One of my biggest regrets in life is not catching Cats when it was staged here in Manila in 2010. So imagine my joy when it was announced that it will be brought back again, this time at Solaire. It was like a whiff of catnip! I knew I had to catch it and I’m so happy I did. It’s a spectacular production that had me dancing in my seat, even if I came in without any clear what the show is about.
Based on T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Cats is set on just one special night of the year, when all Jellicle cats meet at the Jellicle Ball. Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, makes the Jellicle choice and announces which of them will go up to The Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.
The musical received its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981 where it played for 21 record-breaking years and almost 9,000 performances. It is now one of the longest-running shows in West End and on Broadway. In 1983, the Broadway production became the recipient of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and ran for eighteen years. Both the original London and Broadway cast recordings won Grammy Awards for Best Cast Album.
The awards come as no surprise because the music is incredibly catchy. Let’s admit that there are many of us who are only familiar with “Memory” but the score has plenty of gems. I enjoyed the catchy numbers, like “The Rum Tum Tugger” and “Mr. Mistoffelees.” The opening and closing numbers, “The Naming of Cats” and “The Ad-Dressing of Cats” were quite entertaining, with clever lyrics describing how to name cats and communicate with them.
Of course, a review of Manila’s Cats wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Joanna Ampil, who plays the iconic Grizabella. Ampil captures the essence of the role, an old and mangy cat who longs for her days as a glamour puss. Her voice soars as she sings “Memory” and I was swept away by the emotion of her performance.
Equally amazing during Cats is the choreography. The show’s cast was able to mimic the graceful movements of our feline friends with intricate steps blending ballet, modern dance, jazz, tap, and even acrobatics.
Amy Whittle dazzled as Jennyanydots in “The Old Gumbie Cat,” a breathtaking tap number. Joe Henry and Kirsty Ingram were just as amazing in “Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer,” a routine that can only be pulled off by the most skilled acrobats. Not surprisingly, George Hinson provided the swagger needed for “The Rum Tum Tugger” and Harry Francis killed it in the challenging “Mr. Mistoffelees.” Ellie Young didn’t have a singing role as Victoria the White Cat but she stole the spotlight every time she was on stage.
The actors danced, leapt, and sang across the stage, a beautiful production that mimics the world of cats. There is only one set but it is what is needed, and is an excellent backdrop to the story. I wish the climactic send-off would have been more dramatic but it was beautiful nonetheless.
Cats is the complete package: it has great songs, astonishing choreography, a beautiful set, and gorgeous costumes and makeup. Don’t be like me and miss it this time. Get your ticket now, kitty girl.
This story is in partnership with GMG Productions. Cats will be staged at The Theatre at Solaire. Tickets are now on sale at www.ticketworld.com.ph. For more information, visit GMG Productions’ website and follow them on Facebook.