In a busy city, when the sun goes down, a deserted junkyard comes to life with secret and mystical society of Jellicle Cats. A celebration of singing and dancing erupts with the dignified Munkustrap ( Robert Pieranunzi) taking the lead in the festivities. The ball is to celebrate the coming of Old Deuteronomy ( Clent Bowers), the wise Jellicle elder who will select the next cat to be reborn.
One by one, cats present themselves to the “court”, display their talents and recount heroism pasts that would deem them worthy of the gift Deuteronomy has come to bestow on just one cat this night. Jennyanydots ( Colette Peters), a very fat lazy tabbie, is named 'The Old Gumbie Cat', a musical number featuring vocals by Munkustrap. Cat-about-town Rum Tum Tuggers ( Danny Gurwin) tosses his tail in the ring with a song saluting his own celebrity. Not really vying for contention (but simply wanting to be noticed) nearly identical cats Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer ( Jacob Haren & Carly Wielstein) have their own tales of hit and run havoc. Once Old Deuteronomy does arrives, the Jellicles Balls ramps up to full swing. Lastly, in the show moment of greatest crisis, Mr. Mistoffolees ( Joseph Corella) appears with a show-stopping performance that saves the evening.
Throughout the evening, the festivities are interrupted by scorned outsiders of the Jellicles Clan. An “appearance” is made by Macavity the Mystery Cat ( Chris Holly), an infamous criminal cat who strikes and disappears without a trace. Also throughout the night, an aging, limping Grizabella ( Kelli Provart) appears several times, wishing to join in to the feline games. Although the reason why she is an outcast is unclear, Grizabella is shun by the Jellicle society; a rebuke that prompts her to sing the show’s most popular song Memory. So it was not a surprise that this was the number that brought down the house Saturday night.
Cats is based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939). In 1981, Andrew Lloyd Webber composed music, and with Trevor Nunn, crafted lyrics from Elliot’s text to transform the poems into one of the longest running Broadway musicals ever. It is the tragic Grizabella character that provides the connective strand for all the stories within the show. This strand is critical since the play is largely nonlinear and musical number flow into one another without much warning.
Musical Theatre West’s production of Cats lavishes in the spirit of Broadway grandness; this event is practically pure spectacle. Structurally, this show demands a bit from its audience. For those not familiar with the severe shifts in style and tone from one story to the next, the rhythm of this show takes some getting use to. But the level of energy emanating from the stage is impressive - a virtual Olympics of fantastic dance and song. Director / Choreographer Dana Solimando marshals an army of more than performers to a richly entertaining evening of a timeless Broadway gem. This Andrew Lloyd Webber classic has been a long time coming to Musical Theatre West. Don’t miss it.
The Musical Theatre West’s production of Cats runs through February 27, 2011 at:
Musical Theatre West
Carpenter Performing Arts Center
@ California State University Long Beach
6200 East Atherton Street
Long Beach, CA 90815
Box Office: (562) 856-1999 x4