Cats - New London Theatre 1998
Suzanne Heyne was on again as Grizabella (unfortunately). I saw some new understudies as well, but they weren't that good. I saw the main Mistoffelees, Gen Horiuchi, but he seemed to be a bit bored. I saw the main Jellylorum as well now, but I think her understudy is even better. Michael Cantwell was extremely funny as Gus/Bustopher, and he should be seen from the first rows, because he puts so much detail in it...
Anyway, the Dress Circle was completely empty (so it was not like on my previous visit in July at all), but it was a nice audience and I really had a lot of fun seeing the show again.
Review by Sven Verlinden (Tue. 14th July 98 Matinee)
Matinees are always full of children, so it's not really a good time to see a show which you didn't see already. With Cats, it's just the same. It was sold out, with 80% children present.
I sat right between 2 groups so I was a bit annoyed when they didn't sit still, kept on talking through the show and showed no respect whatsoever to the actors who were in fact doing a great show.
I particulary liked Sally Taylor as Bombalurina, understudy Annalisa Rossi as Jellylorum, Nick Searle and Sascha Kane as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, Nicolas Pound as Old Deuteronomy and the incredible, the marvelous Tee Jaye as Rum Tum Tugger and the magical Clifford Stein as Mistoffelees.
There are actually 5 people from the Belgian production now in the show, so I was especially looking out for them. Suzanne Heyne, who played Demeter and understudied Grizabella in Antwerp (I saw her in both roles), does the same job again at the New London. On the performance I saw, she was playing Grizabella, but I still didn't like her version of "Memory" very much. She can't reach the note on "It's so EASY to leave me", so I think she shouldn't be playing the role ï¿½
Cats is still a special show, with some good music and inventive dancing. It's not so remarkable it keeps on running and running, and I suspect we'll still be able to see it in the next century.
Review by Nick Perry 16th Jan 96
I first saw Cats way back in 1981 with my father. I was too young to really remember much. I frequently played the LP both before seeing it, and afterwards for a couple of years. Lloyd Webber then took Cats to the Blackpool Opera House some years later. Blackpool being my home town at the time, I indulged and although my critical appreciation was not as sharp then as it is now I had a positive feelings. So taking advantage of a two-for-the-price-of-one offer I booked for Cats again in London just over fourteen years since first seeing the same production in the same theatre.
It all came back to me on entering the auditorium - the circular stage that moves once at the start and never again - the oversized cardboard boxes and discarded tin cans (the branding and packaging of which had been clearly updated!). My memory was jogged and I remembered that cats would jump up out of the middle off the stage and a large tyre would descend from the skies. It was largely the same - apparently with just a little less of the fizz. Maybe it always was like this and my youth heightened the excitement fourteen years ago. It could just be that this is a cast of relative nobodies (I don't mean that in an unkind way). I remember Paul Nicholas as Mr Mistoffelees, Wayne Sleep, Bonnie Langford, Marti Webb and Elaine Paige - at least I think I do. I certainly remember how Brian Blessed, as Old Deuteronomy, stayed on stage throughout the interval to sign autographs. Oddly the same thing happens now, as children queue to get the autograph of one Mr John Rawnsley in the same role. How did the children know that it was the "done thing" to queue up for this man's autograph? I can only conclude some inducements were offered by the ushers!
All that said - the cast were remarkable - in the sense that I fail to see how it is physically possible to dance like that and to sing. Fine, polished, poetic performances all round. The spectaculars of Skimbleshanks, Mr Mistofffelees and the Journey to the Heavyside Layer were all there and executed well. There seemed to be an additional "show" as Gus, the theatre cats re-enacts his role as "Growltiger" in flashback that wend on a bit too long for my liking.
Cats is very much a standard now - I understand it is played the same the world over, and evidently still attracting the crowds. It's still a fairly remarkable and unique piece of theatre that we all ought to experience. I suspect still as enjoyable for children as it was for me in 1981, too.