Cats opened in London in 1981. At one time, it was the longest running musical in both London and New York. Forty years later, Cats is playing once again at the Fox, where the show still delivers the goods.
The current national tour is based on the most recent Broadway revival. The tour began in January 2019 and closed earlier than expected because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour resumed last September.
The staging is a mixture of old and new. The old includes Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score, Trevor Nunn’s direction, and John Napier’s scenic and costume design. The new includes Natasha Katz’s lighting design, Mick Potter’s sound design, and Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography which is based on the original choreography by Gillian Lynne.
The musical focuses on a tribe known as the Jellicle Cats. The action takes place on the night of the Jellicle Ball, the annual occasion when the tribe reunites to determine which of them will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and return to a new life. The tribe’s patriarch, Old Deuteronomy, will make the choice. In their musical numbers, the Jellicles are making their cases to him and to the audience, of which the cast are aware.
The lyrics are based mainly on T.S. Eliot’s 1939 collection of poems, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Also among the sources are unpublished poems of Eliot’s provided by his widow and literary executor, Valerie Eliot, who attended an early version of the show in 1980.
Much of the show’s appeal is in its delightful speculation on the inner lives of cats. The production’s choreography and costumes are eye-catching evocations of feline nature. The new lights and sound are dazzling.
The cast is a collection of splendid young performers. They form an utterly cohesive ensemble and take full advantage of their individual opportunities to shine.
The Jellicle Cats and their performers are:
- Cassandra – Lexy Bittner
- Coricopat – Taylor James Rosenberger
- Demeter – Lauren Louis
- Grizabella – Tayler Harris
- Jellylorum – Kayli Jamison
- Jennyanydots – Michelle E. Carter
- Macavity – Aiden Pressel
- Mistoffelees – Paul Giarratano
- Mungojerrie – Max Craven
- Munkustrap – Devon McCleskey
- Old Deuteronomy – Indalecio De Jesús Valentín
- Peter – John Anker Bow
- Plato – Aiden Pressel
- Pouncival – Dominic Fortunato
- Rum Tum Tugger – Zach Bravo
- Rumpelteazer – Kelly Donah
- Sillabub – Brianna Kim
- Skimbleshanks – Christopher Salvaggio
- Tantomile – Alexia Waites
- Tumblebrutus – Sean McManus
- Victor – Indalecio De Jesús Valentín
- Victoria – Hyla Mayrose Perillo
- The Cats Chorus – Carolyn Bacon, Kelliann DeCarlo, José Raúl Mangual, and Tony Mowatt
The program lists many swings and understudies, but no replacements were announced on opening night—a noteworthy accomplishment during a pandemic. The swings who did not perform are Gracie A. Anderson, Megan Arseneau, Connor Orion Bermingham, Kieran Macdonald, Brian Craig Nelson, and Elana Valastro.
The playing of the orchestra and the sound in the theater are exemplary. This entire production deserves everyone’s respect.
Photo by Matthew Murphy, Murphymade