Well-loved moggy mu­si­cal shows it’s got more lives in it yet

The Press - - Katoitoi - Christo­pher Moore Cats

Time should have caught up with the mu­si­cal Cats long ago but some­how this old moggy keeps on keep­ing on, fu­elled by its pe­cu­liar charm and the in­cur­able sen­ti­ment of au­di­ences ev­ery­where.

The lat­est New Zealand pro­duc­tion of An­drew Lloyd Web­ber’s adap­ta­tion of T.S.Eliot’s Old Pos­sum’s Book of Prac­ti­cal Cats milks both un­til emo­tions run dry.

Ad­mit­tedly there’s only so much you can do with a mu­si­cal with no real plot, sub­text, and let’s be hon­est here, lit­tle point apart from be­ing a se­ries of mu­si­cal di­ver­tisse­ments set around Eliot’s el­e­gantly witty verses.

Some­how the sight of a large group of adults in ly­cra cat suits yowl­ing and mew­ing and, God help us, lick­ing them­selves should carry a warn­ing that it might prove harm­ful to 21st cen­tury au­di­ences. But like ev­ery cat who has ever owned me, its charm and ec­cen­tric­ity in­gra­ti­ates it­self into your af­fec­tions.

Di­rected by Geral­dine Bro­phy, the pre­dom­i­nately young cast gave their all and much more but some­how it failed to com­pletely res­onate. Per­haps the catnip lacked a cer­tain po­tency but there was some­thing in­de­fin­able lack­ing.

There were some ex­cel­lent per­for­mances – no­tably Steven Ray as Gus the the­atre cat and Phil Grieve as a splen­didly avun­cu­lar Busto­pher Jones – but much of the solo singing while ad­mirably stri­dent lacked sub­tlety and shading while some of the ensem­ble singing was some­what ragged.

While a highly ac­com­plished ac­tor like Eil­ish Mo­ran in­jected char­ac­ter and depth into the role of Gris­abella, her cli­matic ver­sion of Cat’s best-known song Mem­ory added new mean­ing to the word ‘‘emote.’’

The cast’s danc­ing was en­thu­si­as­tic, en­er­getic and pol­ished, es­pe­cially Greg Jarema as Rum Tum Tug­ger who suc­ceeded in chan­nelling both Mick Jag­ger and Elvis into an ex­tro­verted per­for­mance.

Cats con­tin­ues to prove the truth of the old the­atri­cal maxim that you don’t mess with suc­cess. Nev­er­the­less, Bro­phy can’t re­sist a lit­tle tin­ker­ing here and there. But some­how deck­ing the cast in fairy lights for a vis­ual cli­max didn’t quite tweak my whiskers.

The real star of the evening was Chris Red­ding­ton’s ex­traor­di­nary set de­sign, which trans­formed the Christchurch Town Hall stage into a glo­ri­ous Steam­boat Punk ex­trav­a­ganza. It’s worth the price of a ticket to see it.

‘‘Its charm and ec­cen­tric­ity in­gra­ti­ates it­self into your af­fec­tions.’’

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