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Cats at Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Alison Smith on 25th Oct 2016 | View all blogs by Alison Smith

 Reviewed by Alison Smith 24th October 2016


I have always loved  T.S.Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats for the cats themselves the curious Rum Tum Tugger, the ‘horrible cats’ Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, Skimbleshanks, who travels on the Night Mail train, and my particular favourite Jennyanydots, who sits and sits and sits – a cat after my own heart.

In Cats the Musical it is the characterisation of each feline which is exceptional. Partly this is done through the make-up, the wigs and the amazing costumes but in the main through the actors’ presentation of their cat alter ego, the prowling and padding, slinking and dancing. Each cat has its own idiosyncrasies brilliantly choreographed by Gillian Lynne – a mixture of ballet, jazz and acrobatics.

There is little story – but story is not missed as Cats is fundamentally a long, visually spectacular, dance sequence. John Napier’s stage is dark in Act 1; a few lights tantalise the audience.  But soon a colourful junk yard with a scattered array of disused objects – an old car, newspapers, a massive tyre, ladders and clothes, and in Act 2 a pirate ship and a train miraculously appear, the latter formed  from a tube of cloth a piston and a large parasol. Some of the discarded objects ease the entrances and exits of the cats at different levels but the cats are not limited to the stage and insinuate themselves into the aisles (to the delight of the audience.) The Jellicle cats meet in this junk yard for the Jellicle Ball on the night of the Jellicle moon to tell tales, dance, rejoice and await the decision of their leader, Old Deuteronomy, about which cat will be reborn. This gives all the felines the opportunity to be in the spotlight, in the moonlight, for a while. Deuteronomy, the wise old tom, is played impressively by Kevin Stephen Jones; the depth of his operatic voice reinforcing his rank. 

And so the cats present themselves in song and dance. I was particularly impressed by ‘magical’ Mistoffelees ‘the original conjuring cat…with surprising illusions and eccentric confusings’; Shiv Rabheru excelled himself in this technically demanding dance. Javier Cid plays Macavity: the Mystery cat, the Napoleon of Crime. His acrobatic routine demands great energy and stamina. Sadness and loneliness come in the role of Grizabella, (Marianne Benedict), once the most glamorous cat, now the social outcast. She also gives an outstanding rendition of the only memorable song of the show, the much recorded Memory.  And Jennyanydots, the old Gumbie cat, performed a wonderful tap dance routine with a clutter of beetles. Lastly Marquelle Ward’s Rum Tum Tugger is a modern twist on the role; he is a rapping, street dancing cat, a gymnastic wonder. But all the cast are excellent and come together to produce an unforgettable performance; their voices harmonise perfectly and their timing in the dance routines cannot be faulted, nor can the music. Lloyd Webber is due much praise for his ability to compose such memorable scores for Eliot’s poems.

This is an excellent show. All the performers are talented dancers and singers; they are energetic and enthusiastic and, importantly, never lose their individual cat personalities. But it is the audience that gets the cream.

 Cats is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 29th November

 0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies





1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 1 year ago
    Thanks, Alison. It truly is a classic.
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