Wednesday, 25 January 2017

“Cats” by Creatio Arts Youth Theatre.
Derby Theatre.
Midnight. Not a sound from the pavement. Suddenly an explosion of music and lights reveals a larger-than-life disused factory floor. Tonight is the one special night each year when the tribe of Jellicle Cats reunites to celebrate who they are. They emerge singing of their unique abilities and special traits from all quarters of the theatre.
“Cats” first opened in the West End in 1981 and as of 2016, is the fourth-longest-running show in Broadway history. So what gives this Lloyd-Webber musical such longevity? I think I now know.
I must admit “Cats” is one musical I’ve now seen three times, this being my fourth, and after not enjoying, maybe not engaging with the musical after the first couple of times, I though last year I’d give it another shot and saw a local theatre production.
The first two were professional touring productions. Well, I finally got it by the third view. I realised that there is no deep meaning in the musical and the show is just a celebration of cats. I may have been looking too deep and looking for something that wasn’t there and it took three sittings to realise this!
As only to be expected, this is a massive cats, sorry cast of over 50, and local theatre goers will possible spot behind the excellent make up, OK maybe from the programme, many well-known names of local theatre productions from the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire areas. So many that I can’t possibly name them all, but I should mention some of them.
Lowri Spear played Grizabella - The Glamour Cat. Past her heyday, Grizabella, definitely not Lowri. She hit that big note in "Memory" and gained a rousing recognition from the packed to the rafters theatre
Adam Griffiths-Vernon, a new name to me, as far as I can remember, but a name to watch out for with his strong vocals.
Ryan Wiggins as the equivalent of some sexy cat pop idol as Rum Tum Tugger, gyrating around his cat admirers.
Oscar Hewitt-Richards, again another new name, as Bustopher Jones. A good voice for musical theatre and nice characterisation. Another name to look out for in theatre land.
Lewis Haycock and Erin Keogh teased as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, and even came out to play "tag" in the interval, which delighted the kids who were in attendance.
Oliver Wheddon as the lithe Skimbleshanks, director Matt Powell couldn't resist a part, or two, as the very colourful bespectacled Rumpus Cat and Carbucketty.
It seems a long time since I saw Bradley Mcclean on stage and he has grown. Playing Macavity shows a more grown up actor and it suits him.
Paddy Stafford was a joy as Gus The Theatre Cat, and again brilliant character driven role and what a voice made for musicals.
Griddlebone was played by Emily Cox and teaming her up with Paddy in these roles was magical in their duet.
Zak Charlesworth as the daddy of the cats, Old Deuteronomy, showed with this musical an even more mature voice from Zak. He has always had a brilliant voice but tonight he showed what a great musical theatre, and possibility of light operatic voice he has. The strength and control he has was spell binding. The world is this young man's oyster at the moment.
Bagging the most applause though in "Cats" was Lucas Young. His balletic and acrobatic performance just blew everyone in the theatre away in his role as Mr Mistoffolees. I've always known that Lucas is a good dancer. In "Cats" he has shown what a fantastic dancer he is.
It would take forever to mention every one of these amazing actors, and I apologise to those I've not highlighted, but wow, you were all simply incredible to do what you did on that stage. If I were your patents, I'd be super-proud.
Choreographed by Charlotte Richardson-Astle and Ellie Jones with additional choreography and direction from Rachel Bates and Matt Powell. Why so many choreographers? Have you seen this musical and the varied dance styles? What can I say but WOW!
It takes a special kind of actor to be able to get into the mindset of being a cat and the way cats move. They are full of grace, so aloof, and every step taken is precise and seems to have a meaning, so when you think of these traits within choreography, you can appreciate the work that goes into teaching actors, many unfamiliar to moving in this way, to carry out these specific steps.With this show being forever on the move, you can appreciate every ounce of hard work these dance routines take to look as good as they did.
Musical Direction by Tom Watkins and what a fantastic orchestra he led. Not one note out and just the right sound level. Perfection.
Produced by Emily Gent and Creatio Arts Ltd. This is just another massive success for Creatio and their ridiculously hard working technical team. they certainly do not do anything by halves.
The sets, again as you’d expect are wonderful. Designed bySimon Davey with some long hours put in by Roydon Charlesworth and Paul Wheddon to make it look as fantastic as it does.
There were a few mic issues but I'm sure that the sound wizards will resolve these.
The lighting was designed by Tom Mowat so was incredible and I will mention the follow spots because I know from talking to lighting folk that these aren't as easy as it may look and so Kheenan Jones and Jack Readyhoof deserve credit for their job with the follow spots. I am lead to believe that this was their first time!
Amazing costumes, sourced and put together by a whole host of people, incredible make up and wigs. The make up was done by the cast themselves, yes I know that's what most local theatre people do but I'm always overwhelmed at such things like this, especially when they all look so amazing!
A total standing ovation by the end, and I for one was not tardy in getting to my feet to show how much I enjoyed this production. I'm not saying that "Cats" is my all time favourite musical all of a sudden, but it's creeping up my favourites list, slowly.
"Cats" is only on until Friday 27 January 2017 and I know that there are only a few tickets left, but if you can, I would. go on have a (fur) ball.

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