Tuesday, 20 June 2017

“Cats” by VWNC Musical Theatre Students
Create Theatre, West Notts College
“Cats” is one of those musicals that has grown on me over the years after I realised that there was no deep meaning behind the musical and took it at face value. The value being a set of T.S.Eliot poems from 'Old Possums Book of Practical Cats' set to Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s music which takes in the characters and personalities of the cats in the lead up to “The Jellicle Ball” where one cat is chosen to Journey to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn.
"Cats" isn't the easiest of musicals to perform. It's very physical and you need good breath control with the vocals and on the whole this young cast coped with this well.
The cast are a mix of newer actors as well as some of whom had more experience,and, not knowing any of the cast, you could see the difference. That's not a bad thing because there are some real rough diamonds here and with a bit of polish, who knows where their talents can take them?
Director, Charlene Roberts, has compacted the musical which kept it pacy. Charlene was also responsible for the wonderful choreography, which really highlighted the talented dancers in the cast.
All the technical stuff was looked after by Sam Nicholson with help by Kian Staley on the lighting side.
Vocal coaching was by Cat Orton, who has done a great job with these students and a soundtrack that's not easy to perform.
Hayleigh Wade (Grizabella) gets to sing THE song that everyone knows from the show "Memory". Not the easiest of songs to perform but she tackled it well with plenty of emotion, but maybe just a tad too much power. Hayleigh has a powerful voice and it's learning to get that projection and power plus the emotion of the song just right. As I said, not an easy one to perform.
Shauna Martin (Old Deuteronomy) was another hit. My only note was, for an older cat, Shauna just needed to move a little slower as she came down the steps to reflect the age of the cat.Apart from that I loved the character.
Zach Fretwell (Mungojerry) and Kat Henderson (Rumpleteaser) make for a very entertaining pair as the cats with the gift of the gab an a good set of vocals between them. Good chemistry.
Tessa Stewart (Demeter/Jennyanydots ) is the Old Gumbie Cat in the song which introduces the Cats. Nicely performed by Tessa.
Tia Wilkins (Bomballurina/Jellylorum) is another actor taking on dual roles. I love Bomballurina as a character as she is such a flirty cat and has several of the singing parts, which suited Tia.
Ellie-Louise Gartland (Victoria) stands out for her white costume. Playing a younger kitten, she also has to have to show the flexibility in movement of a kitten, which she does with ease in the solo dance after the "Naming Of the Cats"
Bethany Whyman (Mr Mistofilees) lights up the stage, quite literally as this magical cat. A good characterisation role for Bethany.
Matilde Stokes (Skimbleshanks) is fun and energetic, just like the ever so important Railway cat himself.
James Murphy (Munkustrap/Gus the Theatre Cat) is one performer who caught my eye in both roles. We first see Munkustrap at the start and he is the focus of all the cats' attention. Playing this character also gets the audience's attention and you are drawn to James' dance ability in this role. A very flexible dancer who also has a good voice for musical theatre, and with a bit more vocal training could have something special.
Gus the Theatre Cat is also one of my favourite characters in this musical and, being quite opposite to Munkustrap, it shows James' ability to show another side of his character acting.
Jordan Eyre (Bustopher Jones). I really wanted Jordan to project more as his voice got lost after the front row. he did recompense though later when Bustopher's story was told and I did get to hear him the closer he got to the front of the stage. Another one of my favourite characters and I loved the characterisation in Jordan's voice.
One thing that I would have loved to have seen was Rum Tum Tugger really let go a bit more. This character is the show off cat and I felt that there was so much more scope to be more arrogant and showy. Never the less I still enjoyed seeing the actor, whose name I don't have, enjoying herself in this role.
All in all, this was a very entertaining production, and as I said, not the easiest of shows to perform but there's a whole lot of talent here and I'm so pleased that I was asked along to see these students. Some future stars on the rise for local theatres.

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