Cats – 2016 UK Tour – Review

I’m throwing this out there straight away: this review is super late and it’s due to me being in bed all week because I’m bleeding in my stomach and have to have a camera down my throat in a few days to find out if I’m actually dying or not. So hush up and we’ll do this business.

Cats is on at the Manchester Opera House until 13 February, though, so you’ve plenty of time to see it still! If you’ve been waiting to see Cats in Manchester because you haven’t had my review yet, I’m sorry, but you can still get tickets so get off my dick.

Anyway, Cats, the iconic musical where all of the cast are dressed as cats and sing and dance in a feline fashion… As plainly and bluntly as I can be with this, what the fuck is this show?

What is Cats? It’s a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. Due to limitations placed upon the production by the Eliot estate, no script was allowed except for the lyrics and verse. Much of the story is therefore told through movement without any speech between the songs.

I’m not just being arsey about it – bare with me on this. Like, the cast were amazing. The costumes and sets were incredible. The dance numbers were crazy impressive (if not FAR too long). But as a whole, what the frig?

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Not a lot actually happens in Cats and if you’re used to a musical having any actual meat or substance, you won’t get it here. The story is basically there’s a big group of cats that congregate once a year for a party and the oldest cat chooses one of them to essentially die and be reborn as a new cat.

The entire show is just each cat being introduced and then one gets chosen at the end to be ‘sacrificed’, if you will. And that’s it.

Before I went in I’d read the synopsis because I‘ve never seen Cats before and I jokingly thought to myself, I hope this show isn’t just going to be each cat coming on one by one – and that is exactly what it was! Jesus H. Christ! Two and a half hours of each mumbojumbo-named feline having their own 10-minute-long frickin’ musical number.

One cat is a magician with a flashing waistcoat; two other cats are burglars; one of them is a chav that raps; another is a cat inside another cat’s body; one was a movie star that used to be a pirate, and I’m like… What? Honestly, these cats were too much for me. It wouldn’t have surprised me if one of them legit was Beyoncé.

The one that everyone knows as well, Grizabella (because of ‘Meeeeeeeeeeeemory… All alone in the moonlight’) was so abused! I was appalled. All the other cats were dicks to her and I still have no idea why.

Was it because she was scruffy? She looked pretty darn fancy in her thigh-high boots if you ask me. They were all being awful to her and I wasn’t okay with it. All singing and dancing with each other and then refusing to even touch her hand? She only wanted a friend! Those cats were horrible.

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Even though I had zero interest in what was going on and I was getting super bored of these cats singing about themselves, the show was visually stunning. The costumes were absolutely incredible. The time and effort that must have gone into them must have been off the charts.

My friend who’s a costume designer made a bumblebee outfit in an afternoon and it’s legit one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, but I’m just imagining that multiplied by about 30 and each costume has to be a different variation of cat, each reflecting it’s personality traits. Uh-mazing.

And for that many spandex bodysuits I didn’t see a single penis (unlike the ballet I recently went to), so bravo on that! The pirate cat, Growltiger, looked incredible as well. Banging costume. Top score!

The sets, too – flawless! You can see the set behind the programme in my hand here and it was amazing!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BBS5kAtJKAn/?taken-by=scottbalf

The stage was laid out like a junkyard, with an old car and a giant rusty oven, and a lamp post that came down to become the mast of the pirate ship during a flashback. It looked amazing! There was also a giant tyre at the top of some steps where Old Deuteronomy sat, which floated up at the end so Grizabella could be sacrificed to the cat gods and it was amazing!

Also the front of the set came down over where the band is usually sat under the stage, so the cats could come running off the stage and up and down the aisles singing and purring at audience members – I was like, ‘Mate, don’t touch me, you might have mange! I see you up there licking yourselves.’

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Visually the show was incredible! Same with the choreography – brilliant! Even though the dance numbers went on for hours and hours and hours they were done perfectly. Two cats were dancing super sexily about Macavity and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be turned on by it or not, but it was done excellently!

My MVP was Joe Henry, who played Mungojerrie. He and Rumpleteazer had this catchy number about them being thieves, which they did lots of gymnastics and lifts in, and I liked it a lot. They were Cockney Sparras too and their accents lent themselves to their characters perfectly. Mungojerrie made me smile and actually want to hear his song, and was the only one I gave a shit about! Two thumbs up!

Well, Mungojerrie was almost the only one I cared about. There’s a chorus cat who’s super tall and super camp and I was living for him. I don’t know his name and can’t tell you who he was because of the cat make-up, but he’s mostly all white with one black ear, so if you go see the show watch out for him. You’ll like him!

In conclusion, the idea of Cats was blaaaaaaah, but the production of this show and the current UK tour is marvellous, and if you want to tick an iconic stage show off your list, I recommend it.

And if anyone can tell me why the other cats were dicks to Grizabella I’d be very grateful – my Twitter is @scottbalf so you can get me on there.

Tickets for Cats are available from ATG Tickets. It will tour to Edinburgh, Liverpool, Torquay, Sunderland Empire and Regent Theatre.