Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Review: Beverley Knight stars in Cats at the London Palladium

London Palladium
Reviewed on Tuesday 27th October 2015

Emma Lee Clark
Hot on the heels of its Blackpool run, Cats has returned to the London Palladium for a second Christmas season. 

When Andrew Lloyd Webber reunited with director Trevor Nunn, associate director/choreographer Gillian Lynne and designer John Napier to bring Cats back to the West End I don't think many predicted what a success the show would be. Performances sold out whilst both Nicole Scherzinger and Kerry Ellis received great acclaim for their portrayals of Grizabella.

Based on T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the show is set on a special night of the year when all Jellicle cats meet at the Jellicle Ball. 

It's important to stress that before seeing Cats you have to leave all common sense outside the theatre and forget about any other musicals you may have seen (Cats can't be compared to anything). Cats shouldn't be over analysed; it is a truly unique show which was revolutionary for musical theatre when it was first staged in 1981.

For Cats' "final" Palladium run, most of the cast have reprised their roles from Blackpool alongside formidable soul queen turned West End diva Beverley Knight who has taken over as Grizabella from Jane McDonald. The show has been tweaked a little further; those familiar with Lloyd Webber's original version will notice that the Rum Tum Tugger is now a rapping street cat whilst Bill Deamer has choreographed a wonderful new tap number which works a treat.

It's joyous to see the Palladium alive and buzzing; there is free pre-show face painting as well as various costumes and sketches displayed front of house. Whilst other Christmas shows are charging extortionate premium prices for tickets, Cats is an affordable family night out with top price tickets at £59.50 and half price seating for under 16s on Monday to Thursday performances. Take note producers!

Georgie Leatherland and Harry Francis

Cats is the ultimate ensemble show and requires a company of unstoppable triple threats to pull it off. This cast are particularly strong; Matt Krzan is hugely impressionable as Munkustrap, Adam Linstead showcases some strong vocals as lovable Old Deuteronomy, Jane Quinn charms as Jennyanydots whilst Anna Woodside, understudy Megan Armstrong and Clare Rickard excel in their trio as Demeter, Bombalurina and Jellylorum.

One of my favourite numbers in the show is 'Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer' which Harry Francis and Georgie Leatherland certainly pull off (their two-person cartwheel is astounding). A new stand out moment for me was 'The Railway Cat' which Evan James brings to life with his sharp and endearing performance as Skimbleshanks. Mark John Richardson also shines as Mistoffelees.

Beverley Knight
Grizabella is a strange role. Whilst the majority of the cast rarely leave the stage, Griz only has several minutes of stage time but always steals the show. 

Having made her West End debut in The Bodyguard before starring in Memphis The Musical, Beverley Knight is building up an impressive CV of theatre credits. Both previous roles provided a vehicle for Knight to show off the full extent of her insane talents; however, Grizabella is an entirely different challenge for Knight. 

She excels in her new role - her presence is powerful whilst her portrayal matches Griz's sassy new costume. At the end of the evening Knight brings the house down when she hits the big money notes in 'Memory' (she received lots of mid-song applause from the excitable press night audience). She owns the song and gives it everything she's got. It's thrilling to see Knight in her third West End show, let's hope she continues to jump from musical to musical - it's about time somebody wrote her a brand new role to originate. 

'Memory' is a magical song, although - hysterically - the man sat behind me who said during the interval "'The Way We Were' must be in the second act" may have been left disappointed. 

I have grown to love Cats - you have to embrace the craziness. Lynne's choreography is beautiful and sometimes hypnotic. It seems a shame for Cats to only run at the Palladium for eleven weeks; I would love to see the show find a more permanent London home. Cats is a one-in-a-million kind of show which everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Cats is currently booking at the London Palladium to Saturday 2nd January 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Read our previous interviews with Harry Francis & Kerry Ellis

Photo Credit: Alessandro Pinna

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