Review - Squids Theatrical Inc CATS!
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot
Directed by Nathanial Currie
Presented by Squids Theatrical Inc
Redcliffe Cultural Centre
Season: 15-23 MaBokkings: (07) 3283 0407 or Redcliffe.firstname.lastname@example.org
It is the night of the Jellicle Ball and all the jellicles have come together to celebrate and await the choosing of the one who gets to be reborn by ascending to the Heaviside Layer. More than thirty years later since its original opening on West End, London in 1981, CATS is still going strong, having been performed by many a professional and amateur theatre company around the world. And, Squids Theatrical is the latest in that long line.
CATS is my favourite musical, this being the fourth time I have seen it – twice professionally and the last time back in 2007 by Harvest Rain, so it has been a long drought for me. But last night’s performance by Squids brought back all the lovable characters and songs, ably performed by a cast of very talented people, and I find myself singing all the songs again this morning.
The cast was a catalogue of talent – whether that be acting, singing or dancing. The stand-out was Cara Duffield who played Victoria (the white kitten). Her dancing was used to its potential and it was hard to take your eyes off her on stage. Andrew Quant was well cast as Bustopher Jones; Byron Philp a wonderful Skimbleshanks; James Whiting an excellent Munkustrap and John Chant as magical Mr Mistoffelees. The two cheeky cats – Mungojerry and Rumpleteazer – were played by two girls (instead of a male/female pairing) – Rebel Bliss and Genevieve Tree. Their costumes were similar colourings suggesting they were of the same litter and with the choreography and their voices for their duet, it was simply so good.
Rum Tum Tugger has always been a favourite of mine and he was ably portrayed by Mike Lapot who ‘Elvis-fied’ him to a tee, gyrating those hips and making all the female cats crazy. Voices who really impressed on stage were Naomi Drogemuller as Grizabella, Jim Price as Old Deuteronomy, Bethany Eloise as Griddlebone – her duet with Growltiger was very funny as they try to out caterwaul each other. In fact, the whole ensemble really had the sound down that it was like listening at times to the original Australian cast CD.
One of the things I really liked with this production too, was all the kittens on stage – played by the Junior Ensemble. This is such a great way to get kids involved in theatre early and what a wonderful musical to be involved in. The kittens were not just merely decoration either – taking their parts as Jennyanydots’s mice and beetles, and as the pekes and pollicles in the Great Rumpus Cat song.
The set (designed by Janine Aberle) was not as elaborate as other productions have been, but it was perhaps restricted due to the size of the stage, but it was extremely functional. It set was the classical junkyard with the Russell Hotel sign rising to ‘skyscraper’ heights at stage right. There were a few truck tyres, the ‘cotton reels’ that cables come on, and an oven, all placed and stacked cleverly to provide so many nooks and crannies for cats to crawl out of.
As well as a variety of other junk that created the overall effect. A couple of very large pieces, at both sides of the stage, also pulled out to create Growltiger’s barge and Skimbleshanks’s train, with the help of an cat-twirling umbrella frame as the front wheel.
The costume designs were as expected for the main characters – the body hugging cloth - which turned out to be some sort of spongey material, with patches of fur rather than spray painted lycra; the wigs, the elaborate makeup, each individualised for every cat; and a range of other accessories such as belts, tiaras, tutus.
I particularly liked Jennyanydots’s costume, apart from the one she wore for her song, which looked a bit like she had become stuck in a Chinese lantern. Maybe she had! The makeup team also had their job cut out for them with the number of cats that were on stage and was well done on the whole. The only one I felt needed to be better was Grizzabella – from where I was sitting in the audience her face lost all effect and all you could see was a white face with a black nose.
The music provided by the ten piece orchestra led by Musical Director, Julie Whiting was spot on, a tad loud at times as some of the singing and the tap dancing was drowned out.
Overall, this is a good show, worthy of the hard work and effort put in by those on stage and those working behind the scenes.