CATS: One Of The Greatest Broadway Musicals Is Better Than Ever
The first-ever Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical, Cats, returns to Broadway tonight at the Neil Simon Theatre (250 W 52nd Street).
Cats is back on Broadway and it is better than ever. The new revival looks and feels great with just enough nostalgia for those who grew up with it, and just enough new for the next generation.
With some new orchestrations and brilliant new moves by Mr. Blankenbuehler in the spirit of the original, this show has never sounded or danced better.
The T.S. Eliot poems that form the basis of most of the lyrics, from his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939), are genius, while Lloyd Webber’s music knows how to hits all the right notes.
Special shout-out to the glam-rock cat, Rum Tum Tugger (Tyler Hanes), he is so sexually exciting that he will make you PURRRRRRRRRR! While “Magical Mister Mistoffelees,” played by the talented Ricky Ubeda, sets the theatre on fire – while literally lighting up the place!
This show is pure theatrical enjoyment, for two and a half hours, for everyone in the family – young and old!
The only misstep Leona Lewis! She’s far too young to play the star role of Grizabella. And although she is a great singer, she is no actress! But really, who possibly could be as great as Elaine Paige in London and Betty Buckley in the role that brought us “Memory” (trust me, you know it!!!!)
The new generation of Cats includes Leona Lewis as “Grizabella,” Giuseppe Bausilio as “Carbucketty,” Quentin Earl Darrington as “Old Deuteronomy,” Jeremy Davis as “Skimbleshanks,” Kim Faure as “Demeter,” Sara Jean Ford as “Jellylorum,” Lili Froehlich as “Electra,” Daniel Gaymon as “Macavity,” Shonica Gooden as “Rumpleteazer,” Christopher Gurr as “Gus/Bustopher Jones,” Tyler Hanes as “Rum Tum Tugger,” Andy Jones as “Munkustrap,” Kolton Krouse as “Tumblebrutus,” Eloise Kropp as “Jennyanydots / Gumbie,” Jess Leprotto as “Mungojerrie,” Georgina Pazcoguin as “Victoria,” Emily Pynenburg as “Cassandra,” Ariana Rosario as “Sillabub,” Ahmad Simmons as “Alonzo,” Christine Cornish Smith “Bombalurina,” Corey Snide as “Coricopat,” Emily Tate as “Tantomile,” Ricky Ubeda as “Mistoffelees,” and Sharrod Williams as “Pouncival,”as well as Richard Todd Adams, Aaron Albano, Callan Bergmann, Claire Camp, Francesca Granell, Jessica Hendy, Harris Milgrim, Madison Mitchell, Nathan Patrick Morgan and Megan Ort.
Let’s see what the critics had to say…
Emma Brockes, Guardian: Lewis has a beautiful voice, but when she performed Memory, she was not Grizabella the mangy old cat, but Leona Lewis, pop star and seller of 20m records, just as, a few years ago, when Catherine Zeta Jones played Desiree in A Little Night Music (also directed by Nunn) she busted out of role to sing Send in the Clowns with the zip of the Incredible Hulk busting out of his shirt. Perhaps this doesn’t matter. A song sung on these terms can still be highly enjoyable, although in this case I found the performance of Memory rather stressful, particularly the crescendo at the end and the bits when Lewis listed dangerously to one side while doing some Acting. It was a relief when the story moved on.
David Cote, TimeOut NY: Today, Cats feels experimental only in the sense of writing a show as if Oklahoma! and Company never happened. Lloyd Webber’s ability to craft a coherent book musical has always been shaky (School of Rock being a late-career exception to the rule). Cats is an attenuated high-concept revue that grows tedious by its second act. A bunch of cats slink out one night, introduce themselves and, by the end, two of them go to kitty heaven. Now and then you may catch a word not normally heard on Broadway: “ineffable” or “perpendicular.”
Jason Clark, The Wrap: …the production’s hopes of updating one of Broadway’s more maligned hits – and justifying its popularity – seems to have floated up to the Heaviside Layer that these cats so desperately crave. This revival provokes but one response to the show’s onetime tagline: now and whatever.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: “Cats” is full of catchy pop tunes many of us have known for decades. Webber’s songs don’t have the tightest of melodies, but I’ll take “Cats” over “School of Rock” any day. As a wistful recollection, “Cats” is guaranteed to leave you feline groovy-it’s here now, though I wouldn’t bet on it lasting forever.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Memories could be fatal to this revival of “Cats” – specifically, the memory of Betty Buckley as Grizabella, singing “Memory” as it’s meant to be sung, with heartbreaking beauty and exquisite pain by a great stage performer. Leona Lewis, the British pop star anointed by Andrew Lloyd Webber himself, isn’t in her league. Happily, nothing as catty can be said of the rest of this fabulous revival of the 1981 musical phenom that padded its way around the world on little cats’ feet.
Jesse Green, Vulture: To be fair, Cats is not quite as bad as cultural elites liked to suggest; there were far worse shows during its 18-year run. But Cats was both pretentious and déclassé, dragging the musical form down from its recent supposed glory just as it dragged Eliot down from Prufrock to Pouncival. This was, after all, the megahit that opened the door for the invasion of European pop operas that all but smothered the native product for two decades. Seeing it 34 years later, in a Broadway environment that has recently produced the likes of Hamilton and Fun Home, is to experience something milder and less dangerous than it once seemed. It’s not so much feline as bovine, as if Nunn and Lloyd Webber had spliced in some genetic material from another Eliot poem of the same period: “Cows.”