Monday, 25 January 2016

"Cats" by Christchurch Theatre Club
Loughborough Town Hall

This has never been one of my favourite Lloyd-Webber musicals and I was in doubt before hand that CTC's production would be able to turn my opinions. Well, I finally got it! I understand what the fascination with this musical is. I realise that the musical is telling us the story about each individual cat, their attraction, their quirks and their fur balls, sorry foibles. Now it may not be up there with "Joseph" or "Jesus Christ Superstar" but this is a different style of musical.

"Cats" is a more dance-based musical and you can only admire the amount of choreography that goes into this show. You can also only admire the hard work and stamina that the performers of Christchurch Theatre Club need to perform with some of those costumes and under those theatre spotlights.

The whole musical is an ensemble piece and it would be unfair to pussy foot around and highlight some of the performers, because every actor and dancer on that stage formed the varied and complex pieces of a jigsaw. If one was missing the picture, as a whole, would not be complete. In fact to go even further than those on stage, the whole production team created the whole "Cats" experience. An amazingly talented and hard working cast.

We start off with a rather magical light show, designed by Robert Bridges, the amazing choreography by Michael Gamble, who also directed the musical. Vicki Hing was the musical director, and in a musical like this where the music is practically non-stop, the orchestra must have felt they were having a work out there. No cat-napping for them! A set, designed by Scenic Projects, filled the entire back space of the stage, making it look twice the size of what I'd noticed before, leaving a large performance space to the fore.

It was just as well there was that space because the cast is a large one, which made sure that the stage manager, Adrian Wray's job all the more important to get everything, and everyone in the correct places for the smooth running of the show.

The costumes were brilliant and snug fitting on the younger cats, which must have made the choreography a little easier than that of the older cats like Old Deutronomy, who had the biggest of costumes. David Perkins (Old Deutonomy) must be sweating off the pounds under all that fur! As was Gus the Theatre Cat (Duncan Gadsby)because the costume for those two looked, even if they weren't, heavy to wear, which gives the impression of the older slower cat.

Make up, as expected, was also a work of art, and under the heat of the stage, must have been in danger of being applied. The wigs were also especially designed to match the personality and character as well as the colouring of the cat. An immense amount of work went into the costumes, wigs and make up alone because, like the set, CTC were not able to use anything from the original design of the Lloyd-Webber musical design. You really appreciate the enormity of the show and why this is such a big project to undertake for a non-professional theatre group.

The music is complex because the lyrics are all from the poetry of T.S Eliot and I'm sure that the vocalists had more than a few headaches getting to grips with them, only to make the end result sound so good. "Memory" sung by Grizabella (Lucy Gamble) is the main song from the show but there are so many other memorable songs here. "Magical Mr Mistoffolees"(Craig Butterworth), Rum Tum Tugger's cheeky and saucy song, sung by Benjamin Hardy, Gus's song and Skimbleshanks song (Jack Hardy), as well as the catchy song for Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (Aaron Murray and Laura Barker).

There are 26 performers who made up this brilliant cast which made for an eye catching spectacle on stage, as well as occasionally roaming the auditorium. All I can say is that Christchurch Theatre Club have managed to convert me to a musical that I probably didn't understand which is why I've never enjoyed the show before, into a fully fledged "Cats" lover. For me, after tonight, it was like looking at a completely new musical with old eyes, or an old musical with new eyes. Whatever, I loved this show, the stories about the cats, the choreography, the music, the whole experience.

The show is sold out but it's always worth checking for cancellations at the box office, because to miss this show would be a cat astrophe.

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