Monday, 15 December 2014

Review: Cats at the London Palladium starring Nicole Scherzinger

Antoine Murray-Straughan as the Rum Tum Tugger

London Palladium
Reviewed on Friday 12th December 2014

The biggest marmite musical of all-time, Cats, has returned to the West End and completely taken over the London Palladium. Based on T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical is set on a special night of the year when all Jellicle cats meet at the Jellicle Ball.

To enjoy Cats you have to leave all common sense outside; if you try and delve too far into the 'story' you will find the experience bewildering. However, if you sit back and allow yourself to be transported into the musical's weird and wonderful world you may find the show utterly mesmerising. I must admit, I have a soft spot for Cats. Over the past few years I've seen the show twice on tour and it has hugely grown on me.

The team behind the original production (director Trevor Nunn, associate director/choreographer Gillian Lynne, designer John Napier and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber), which famously ran at the New London Theatre for twenty-one years, have reunited for this updated revival. Tampering with a classic can be dangerous, but I genuinely enjoyed the changes. The show is very different - more different than I was expecting - but it works and doesn't feel overly dated.

There's a wonderful new tap number from Bill Deamer and various sections of music have been altered, but the biggest change  is the reinvention of the Rum Tum Tugger who is now a rapping street cat. When Antoine Murray-Straughan made his first entrance as the new Rum Tum Tugger I was completely taken aback. However, as the evening progressed I began to warm to the character and by 'Mr. Mistoffelees' everything had clicked into place. Murray-Straughan has fantastic presence and, once his portrayal is more settled, I think the character will prove popular with some audience members.

Napier's design sweeps into the auditorium, setting the scene beautifully. Before the show begins there is the chance to have your face painted for free and take a look at various costumes and sketches which are on display. There was a real buzz around the Palladium, the atmosphere was full of excitement before the performance had even begun. It is fantastic to see the London Palladium alive and buzzing!

Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella
When Cats premiered in 1981 Lynne's choreography was considered revolutionary and groundbreaking. Cats was the first 'danced-through' West End musical and took the bar to a whole new level. Lynne's choreography remains remarkably impressive. I cannot imagine how the cast get through one performance, let alone an eight show week. Each and every performer does a tremendous job, they truly are super-human.

One of the act one highlights is Benjamin Yates and Dawn Williams' performance of 'Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer'. Whilst showcasing some tremendous tricks, the pair make what must be one of the musical's most challenging numbers look so easy. Lloyd Webber's score has moments of glory, various melodies have been stuck in my head all weekend.

Returning to her musical theatre roots is global superstar Nicole Scherzinger - she really is the pussycat of all pussycats. Scherzinger plays the outcast Grizabella who performs the show's most iconic number, 'Memory'. The role may be small, but Scherzinger certainly gives a performance to remember. She clearly has a deep understanding of her character and fully lets go during her act two rendition of 'Memory' which is hugely powerful. Scherzinger belts out all the big notes phenomenally well, evoking a loud and extended audience reaction.

There really is nothing like Cats. Lloyd Webber's show is one in a million and it fully deserves to be playing to packed houses in the West End's most iconic theatre. I love discussing Cats with others as everyone seems to have such extreme opinions - some adore the show whilst others simply do not 'get it'. I'm not ashamed to admit that I love the show, it has become a guilty pleasure.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Cats is currently booking at the London Palladium until Saturday 28th February 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

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