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Cats

2019
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Ballarat Lyric Theatre Playing at Her Majesty’s until Sunday

Her Majesty’s theatre at the moment is alive with cats – oozing rivers of them, exploring, crawling , stretching, entwining around your feet…Yes, this is the much loved Andrew Lloyd Webber musical CATS, based on T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the show is alive with highly entertaining feline characters and wonderful witty verse, as the Jellicle Cats come out to play in a larger-than-life junkyard on the night of the Jellicle Ball. One by one they tell their stories for the amusement of Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, who must choose one of the Cats to ascend to The Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a new life. The cast perform with power, passion and commitment. The show features more than two dozen cat characters, each with their distinct personality, which is reflected through their costume, makeup and movement. The choreography by Katherine Armati is a mixture of different styles: some cats are dancing ballet, others are tap dancers and so on.

Musical numbers range from pop to jazz, from rock to hymn-like songs. Lyric theatre’s revival of Cats, also directed by Katherine Armati is a vibrant production, subtly nuanced with delicately, joyous scenes contrasted with poignant, heart breaking ones. The deceptively simple set with its various projections is extremely effective and was designed by Scott Snowden along with atmospheric lighting by Mystic Entertainmentz. The orchestra under the baton of William Yates was in fine form and his Choral Direction is outstanding. Kat Pengelly’s multi layered, variously textured costumes were very exciting and Cathy Heenan’s make up was as good as it gets. Although CATS is an ensemble piece it still gives the opportunity for many of the characters to shine. Munkustrap, who in some ways acts as the show’s narrator, was portrayed very well by Sam Balson and Stephen Armati is in excellent form as the enchanting Old Deuteronomy, leader of the Jellicle cats, Stephen showcases his acting and singing and is a standout. Daniel Lamech as the charismatic, Rum Tum Tugger, has glorious fun prowling and hogging the stage and making all his teen cat followers swoon and scream. Skimbleshanks, the fussy Railway Cat, was delightfully portrayed by Tim Gay who also sang well. The Cockney thieving team of Rumpleteazer and Mungojerrie were enchantingly portrayed by Siobhan Heenan and Laurence Heenan in an acrobatic semi musical act which really hit the mark. Emma Rix plays the role of Grizabella, the Glamour Cat to ‘purr’fection. Act one ends with Rix beautifully under-selling Memory, only to then hit back in Act two where she brings the house down, with beautiful support from Ella Bedggood as Jemima. The enchanting minx Griddlebonee was delightfully played by Vicki Rowe who also plays Jennyanydots in her usual brilliant style. Magical Mister Mistoffelees, allowed Aaron Bonell-Huy to feature with a spectacular number and the sultry trio of Jellylorm, (Ellie Carroll), Demeter (Fiona Lacey ) and Bomburalina (Samantha Stewart) were splendid, especially in the breathless Macavity number featuring Samuel Apineru. Gus the Theatre cat featured Brendan Bawden who also plays the role of Growltiger both characters were terrific. Matt Mercer is Bustopher Jones the support from all the ensemble group and Pit singers provides the perfect example of teamwork and needs to be seen to be believed. Get in quick, CATS will only be around for a limited time, don’t miss it.