tour.

Items such as empty packages and cans appear larger than life as they would be seen through a cat’s eye in a production which has lost none of its charm after more than 30 years. And love the animals or hate them, Cats is an absolute delight.

It does help if you have seen the show – which is based on T.S.Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats - on a couple of previous occasions. The music can be a little obscure to first-time Cats’ lovers - Memory excepted – but it soon becomes familiar and a sparkling score accompanies scene after scene in which we are introduced to cats of different types and colours.

All Jellicle cats, of course, for on just one night of the year, they meet at the Jellicle Ball where Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, makes the Jellicle Choice. He announces which of them will go up to the Heaviside layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.

For all Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musical genius – and there are some outstanding numbers – it is the near-continuously uninterrupted dance sequences which take the eye. From the opening moments, when the cats view their audience with suspicion before warily letting people know what is going on, the wow factor explodes in a blaze of colour, energy and dance including high speed tap, ballet and acrobatic.

Music, mime, song, dance and verse fuse together in an enchanting blend of fantasy, drama and romance. Unfair, perhaps, to single out individuals in a cast of more than 20 but Joanna Ampil (Grizabella), Nicholas Pound (Old Deuteronomy), Joseph Poulton (Mistoffelees) and Alicia Beck’s superb dancing as the White Cat excel.

But the stand-out moment features the entire company in the climax to the Jellicle Ball. Sheer magic.

Cats continues to prowl the stage in Nottingham until Saturday, April 26.

JOHN SHAWCROFT