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New London, Drury Lane, WC2B 5PW. Tel: +44 (0)20 7405 0072. Nearest tube: Holborn. Andrew Lloyd Webber.

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    12 Reviews
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      20.09.2004 10:44
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      INTRODUCTION

      I have always loved musicals, since I was a little girl. I was brought up on TV showings of Calamity Jane, The Sound of Music and the like and Mum took me to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the theatre. Now, through Ebay, I am amassing an impressive collection of musicals on CD, video and DVD. My daughters share my love too, which often means there are two or three different musicals being played in various rooms at the same time!

      Today, I am celebrating it being the first day of a new school term by listening to the musical Cats and letting you know what I think of it. I actually own two versions of this on CD – the Highlights From Cats (one CD - 15 tracks) and the two-disc set with 22 tracks on it. I’ll b e reviewing the latter here.

      For those that don’t know, Cats is an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on T S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Most of the songs are the poems from the book set to music, but some use Eliot’s other work. Trevor Nunn and Richard Stilgoe are credited with writing the additional material.

      As with all long-running musicals, they go through various cast lists in their time. Being a Bonnie Langford fan, I specifically wanted to buy the CDs featuring her. This set stars the original London cast from 1981, which includes Wayne Sleep, Paul Nicholas, Brian Blessed, Elaine Paige and Sarah Brightman as well as Bonnie herself. Seeta Indrani features too. She went on to play PC Datta in The Bill.

      THE MUSIC

      The CD begins with the overture and prologue, both of which contain instantly recognisable pieces of music. The first song is Jellicle Songs For Jellicle Cats. This is one of the best tracks and easily one of the most memorable. After only one hearing, my eight year old was singing the chorus.

      She was also asking me what Jellicle cats were! I guess I’ll have to buy T S Eliot’s book at some point, so I can show her where the ideas come from. Apparently, Jellicle cats are pretty amazing things as the lyrics tell us how they can do pretty much anything.

      Eliot’s poems are very observant of cats and their characteristics. Add the stirring musical score (and the costumes and dance routines from a visual point of view) and each type of cat really shines, displaying its personality (purr-sonality?) through each song.

      The second cat we are introduced to is the Old Gumbie Cat called Jennyanydots. She is lazy by day, but an avid organiser by night. The lyrics to this song (poem) are excellent and very witty. I think I’d choose to be a Gumbie Cat actually. She ‘is deeply concerned with the way of the mice’ but instead of chasing and eating them, she teaches them good manners, music and crafts. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of my favourite pieces of music and I think it works better as a poem myself.

      Most of the tracks introduce us to a cat or cats and tell us about them. I won’t review each one, as that would end up as a dull read, but I will pick out some highlights and anything worth special comment.

      The Rum Tum Tigger is performed by Paul Nicholas, who has a really good voice. This song is quite rocky in a slightly dated way and explains how curious this cat is and some of the exploits his curiosity gets him into.

      The music fits the characters of the cats very well. Grizabella is a slower track with quite a sinister feel to it, while Bustopher Jones is much lighter and rather cute. Gus The Theatre Cat is delivered with love but some sympathy, as he is rather past his best, ‘for he isn’t the cat that he was in his prime’.

      Brian Blessed’s deep booming voice is very recognisable. He performs more than sings, but has a lovely tone of voice bordering on the operatic. He plays Bustopher Jones and Old Deuteronomy. I don’t know how flattered Brian will have been to have been chosen to be a fat cat and an old one!

      Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer is a duet by Bonnie Langford and John Thornton and is one of my favourites. This is a very jazz influenced song, one that calls you to move your body along in time to the music. In fact, I find that my daughters often dance to the whole CD, when it’s on. It is definitely a catchy musical score and one that you feel like performing to.

      Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat is another light-hearted track, with Bonnie Langford’s voice having to cope with some complicated almost tongue-teasing lyrics. One thing to note is that the lyrics of the musical are usually very clear and audible, which allows you to appreciate Eliot’s poetry skills.

      I think if you asked people to name a cat from T S Eliot’s book, most of them would say Macavity. He seems to be the most famous and memorable. He’s the mystery cat and has appropriately shady music for one able to hide himself so well. Another of the highlights of the soundtrack, the vocal whispers and quiet percussion build up to a loud chorus which you can’t help but sing along to.

      Mr. Mistoffelees stars Paul Nicholas and Wayne Sleep and this one also has an excellent chorus, which is very memorable and sing-a-longable. Another tale of a delightful cat with unique characteristics.

      The most famous song from Cats is surely Memory. Sung here by the excellent Elaine Paige, it does seem slightly out of place, as though it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the musical. Perhaps that is because it isn’t overtly about Cats (coming from another of Eliot’s works of poetry).

      It is one of my favourite songs though and is truly beautiful with haunting lyrics and a wonderful melody. It’s a song I would really love to be able to sing, but it is very difficult as it has both very low and very high notes. (Doesn’t it cross two octaves or something?)

      Memory actually crosses both CDs. A verse of it concludes the first disc, then it is reprised partially and finally in its entirety on the second CD with Sarah Brightman joining Elaine Paige.

      OVERALL

      Cats – like all theatre productions – is a very visual experience. The costumes and make up which turn the actors into the cat characters is stunning and beautiful. To get the full experience of Cats, I would suggest you see it in the theatre. But the music itself can be enjoyed and appreciated on its own.

      This is also one for all the family to enjoy – no swearing or adult themes here, of course, being based on a children’s book. Kids will also delight in the wonderful names of the cats and their often naughty, child-like behaviour.

      Although Cats isn’t my favourite musical (That honour goes to Les Miserables!), it is one I enjoy listening to and play fairly often. For any fans of this genre, Cats is one CD you really need to have. And that’s my purr-sonal opinion ;-)



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        01.03.2004 19:30
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        I went to see Cats at the kings theatre in glasgow. I am 19 yrs old. I got the tickets as a christmas present from my sister. I was looking really forward to it because i had never seen it before. When I went I enjoyed every moment of it. The costumes were amazing and I was very impress with the performers, they stayed in charector throughout the show. They also came off the stage and went into the audience which i like very much. The rum tum tugger was very funnyI like him. They all were very good. Brilliant show I fully recommend it. I think the show was a great day out for everyone who has seen it :) Catsmad ps I enjoyed it so much. Ihave now bought the video so, I can watch it any time :)

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          15.02.2002 14:54
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          Not one of my longer opinions, but it's more of a wake-up call to anyone in the London area who thinks that they could go to see "Cats" any time, after all, it's been on for years hasn't it? I don't suppose that there are many people who haven't heard of the Andrew Lloyd-Weber's musical "Cats". Based on T S Elliot's poems from "Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats", it has been part of the London theatre scene for many years. In fact, it has been staged at the New London Theatre, Drury Lane WC2, for most of the venue's lifespan, having been built and opened to the public in 1973. Unlike other West End houses, the theatre is built to the modern standard of circular stage with the audience on three quarters of its circumference and for this reason, the production really seems at home here. I have now seen "Cats"? twice in the last 15 years, the last time being a couple of weeks ago, (02/02/2002). The chances to see "Cats", either for the first or a subsequent time are lessening by the day, as the musical has some 12 more weeks to run before ending its marathon. The nice thing about seeing something twice, is that the second time gives you the opportunity to concentrate on detail rather than trying to gain an overall impression or just soaking up atmosphere. I'll give you an example of what I mean. The first time, my seat was rather a long way back, which was ideal for viewing the whole cast in their combined dance routines and for listening to the music. Back in those days, Brian Blessed was in it playing .....er.... whatever it is that he does best...oh yes, I know, talking very LOUDLY. Elaine Page sang the famous bits and Paul Nicholas was the sexy alley cat, Rumtumtugger. However, the second time without even noticing who was in it, afforded me the opportunity to sit in the front row, whi
          ch incidentally is on the same turntable as the stage, so just before the performance, you find yourself tracking through 180 degrees along with the set. For those who like to leave where they came in, this can be confusing. Disappointingly, this is the only use the rotating stage has in the whole performance. In the front row, you get to notice things. Things like how well the cast emulate cats and all their little mannerisms, like reaching a "paw" out to your ice cream, and then snatching it back as you move to protect your food. The way that cats blink, with that "I'?m just d-o-z-i-n-g off - no I'm not!" kind of slow motion. Also, the way they act and sniff around each other - just as well it?s not called "Dogs"? really! On second exposure, I found the music a trifle repetitive, with a common recurring theme frequently rearing its head. The solo ballads now tend to leave me cold, whereas, first time round with Elaine Page singing, it was altogether different. The character of Rumtumtugger, a street-wise slinky Tom with thrusting hips was very amusingly portrayed, but now that I've seen Cat in Red Dwarf, I start to see the similarities! - Of course, I know that "Cats" did it first If you've not seen it, but think you'd like to, then hurry. If you want to make one more visit for old time'?s sake, then try and get a seat near the stage - there'?s a wealth of detail to keep you amused, even if you do know the songs backwards!

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            02.10.2001 03:29
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            I had never really fancied seeing Cats for a number of reasons. Firstly, the only song I could think of that had anything to do with Cats was 'Memory'. Secondly, I wasn't really into the idea of sitting in a theatre surrounded by lads and lasses in leotards, prancing around around the stage with feline dexterity. My hard feelings were melted somewhat when I saw the Cats show on the BBC and thought, when I'm next in London I'll give it a go. The minute you walk into the auditorium at the New London Theatre, you are met with an oversized junkyard - the ideal playground for Cats. After a bit of confusion I managed to locate my seat...it was at the back of the stage, which very convieniently swiveled round to the front of the stage during the Overture. In fact, I felt a little like royalty, slipping in under the cover of darkness and the noses of people who thought they may have been on the front row! It is during the overture that the Cats make their appearance, racing all over the theatre meeting you face to face and flashing their Cats Eyes at you. That's one thing that is amazing about the experience of Cats. You feel a part of the production by virtue of the fact that it is hapenning all around you. The actors are right next to you singing and being Cat-like (which I suppose in a musical about Cats, is in fact incredibly useful...) There isn't much of a story to the show. The Jellicle cats meet once a year at the Jellicle Ball, with me so far..? Where Old Deuteronomy - the Jellicle leader - will decide which Cat can ascend to the Heavyside Layer and be 're-born.' The Cats then make their case as to who that lucky one should be. And so we are introduced to Cats such as Skimbleshanks and Bustopher Jones. There is only one bit that makes the second half a little disjointed and that is Growltiger's Last Stand where Gus, the theatre cat, reminices about one of his acting triumphs. It's ente
            rtaining, but seem a little out of place. The make-up is amazing, as are the actors themselves. I don't know how they manage to keep it up! The dancing is fantastic and I have never really been one for that sort of thing, but from the moment you get there you seem to be drawn into the, for want of a better word, magic of it all. Make sure you sit in the first four rows on the revolving stage - it gets you right in on the action. It is very pricey thought to sit there - £37.50 from the box office, but it is well worth it. And for a one-off treat you can't go wrong. I'd expect that the seats right at the sides of the stage are not as good. If you go and see Cats - you need to experience it too. Old Deuteronomy even sits on stage through the interval so you can go and have a chat!

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              17.09.2001 02:15
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              Cats is the extremely popular musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It is one of the most popular shows in the West End and I was lucky enough last night to spend the night watching it. I havent been to many shows before in London. My only other experience was Les Miserables which I saw a few years ago. Cats is performed at the New London Theatre which can be found on Drury Lane in the heart of the West End. The Theatre is the newest of all the major London Theatres. I drove to London and was surprised to find a few NCP car parks near. Of course they are very expensive but the one I found seemed to have a special offer for the night which was £10. Tickets for the show not very cheap and range from about £20 up to £37. It is worth spending the money to get close to the stage but in all honesty there are no bad seats in the theatre. Anway onto the show which was excellent. The theatre is not actually that big but it is very well decorated and has a unique atmosphere. The front few seats which are situation by the stage move around when the show starts. The costumes are very impressive with all the performers having different appearances. The makeup is also very good. The thing that makes Cats stand out from other shows is the pace that people move around on stage. There is very rarely less than two people on stage and there is always something to look at. The performer seem very confident in what they are doing and scarely take on the roles of cats. Cats has many songs which you will know but the most famous has to me memory which was performed very well. The Magical Mr Mistoffelees is another classic which you are sure to know. As mentioned the stage and arena are very well decorated with very little expense spared. The performers looked like they enjoyed performing even though they do it twice a day. At every opportunity they tried to get the audience involved which was nice to see. If I was to critise anything about the night it would have to
              be the price of merchandise and the poor toilet facilities. I suppose the merchandise price could be expected but £27 for a CD is a little over the top. The toilets are very poorly maintained and don’t account for the numbers that are likely to use them in the interval. My wife was waiting for 15 minutes during the break and didn’t have time to drink her glass of wine before we were rushed back in. Overall Cats is an excellent night out. The theatre is impressive and the performers are first class. If you get the chance it is definetely worth going too. With lots of restaurants around the area it is also worth treating yourselves to a meal afterwards to talk about the great performance you have just seen. As far as entertainment value is concerned Cats is 10 out of 10.

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                23.09.2000 23:28
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                Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “CATS”,is probably the most famous musical ever. It first hit the West End stage in 1981.One memorable name in the all star cast is the wonderful and extremely talented Elaine Paige.Since it’s release cats has become a world-wide hit,smashing records as it continues to be a massive hit. THE musical cats is now available on video,all the excitement,thrill,and romance of the musical has been captured on film.How can I forget that marvellous song “memories”,just one great song of many. If you have never seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS. I would suggest that you rent or buy the video sometime and enjoy a real treat.

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                  28.08.2000 06:06

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                  Who can say a London West End musical is anything worse than fantastic? There's something truly magical about it. I'm lucky in the respect that I have had the opportunity to see many. But, I can honestly say that Cats was the most well done performances of all. Firstly, as soon as you got into the auditorium, the performance began because of the wonderful set. It was like stepping into a dreamland. Seriously, you feel like a cat yourself because everything is larger than life. And when the music strikes up and the cats prowl out on to the stage, you are captured in the whirlwind of performance art for two hours. The costumes and makeup are astonishing. The ability of each and every performer is marvellous. If you only ever see one musical in your life, Cats should be it. You'll love it for life.

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                  11.08.2000 04:38
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                  Cats, Cats is great I have seen it 3 times live and about 20 times on the Video, I loved it you can see from watching it why it is the longest running westend show of all time. On our 3rd trip to London I finally persuaded my Partner to acompany me to the show, so we got some great priced tickets from a small dealer in covent garden, and headed back to the hotel to freshen up. We got to the theatre about an hour before the start of the show, and had a few drinks and soaked up the atmosphere, then came the call for curtains up. We had a great seat and the show began, the music and the dazzle of the stage swept my partner off her feet. From the opening song to the final bow she was dazzled. I was so happy that she liked it and we now hope to see some more shows. Cats is simply the best.

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                    09.07.2000 18:49
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                    I went to see Cats over 8 years' ago and knew I would love it as I like most Andrew Lloyd Webber productions. I expected great dance routines, good costumes, an easy to understand storyline (not that I'm stupid), and most of all fantastic music. I was not disappointed. This review is not of the theatre, but of the video, available in most music stores. Although nothing can beat a visit to the theatre with the atmosphere, but the video comes close to that. The film has been re recorded with a 70 piece orchestra. It is the first show by ALW which has been specially filmed and made available on video. All the same star cast - including Elaine Page and Sir John Mills. Briefly, the story is about a group of cats who wish to be reborn. On the same day each year they meet up and one of them is chosen to be reborn. All the cats take their turn in singing their own unique song - some sad (like Memory, by Elaine Paige) and some jolly and exciting. A song called 'Jellicle Cats' fills me with emotion each time I watch, not a sad song as you would expect, but a combination of the dance routine and the upbeat sound fills me with emotion each time I watch it. Even my 4 year old loves it and knows a lot of the songs.

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                    05.07.2000 19:44

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                    I have seen this show twice now the first time when all the stars were in it Elaine Paige,Brain blessed, Paul Nicholas, Bonny Langford etc. The set is rotating so sometimes the action is facing the wrong way & the story can be confusing the first time, basically it's about the choice of a cat to have a new life & the individual cats sories are all told some sad some comical. Grizabella the old worn out glamour cat that none of the others will go near wins in the end & ascends the magic stairway. The songs are typical Lloyd Webber very simple but catchy & the dance elements show a wide range of styles. if you love musical theatre or dance you will love this one. My husband actually enjoyed this show even though he hates dance!

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                    05.07.2000 02:41
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                    My teenage daughter went to see Cats on a school trip to London some while ago. She isn't easily impressed - are any teenagers? - but she thought Cats was so brilliant she kept telling me all about it. i think the midnight feast at the hotel and some gorgeous guy in the cast helped, but even so, she really did enjoy the musical! By the way, the musical is based on a series of poems by T S Elliot - Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats Anyway, Cats eventually found it's way to the Nottingham Theatre Royal, so another friend whose daughter had also gone on the school trip, my partner and I all booked to see this famous musical. We were not disappointed. The costumes were fantastic, the singing was superb and even the rubbish tip scenery all fitted in with amazing special lighting effects making everything even more 'fantastic'. Of course, knowing so many of the songs made famous by such great names as Elaine Page and Michael Crawford added to the enjoyment as I could 'quietly' hum along with the tunes. Although I have been a cat lover all my life, I don't think that is necessary to enjoy the spectacle of this brilliant show. If you ever get the chance, do go to see it - Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and prepare to be amazed.

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                      05.07.2000 01:15
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                      Okay, first of all I am no cat-lover, so I might be a bit biased here, but when I went to watch Cats I was prepared for a classic (It's a wonder what marketing tactics can do to you). To my disappointment though, I have to admit that my friends' advice against watching this was much justified. The whole show is, true to its name, about cats. This story revolves around a special night of the year - a night when the tribe of Jellicle Cats unite to celebrate who they are. Every year on this day a Jellicle Cat is chosen to be 'reborn' into a new Jellicle Life , and it is the dream of every cat to be chosen. So one by one the cats emerge to sing of their unique capabilities and special qualities until they were interrupted - the rest of which I shall let you discover for yourself. The best part of this musical was the song 'Memories' which was simply fantastic and awesome. This is one song which is so famous I think it must be one of the best-known musical songs in history. There are some very good dancing by the cats though, and a few 'surprises' when you are least prepared for it. Personally, I left the theatre wondering why Cats is a classic...though you might feel differently. All in all, I think cat lovers might love this one but to others like me who find cats irritating when they do the 'tail' thingy, my advice is to steer clear. If you are going to watch it in the New London theatre (where it is being performed now), another advice is to purchase tickets for seats directly in front of the stage, as the sitting is circular and if you are on the side you won't get a very nice view.

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