Friday, December 23, 2016

Review: "Cats" on Broadway (Neil Simon Theatre)

What can be said of Cats - a musical I first saw performed in Houston, Texas in 1993? Has it changed at all? Is it better on Broadway?

The plot for the latest Cats revival remains the same. A bunch of Jellicle cats prance around the stage, using Cat-like movement and choreography, singing about their unique characteristics. There is a Jellicle Ball to decided which cat is most worthy to ascend to heaven (aka heaviside layer) and be reborn. Of course, this cat will be Grizabella - the cat that sings the lovely version of "Memories" (the best and most memorable song in the musical).

All of the cats have lovely costumes and the Broadway setting is spectacular. The intricate choreography resembles ballet. The highlights include the following songs & dance numbers:
  • Grizabella
    • Mamie Parris does a wonderful version of Memories
  • Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer
    • Jess Le Protto as Mungojerrie and Shonica Gooden as Rumpleteazer have a very funny duet, where they dance, prance, and sing. It's fun to watch
  • Old Deuteronomy 
    • Quentin Earl Darrington does a fine job with the slow moving, Old Deuterenomy
  • Gus The Theater Cat
    • Christopher Gurr delivers a poignant reminiscence of a career on the stage in one of the show’s most softly lyrical, moving songs.
  • Macavity, the Mystery Cat
    • Daniel Gaymon does a fun version of Macavity
  • Magical Mister Mistoffelees
    • Ricky Ubeda is intriguing as Mister Mistoffelees. The cat's that always missing at the scene of the crime.
All of this intricate singing and dancing cannot make up for the weak plot. Really, nothing much happens. However. the Broadway version of Cats is significantly superior to the Houston version I recall.

The lyrics for the best song in Cats, Memories, are below. It's the highlight of the show and one of the major reasons to see Cats on Broadway.
Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember
The time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again
Every street lamp
Seems to beat a fatalistic warning
Someone mutters at the street lamp gutters
And soon it will be morning
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn't give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin
Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale cold smell of morning
A street lamp dies, another night is over
Another day is dawning
Touch me
It's so easy to leave me
All alone with my memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You'll understand what happiness is
Look a new day has begun

  • Alonzo – Ahmad Simmons
  • Bill Bailey/Rum Tum Tugger - Harris Milgrim
  • Bombalurina – Christine Cornish Smith
  • Carbuckety – Tanner Ray Wilson
  • Cassandra – Emily Pynenburg
  • Coricopia – Corey John Snide
  • Demeter – Francesca Granell
  • Electra – Claire Camp
  • Grizabella – Mamie Parris
  • Jellylorum – Sarah Jane Shanks
  • Jennyanydots – Eloise Kropp
  • Mistoffelees – Ricky Ubeda
  • Mungojerrie – Jess LeProtto
  • Munkustrap – Andy Huntington Jones
  • Peter/Bustopher Jones/Asparagus – Christopher Gurr
  • Plato/Macavity – Daniel Gaymon
  • Pouncival – Sharrod Williams
  • Rumpelteazer – Shonica Gooden
  • Sillabub – Lili Froehlich
  • Skimbleshanks – Jeremy Davis
  • Tantomile – Emily Tate
  • Tumblebrutus – Kolton Krouse
  • Victor/Old Deuteronomy – Quentin Earl Darrington
  • Victoria – Georgina Pazcoguuin
  • The Cast Chorus – Richard Todd Adams, Callan Bergmann, Jessica Hendy, Nathan Patrick Morgan, Megan Ort
Musical Numbers

Act I
  1. Jellicle Song for Jellicle Cats
  2.  The Naming of Cats
  3.  Invitation to the Jellicle Ball
  4.  The Old Gumbie Cat
  5.  The Rum Tum Tugger
  6.  Entry of Grizabella
  7.  Bustopher Jones: The Cat about town
  8. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer
  9.  Old Deuteronomy
  10. Song of the Jellicles and the Jellicle Ball
  11. Memory
Act II
  1. Introduction to Act II/The Moments of Happiness
  2. Gas the Theatre Cat
  3. The Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles
  4. Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat
  5. Macavity, the Mystery Cat
  6. Magical Mister Mistoffelees
  7. Memory
  8. Journey to the Heaviside Layer
  9. The Ad-dressing of Cats
  10. Finale

Cats Report Card

  • Fantastic Broadway stage (one of the best I've ever seen)
  • The cast of Cats has very intricate, detailed costumes that are really impressive and must be seen to be believed
  • Fantastic singing of "Memory" by Mamie Parris (Grizabella)
  • The show packs a lot of energy and enthusiasm
  • The plot is quite weak. It's a just about a bunch of prancing cats, who are selecting the next Jellicle Cat to go to heaven and be reborn