Thursday, 19 February 2015

Review: Kerry Ellis stars as Grizabella in Cats at the London Palladium

London Palladium
Reviewed on Wednesday 18th February 2015

When Cats returned to the West End last December nobody predicted what a big hit it would turn out to be. With the 'house full' sign up outside the Palladium most days, producers extended Cats' run and chose Kerry Ellis - the first lady of the West End - to take over from Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella.

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. When I saw Cats for the first time several years ago I had no idea what I made of it; however, several visits later and I have grown to love it. It's important to leave the real world outside and allow yourself to be mesmerised by the uniqueness of the piece (don't try and over-analyse anything). I now find Cats strangely hypnotic, it is brilliant escapism. 

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. Two months after its opening, this re-worked production feels smoother and more settled. Under the direction of Anthony Gabriele, the orchestra sounded utterly incredible. 

I found Antoine Murray-Straughan's rapping Rum Tum Tugger far more amusing this time round and loved Bill Deamer's tap number even more. It's extraordinary to feel such a fresh buzz from the audience (many of whom took advantage of the free face painting prior to the performance); everybody seems to be very excited to be watching the show which creates a wonderful atmosphere. There's also the opportunity to check out various costumes which are on display as well as several sketches. Nothing beats seeing the Palladium sold out and alive. 

Kerry Ellis as Grizabella
Napier's design sweeps right out into the Palladium whilst Lynne's choreography continues to impress and draw you into a different world. The cast go full out from start to finish; Cats is a gruelling show but not one company member falls behind or shows sign of exhaustion.

Once again my personal highlights included Benjamin Yates and Dawn Williams' rendition of 'Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer', whilst Joseph Poulton received huge applause several times for showcasing tremendous talent during 'Mr Mistoffelees'. 

Having played Nancy in Oliver, Fantine in Les Miserables and (most famously) Elphaba in Wicked, it is no secret that Kerry Ellis knows how to belt out a good show tune. Despite only being into the second week of her run, Ellis is already storming the Palladium stage with bucket loads of sass. She portrays Grizabella with vulnerability, beautifully capturing the character's isolation.

There's no denying that everyone is waiting for 'Memory', and when the moment comes Ellis rises to the occasion with a bang. The song allows Ellis to showcase the beautiful softer side of her vocal talents, with her lower register also sounding impressively effortless. Ellis belts out the big notes as if she is singing for her life. She has put her own stamp on the role, with her unique vocal influences working a treat. The concentration in the auditorium throughout the entire number was quite something; Ellis' rendition of 'Memory' is nothing short of triumphant.

There has never been another show like Cats and there never will be. I have no idea what Lloyd Webber was thinking when he sat down to write the piece, but for some strange reason it just works. I'm the first to admit that Cats has become something of a guilty pleasure, it would be a big shame if this production didn't return to London once again after its current run concludes in April.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Cats runs at the London Palladium until 25th April 2015. Please visit for info and tickets.

Photo Credit: Alessandro Pinna

No comments:

Post a Comment