Based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by TS Elliot and adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and originally produced by Cameron Mackintosh with the Really Useful Theatre Company, this production of Cats from David Ian Productions in association with Michael Watt electrifies the Nottingham Concert Hall stage!
The junk yard set is much wider and taller than the original London set and whilst there is no revolve and reveal in the opening act 'Jellicle Songs for Jellical Cats' the magnificent width of the Royal Concert Hall stage allows for more exuberant dance and staging of the Cats stories throughout. I actually preferred this setting to the tight space in the New London Theatre which had intimacy but some cramped discomfort in seating. So to the show itself;
This company have kept in all the popular cat characters, dynamic dances, drama, humour and music of the work so regular theatre goers and Cats lovers – including the excited group of ladies in cats ears behind me – plus people new to the musical, won't be disappointed. Though this time round on its eagerly awaited visit to Nottingham the sound scape is phenomenal and the live orchestra music has a slightly more rock feel in some numbers. Each of the members of the Cats ensemble shine in their own right and every word of the songs and speech throughout is crystal clear. The dance and movement throughout is ultra fluid whether flying through the air or slipping into place amongst the junk on the set. All of the tall junk filled walls of the set were used with great imagination and the lighting effects are breathtakingly atmospheric and beautiful.
In any production of Cats the success is down to ensemble slickness, dance and characterisation talents and the ability to sing to a very high standard whilst dancing and of course to the rendition of its most famous solo song – Memory. In this touring production we are lucky to have the superb talents of West End star Joanna Ampil playing the forlorn cat Grizabella and her rendition of Memory is utterly superb.
It is sometimes a complaint that some modern musicals have little in memorable tunes to hum as one leaves the theatre. Not with this revival. As I leave the theatre I am surrounded by audience members smiling like the cats who have got the cream and children singing and dancing out of the exit!
Runs at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall until Saturday 26th April.