"Great Performances" Cats (TV Episode 1998) Poster

(TV Series)

(1998)

User Reviews

Add a Review
83 Reviews
Sort by:
Perhaps the most entertaining of all stage musicals, now in its filmed version.
TxMike13 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.
20 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Very nicely filmed version of the "Cats" stage musical.
TxMike29 December 2012
Warning: 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."
11 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Love it, love it, love it!
blackberrybabe19 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.
13 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
The best musical Now and Forever!
o_levina22 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.
13 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
Cats are finally on video!
George Mussman (GEM-20)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
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
for musical lovers
abby_cg7 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.
10 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Awsome
JackSparrowLuver13 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
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Absolutely Fantastic
comedy_claire200121 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!!
10 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
The Cat's Pajamas
Troll_Dahl24 June 2013
Warning: 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.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME
Emily24 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... ;)
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Highly Enjoyable Musical-to-Video
Gislef15 February 1999
Something for all ages; my children (3 and 5) get a huge kick out of this, and have the lyrics memorized. Unlike some movie musicals (JC Superstar, A Chorus Line), it really doesn't try to adapt to "being" a movie, but settles for being (mostly) just filming folks on stage performing in a musical. Some of the movie-style cuts are, IMO, a bit disconcerting (Rum Tug Tugger to Grisabella's entrance, Theater Cat to Shimbleskanks), and I'm not familiar enough with the musical itself to know if the cuts are part of the original or were bad edits unique to the video itself. You do get any number of close-ups to admire the costuming and make-up, and the casting is superb. Enjoyable for audiences of all ages if you like musicals.
5 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
One of the Worst Films I've Ever Seen
britishboy5122 December 2002
This film is absolutely terrible. Not only is there no plot evident, the score, for the most part, is amazingly dry. As a fan of some of ALW's other works (i.e. Phantom..., Evita, etc.), and as an actor myself, I was shocked. I mean, this is a musical that ran for 18 years on the Great White Way. It did not make sense to me. I must give credit, however, to the heartbreaking number "Memory". It is a brilliant song. The choreography was quite good in some places, but became repetitive. I do not recommend this film at all.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
2/10
Weber and Eliot seem to have never even seen a real life cat
drystyx14 January 2010
This should have been a great musical, with all the money and effort put into it. As it is, we have a one trick pony. The hit song about memories is the only music in this nerve racking piece of noise.

The song about memories is well designed and well done. In fact, everything is "well done". The performers do excellent work, particularly the less acrobatic ones, all skilled thespians. That even makes this worse, that their talents would be wasted on this horrendous script and music.

The music is horrible. It is an ordeal to get through. Oh, the singers hit their notes, but it isn't their fault the music is complete garbage.

The cats are much more animated and sociable with other cats than any cat in the real world. In fact, they are so unrealistic in character that one wonders if Weber and Eliot ever even touched a cat. The personalities given to them are the personalities that are given by the usual loud mouth red necks and crack-heads.

Of course cats are quiet and without expression, so it is natural for humans to bestow upon them their own personalities in their imagination. The personalities bestowed upon these alleged characters are unlike any cat you'll ever meet. This is a totally alien world, and makes no sense. The script is horribly concocted. "Asparagus" is probably the only cat character who even remotely makes sense. Those who have dealt with lots of cats will shake their heads at this bomb.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
Worst musical ever!
kcdl12 August 2009
Firstly I would like to say that I love musicals. I also like a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs, I'm not a ALW hater. So I wasn't biased from the the start.

Cats does have its good points: great costumes, good dancing and Memories. That is it.

There is almost no plot to think of at all. Take your average action movie. Now think of something with a million times less plot than that. At this point you are still imagining something with more storyline than Cats. This wouldn't have bothered me at all except for the fact that most of the songs are really really bad and totally forgettable. So a storyline to hold the interest would have been much appreciated. Instead we have a bunch of very superficial adjective ladened songs introducing cats. Once the characters are introduced....it ends. The whole musical is introducing various cats collectively and individually and the very vaguest of story lines is resolved without any drama whatsoever. Right near the end there is the smallest glimmer of conflict, which is then resolved in the most anticlimactic way.

Memories is a good song that landed in a wasteland of musically boring lyrically bankrupt songs. Even its power is someone diminished by the fact it is reprised multiple times.

Cats is a musical version of a tourist trap. It has an illusion of great promise which is maintained by a few mad fans and probably its one good song but no substance to back it up.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
What a let-down.
mmka15 January 2007
I know that most others will strongly disagree with my comments, and I have waited quite some time to to express them.

Very poor camera work. (Always a problem with musicals on film.) I expected far more from this cast. Despite the most welcome presence of Elaine Paige and John Mills, there are some truly disappointing performances.

The intentional omission of some pieces was a deplorable decision. (As was re-working the score.)

Having seen other staging and casts I am shocked at this presentation by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I was bored
NicoleDeLanquer3 August 2001
Up until two months ago I was not familiar with ALW's work. But I've heard that he is one of the best contemporary composers. Then I rented "Joseph..." and "JCS". I loved both of them! And from everything I've read and heard, I expected "Cats" to top them. I was very disappointed. Other than "Memory" (which I've heard on the radio dozens of times), there was no music that I would enjoy or remember later. I was bored. I kept fast-forwarding waiting for something interesting or exciting to happen. Being a dancer I appreciated all the dancing in the show and the dancers were incredible. But to me, the choreogaphy was no more than aerobics and butt-shaking! I understand they were supposed to imitate cats, but if I wanted to see cats moving, I'd've watched a documentary about them. To be fair, I have to say I loved the costumes and make-up, and some special-effects. I believe I would enjoy the musical better in a live theater, but on video, I give it two paws down.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Not bad at all.
Tommy-9213 June 2000
The fact that this Great Performances special, "Cats," was filmed on a stage like a performance of the show, but not before a live audience, offers pluses and minuses. The closeups reveal the actors' facial expressions very clearly, which is a great plus, particularly in the case of Elaine Page's Grizabella. Also, the sound is clearer than in recordings of this show. However, the special is a little weak on conveying the excitment of being in a live theater. Nevertheless, on the whole it was a good show.

For all the theatrical appeal, visual appeal, and the long runs, "Cats" is not the greatest thing to have ever hit musical theater. It's long on the above mentioned theatrics and visuals, but way too short on plot and substance. But it is really not a bad show by any means. The songs (Poetry from a book of T.S. Elliot's set to Andrew Lloyd Webber's music) are catchy and engaging, performed by a very energetic cast. The dancing is good, too. And as for the casting, that is also well-done. I would have loved to see Betty Buckley recreate her Broadway role of Grizabella, but Paige, who played the role in London, is not bad at all; her expressions, as I said, are... well, very expressive, and her rendition of "Memory" is just as good and moving as Buckley's. Ken Page, the original Broadway Old Deutoronomy, is also good. Sir John Mills' cameo as Gus, the Theatre Cat, is exploitive but touching. (And you can see why they cut his character's "Growltiger's Last Stand:" he may not have been able to get through it, unfortunatly)

Having not seen this show on stage yet, I think this special is a pretty good substitute for it. Perhaps you will feel the same way.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
wonderfully...commercialised
windfox31 July 2001
firstly i admit that i'm an ALW fan. my first encounter of his work was with THE PHANTOM, after which i heard about CATS, then i bought the VCD at a sale...well it was wonderful, but one of my friends commented that the show was very commercialised, and i thought she got a point there.

i'm not saying that CATS is not art, in fact as one of the comment has said, it is 'art in every sense'. the costume and the make-up was vivid, and fusion of dancing and singing was simply too great (well i cannot possibly hit a high C if i dance like that^^). and many other little details were also carefully designed (i loved that pipe organ made from a rugby ball - brilliant idea^^). no plot - sure, but there wasn't meant to be one, after all. CATS is primarily a show for laughter and relaxation, so a lot of pop factors were added, and i think that's where makes me feel it's 'commercialised'. but if one really goes into the vague storyline he may discover something there... it all depends on the individual who watches it.

i have to mention a few actors here...(yeah everyone loves them, but i must talk about them^^) Michael Gruber is among the best Munkustrap i've seen, he's an excellent dancer and actor. John Patridge finally found his place as Rum Tum Tugger(he once played Munku...i cannot imagine that^^). Jacob Brent's the most suitable person for Misto so far, he's got an innocently 'sly' look...one other actor i've got to mention is Jason Gardiner who did an amazingly good job as Alonzo the proud and arrogant second-in-command...and in my opinion he dances better than Jacob in terms of power and stability (Jacob Brent is a very *sweet* and light-hearted dancer while Jason is a more forceful one).

well...i love CATS, and i confess that its melodies 'haunt' me and i watch it every week...you can call me a freak but i simply enjoy watching Michael Gruber's smile (he's got a very elegant, warm smile...i wonder why no one mentioned about it^^).
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Lip Synching
GWF13 April 1999
I loved the music and the production of CATS, but no one has mentioned that the singers are often not in synch with the music. This is apparently due to the fact that they recorded the music separate from the action. It takes getting used to.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Live is better
jtjram2 January 1999
The performance of Cats for the video is outstanding, but if you want the full effect, I suggest seeing the show live. The cast may be different, and that will change things from the video, but you'll love it!!
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
Shockingly bad
tehrave2 March 2007
I found it very hard to sit through this abominable video. The choreography shifted from charming in the first five minutes to just plain embarrassing - Jennyanydots and the Rum Tum Tugger being prominent examples: musical numbers that I covered my eyes for.

The costumes and sets were also worth hiding from. The reddish-purple lighting and indigo background were sickening, especially against the orange fur of many of the cats. Surreal, and frankly, dated.

I was also confused by the haphazard plot. Their leader kidnapped by a lukewarm villain straight out of the Power Rangers - and then a lavish song-and-dance about a magician cat? Anticlimactic to say the least.

"Memory" was the only song where I didn't find myself cringing. It really stood out from all the other lame and repetitive songs as a lasting showtune. Overall, though, I want back the two hours that I spent plugging my ears in front of this ghastly production. I would love, actually, now, to see it performed - a play this popular can't be consistently that awful.
3 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
5/10
Some nice familiar songs
rbverhoef10 November 2003
I am not a big fan of the musical 'Cats' and may be that is why I didn't like this video version very much. Not that I hate the musical but basically the only thing we get to see over and over again is introductions of new cats.

The songs "Memories" and "Macavity, The Mystery Cat" are the songs I like and therefor I had some fun watching this, but I think you should only give it a try if you are a real fan.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
4/10
Not what it could have been
6sense14 December 2000
There are a number of areas which needed attention in this production. The lip-synching is not particularly good at times, and the overall look lacks the mood of the theatre set. Placing John Mills in the role of Gus may seem a sweet gesture, but it does not make up for the omission of Growltiger's Last Stand - 20 minutes of the show which would have probably been the best to transfer to video given the colour and effects involved. Sure it's better than nothing. But if you have the money and can get to one of the many productions that continue around the world, go see it live. Then you can use the video to 'refresh you memory' as needs be.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
5/10
Not my cup of cream
trishaade18 December 2017
Let me start off by saying that I'm not a fan of felines. However, I'd heard so much about the musical that I finally decided to see the film.

Visually, the movie is quite nice. The makeup, choreography, costuming, the cast and the set were all done very well. The singing was great and the movement of the actors, both as dancers and as "cats" was a sight to see. The special effects are also of note. All of that being said, I had a bit of a time deciphering what was being sung - I had to find the lyrics to follow along. And the cast did lip sync.

The main problem is that there is really no plot. The viewer is introduced to different types of cats by their personality and, in some cases, where they generally could be found (the theater, a train, etc.) I find a movie without a plot quite tedious; I stuck around to the end only because of the visuals.

Would I recommend it? Maybe if you have seen the play or if you already know the story has no plot. Maybe if you are a fan of felines in general or a fan of musicals. I can't say I would watch it again - It wasn't my cup of cream.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
3/10
Much ado about nothing.
mark.waltz24 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"We liked it a lot. It was better than 'Cats'", theater audiences on a TV comedy sketch show proclaimed in a monotone voice after seeing the latest theatrical spectacular. Certainly, "Cats" has gone onto become one of the most financially successful musicals ever, but does that make it good? According to the billions who have seen it, yes, but to a small majority of those involved in the theater, it is a joke, the type of show one would sneak into like an alcoholic sneaking a drink. The music is mediocre (with the exception of one Broadway standard that everybody has probably heard, even those who hate musical theater), the story non-existent, and the premise manipulative. It's like the movies of today, all style-no substance, and after seeing the TV version and the new Broadway revival, I concur that indeed, this show has given me "Cat Scratch Fever".

T.S. Elliott's book of poems was just that, poetry, and when put into the premise of a big spectacular musical, is a two hour pretentious ball of fur. It's mesmerizing to watch, and I feel for the talented performers who get put into all sorts of twisted positions, much like Julie Taymor did with her dancers in the stage version of "The Lion King". But unlike the king of the jungle, this kitty is about as emotionally involved as commercial cat Morris and cartoon cat Garfield. At least with those two, you could count on the commercial being over in less than a minute (and usually laughed at his cynical commentary) and the comic strip had wry comments on life, pet and human relations and with a 10 second reading, much more to give to the world than this has done in the past 35+ years.

The premise of this show is simple: It's the jellicle ball for jellicle cats, and a song indicating what a jellicle cat is really gives no complete definition. Old Deuteronomy is sort of the great God like old cat who must choose which one of the jellicle cats will go on to start another life, and within the span of two hours, various cats of no varying personalities (with the exception of a few) audition for that honor. Ken Page is one of the great character performers of the theater, and makes a lovable and commanding Deuteronomy. The problem, then, is not in the performances, but within the show itself. Elaine Page repeats her London role as the aging glamour cat Grizabella who sings the poignant anthem "Memory" at the climax of act one, then repeated throughout act two, and she provides the only poignant moment for me that rendered any kind of emotion.

There's a show-stopping John Mills as the "theater cat" who claims to have performed for Queen Victoria, giving one analogist the idea that "Cats" was a metaphor for the relationship between Queen Victoria and Disraeli. Original director Harold Prince summed it up best when he replied to that inquiry, "It's about cats." So even the director knows that it's pointless entertainment, manipulating theater goers for decades and certainly packing in the tourist trade in both London and on Broadway. Of course, everybody who has seen this show or knows about it knows "Memory" and characters like Rum Tum Tugger and Jenny Any-Dots (who would name their cat that?), and after seeing this, I needed a double shot of Rum Tum Tugger.

The staging is impressive, but after a while, the dance numbers do nothing but take away the notion of any plot, and one number in particular reminded me of the 2002 disaster "Dance of the Vampires" where the living dead danced at the vampire ball in front of a mirror, with no reflection. The staging is corny, sometimes tacky, and when I saw this on Broadway, I realized that everybody around me with the exception of me had drunk the "Cats" kool-aide. I was happy to get this off my bucket list, but I certainly will laugh more every time I see a comic jab at this show, like Woody Allen did in "New York Stories" and what Marc Cherry did on the short-lived "The Five Mrs. Buchannans" when Eileen Heckart rushed her daughter-in-law Harriet Harris out of a store, claiming, "I'm not going to be late for Rum Tum Tugger just because of you." Like those two great theatrical ladies who obviously got the joke (Harris's character referred to it as technically amazing but artistically empty), I too am not taken in by over-stuffed smelly costumes and junk yard modern art when there is no point to the show in the first place.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews