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"Great Performances: Cats (#27.3)"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"Great Performances" Cats (1998)

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20 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Perhaps the most entertaining of all stage musicals, now in its filmed version.

Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
13 January 2004

I have long enjoyed the musical 'Cats', both in several attendances at live productions and simply listening to the music on CD. 'Cats', the movie, was created in 1997, a full 16 years after its debut on stage. This isn't simply the taping of a stage performance. For the movie they assembled the best cast they could from among 'Cats' stage veterans. The set was designed especially for the movie, the makeup was toned down to look better in the closer perspective of the movie, especially the close-ups, a full orchestra was used, songs were recorded in a studio, and conventional movie techniques were used for the filming -- multiple angles, close-ups, cameras moving on tracks, etc. What we get is a movie that is does not have the realism of a stage production, and it is fairly obvious most times that singers are lip-syncing their own recordings, but a movie nonetheless that is a superb supplement to the live performances. The DVD has a very nice 'making-of' special, we see Andrew Lloyd Weber personally supervising the musical numbers, we see some of the makeup artistry at work, and a few before/after shots of actors and their characters.

Overall a fine DVD of a superb movie of perhaps the most entertaining stage musical of all.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Very nicely filmed version of the "Cats" stage musical.

Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
29 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am a fan of real cats, I enjoy musicals, and the musical "CATS" has been a favorite of mine for years. In the theater you are far enough away that you don't see a lot of what is going on, especially details of the make-up and expressions on the characters.

This 1998 film production was made especially to create a version on film. It is simply the stage musical masterfully performed, but with cameras set up from various points to get both full, wide shots and very intimate close-up shots. There is no audience applause at all, so it was probably filmed only with the cast and crew present.

It runs 2 hours and all the performances are outstanding. If you could say any two are featured it would be Ken Page with his wonderful, full bass voice that goes all the way up into the lower part of the tenor range, as Old Deuteronomy, who gets to choose which cat goes up to the "heaviside layer" to be reincarnated. And Elaine Paige as Grizabella the Glamour Cat, no longer young but aged and tattered. Both of them render their songs wonderfully and with the right emotion.

I found it at my public library on DVD in Widescreen and with Dolby 5.1 sound. I first saw this film version several years ago and again today.

Note: The "heaviside layer" is is a layer of ionized gas occurring between roughly 90–150 km (56–93 mi) above the ground — one of several layers in the Earth's ionosphere. The "Heaviside layer" is used as a symbol for heaven (in the afterlife sense) in the musical "Cats."

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13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Love it, love it, love it!

10/10
Author: blackberrybabe from Moline, Illinois
19 April 2004

When I found out that my all-time favorite musical was coming to video, I flipped. I could not believe it. And when they closed, I was thrilled to have my own copy to relive the memory whenever I wanted. The video version is great. It shows the beautiful costumes and makeup and all the dancing! I always wondered how they did it. Tons of shots of my favorite cat, Munkustrap, along with the Rum Tum Tugger and Mistoffolees.

The only complaint I have is that they cut 'Growltiger's Last Stand' from the video. This is one of the funniest numbers, and it is missing. On the other hand, they do have 'The Aweful Battle of the Pekes and Pollices,' which is missing off the original cast recording. Unfortunately, there is not a complete American version of this show.

For anyone who loves the musical, get a copy. Who knows if this beloved show will return to the stage? At least the magic will live forever.

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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

The best musical Now and Forever!

10/10
Author: Olga Levina from Moscow, Russia
22 October 2001

Fantastic! The best musical and the best show of all times makes a magnificent film. It has advantage of showing everything in details and details are grand. Scenery, costumes and make-up are perfect. Music is superb (especially Jellicle Ball and Macavity). The best thing about the movie is certainly the cast. Actors not only sing and dance splendidly but also imitate feline movements and manners amazingly well. And how do they act! I absolutely adore Michael Gruber as manly and handsome Munkustrap. Elaine Paige as Grizabella would leave nobody indifferent. Veerle Casteleyn with her wonderful eyes is the most touching Jemima, John Partridge is irresistibly attractive and funny Rum Tum Tagger, Phyllida Crawley-Smith is very graceful Victoria, Jacob Brent is charming Mistoffelees, Aeva May and Rosmary Ford make a beautiful pair of adult cats: reserved Demeter and sensuous Bombalurina. Sir John Mills is a little unexpected guest star, but he is perfect Gus the Theatre Cat ("the star of the highest degree"). Eliote's text is witty, and there are a lot of amusing scenes in the show. My favourite ones are The Gumbie Cat, Mangojerry and Rumpleteaser, Pekes and the Pollicles, Scimbleshanks the Railway Cat. Watching this film is an endless joy for my family and me.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Cats are finally on video!

7/10
Author: George Mussman (GEM-20) from Washington State
12 September 1999

Since I first saw the musical, "Cats", in 1987, I have always wanted to see it on video. I was thrilled when it finally arrived. I immediately bought it.

The video performance was terrific: better than I expected. Instead of seeing it from the viewpoint of being in the audience, cameras were actually on stage, moving throughout the performers! The sound is terrific, and it played on my audio system wonderfully.

Of course, there is a flaw in the video. To me, it is actually a glaring flaw: a major segment of the musical, my favorite sequence in fact, is missing. Maybe it was cut for time, but I was very disappointed. "Growltugger's Last Stand" is one of the more elaborately staged portions of "Cats". For it to be removed from this performance will certainly upset many of the true fans of "Cats".

I was prepared to score a 10 out of 10 for this show, but with the editing, I can only score it a 7. Andrew Lloyd Webber himself produced this video. He should have left that portion in.

George

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10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

for musical lovers

10/10
Author: (abby_cg@hotmail.com) from Mexico
7 July 2003

I saw this musical 11 years ago in my country and I became in love with it. I knew about the existing film 4 years after it was made. Beautiful memories came to my mind and i think it can not be better. Excellent work. Dances are full of energy, fantastic choreography, costumes and make up, every cat has a unique personality, the cast is incredible, excellent. The music infects you with joy. IT´S A BEAUTIFUL EXPERIENCE.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Awsome

10/10
Author: JackSparrowLuver from Winner, South Dakota
13 February 2004

This movie was amazing...purrrley amazing.

Jacob Brent as Mr. Mistoffelees blew me away. He is such a talented dancer. Jacob Brent along with some of the greatest dancers in the world make this movie one to watch over and over again. The combination of wonderful music and dancers, along with the most beautiful costumes imaginable make this movie of the Broadway production memorable. I highly recommend it. Now and Forever

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

The Cat's Pajamas

7/10
Author: Troll_Dahl from United States
24 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although Jesus Christ Superstar is my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber show (I also enjoyed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), Cats can be a fun show, particularly if you know and like T.S. Eliot's work, upon which all the material is based. I, like Lloyd Webber, count Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats as a childhood favorite. In the car with my parents, we used to play an audiocassette version of the poems read by Sir John Gielgud and Irene Worth. I loved the poems before I knew the name of Eliot. Nowadays, I count Prufrock amongst my favorites and it's lovely to note that all of the characters songs in this show are based on various poems of Eliot's (some of them unpublished in his lifetime). It seems to me that Cats might be a bit more confusing to one who is unfamiliar with Old Possum's Book, but the numbers are loosely bound together as it is, so it may not matter much. But I do think it will make more sense and possibly be more fun if you've read the Eliot first.

Cats is a pretty light, whimsical show not to be taken too seriously--which, to my mind, is no bad thing. We need whimsy, too! It's based on what is actually a rather interesting, cool idea of plunging into the world of the mystical Jellicle Cats, as they meet at the annual Jellicle Ball. Much of the play is spent simply meeting the cat characters at the ball. With the exception of Grizabella, each of the characters introduced comes directly from Old Possum's Book and the songs are mainly the poems set to music. And it is important to remember that this is a musical based on a series of poems--hence the vignette format it often takes. Lloyd Webber is a composer of music, not a storyteller or writer literary sense. And there's nothing wrong with that. Dating back the operas of Wagner, Puccini, and so on, there has been a rich tradition in musical theatre and of adapting and reinterpreting previous stories, legends, etc. One thing theatre offers is the opportunity for many artistic interpretations of one story or piece, but I digress.

The music and dancing here are exciting and often fabulous. The opening number, Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats, is simply a knockout and other highlights, for me, including the Battle of the reenactments Peaks and the Pollicles featuring the Great Rumpus Cat, as well as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteezer. Good comedy abounds in these numbers. Old Deuteronomy is one of the most gracefully translated numbers. The Gumbie Cat (Jennyanydots) and The Rum Tum Tugger are also staged well, in fresh and original ways (I especially like Jenny) and Bustopher Jones is delightful. As a side note, this video version also features Sir John Mills in a brief but apropos role as Gus the Theatre Cat (unfortunately, this version loses the Growl Tiger number that is supposed to be a tangent to Gus' song). The late Mills was always reliable and his cameo is surprisingly touching despite its brevity. In some ways, I'd have liked a more flamboyant, upbeat portrayal of Gus, but Mills' cameo is a highlight.

The dancing of the Jellicle Ball, of which there is plenty, is fantastic to watch. I dare say that these dancers, with their wonderful agility, energy, and flexibility, have to be keep in top physical condition and work at least as hard as any football player. It looks to be every bit as much a work-out, every bit as much a form of athletics, as any contact sport. And those who don't appreciate the athleticism, the endurance, and the physical excellence good dancing requires--as well as the beauty it can produce--can kiss those shiny jazz shoes. But I, again, digress. Suffice it to say there is plenty of dancing in this show. That said, filming choreography can be tricky, and I get the feeling it would more be exciting and spectacular to see it on stage, as it was intended--and making that point may have been part of the purpose of this home video edition. After all, a theatre ticket costs more than a DVD.

Although the story is loose, they've actually managed to mind some of the characters from the poems together pretty well. Old Deuteronomy, a venerated senior cat in one of Eliot's poems, because the wise leader or guru of the Jellicles here, presiding over the Ball. And Macavity, the Professor Moriarty of the Jellicle world, shows up to disrupt the ball with criminal mischief. Then Mr. Mistofolees, the conjuring cat, plays a pivotal role in the plot with his magic, which is another number that I really enjoyed. The other key character is Grizabella, whom I believe comes from one of Eliot's unpublished poems, and is portrayed mainly through the famous ballad Memory, which is lovely and poignant. The lyrics are also some of the best of the show and in the context of the show, the emotional aspect of the song is somewhat surprisingly raw and intense. It's beautifully sung and sticks in your head without doubt.

Although the story is loose, it does all come together in the end. I won't say it isn't predictable but it does end up being pretty satisfying for me. Overall, Cats is a fun show, particularly if you like T.S. Eliot's poems. Eliot's widow, Valerie, who was alive when Webber conceived the show, approved wholeheartedly. Let it be what is and let your pretensions take flight. It can be fun if you appreciate musical theatre, T.S. Eliot, and our feline fellows.

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10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely Fantastic

10/10
Author: Claire Hyde (comedy_claire2001) from Birmingham, England
21 February 2004

After watching the video production of 'Cats' I can confidently say that this is the best musical EVER. If you love the book and other various productions then you just have to see this. With a beautiful mixture of super dancing and acting talent and a brilliant soundtrack this is a wonderful video for everyone to enjoy.

The songs are absolutely brilliant, all of them. From start to finish. Even if you only see this once you will be singing the songs for a lifetime to come. 'Macavity; The Mystery Cat', 'Skimbleshanks; The Railway Cat' and 'Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats' are my favourite songs, but the ever lasting 'Memory' is a good as ever. With a full 90 piece orchestra, the music has never sounded better.

I assure you, after watching this, you will remember it forever. And remember, you've got the Great Rumpuscat to thank for shutting those noisy Pollicle Dogs up at night!!

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME

10/10
Author: Emily from New Zealand
24 October 2004

Cats is an awesome wonderful movie!!! i watch this every day and every time I get a chance! I totally recommend this to anyone who likes cats, music, dancing or all three! and even if you don't like these, watch your view change as you see the film! the male cats are really cute, especially munkustrap (michael gruber) and tumblebrutus (fergus logan)! all the cats are are amazing singers and dancers! this is totally worth buying, i have loved this movie ever since i first saw it! my favourite characters are Munkustrap, Tumblebrutus, Pouncival (karl morgan), Mistoffelees (jacob brent), Demeter(aeva may), Rumpelteazer (jo gibb), Etcetera (jo bingham), Jemima (veerle casteleyn).......OK the list goes on..and on... ;)

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