Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Cats Gets The Cream With Revamped Version
When I saw Cats at Birmingham Hippodrome a few years ago, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical was starting to seem a little dated and in need of a refresh. That's just what producers have done with the aim of breathing new life into the lovable show "for a new generation".
Cats has been a hugely popular hit with audiences since it opened 35 years ago in 1981. It's been seen by more than 50 million people and those who have fond memories of the original won't be disappointed.
Very little has changed but it seems a little more modern and vibrant with the choreography and acrobatics. The most noticeable change is that alley cat Rum Tum Tugger now raps his way through his song and does a bit of breakdancing too - but it all fits in extremely well.
That's probably because the lyrics are based on TS Eliot's poetry in Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats and rap is in itself a form of poetry too.
Interestingly. Rum Tum Tugger (an energetic Marcquelle Ward) ended up being among the most popular characters on first night at Birmingham Hippodrome, drawing huge cheers from the audience, particularly younger newcomers to the show. The changes are obviously working to create a new generation of fans.
Rum Tum Tugger (centre) is a welcome change in Cats as a rapping alley cat.
The award-winning musical features songs including Memory, Mr Mistoffeless and Macavity: The Mystery Cat but what makes it so distinctive are the amazingly detailed cat costumes. Each cat has its own features and you can't help but be drawn to your favourite ones.
Personally, I love the two naughty cat burglars Mungojerrie And Rumpelteazer, who have a toe-tapping quirky dance routine.
The very lithe cast is fully emersed in their characters with full face and body paint and movements that will be familiar to any cat owner. They spend much of the show prowling the aisles, getting up close to the audience, which is a real crowd-pleaser.
Marianne Benedict is impressive singing Memory as Grizabella
It explains Cats' success at running in the West End for 21 years and scooping awards like Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards.
As musicals go, it's a strange one as there isn't a strong storyline but a series of songs about each cat. One of them will be given the chance to a new life by the end of the show but that's by the by.
Among them is scraggy, faded glamour cat Grizabella, who gets a rough deal from the other felines. Grizabella is the role once played by Elaine Paige and gets to steal the show every performance with the sublime song Memory. It's an epic musical favourite and Marianne Benedict (who played Lisa in Eastenders) pulled it off with style.
Lovable characters make audiences return to see Cats
There were a few glitches on first night but the cast were returning to the tour from a week off.
Andrew Lloyd Webber must be feeling like the cat that got the cream as with just a few slight changes, it's given Cats a new zest of life to attract new audiences.
After more than three decades, it's good to see Cats has still got a bit of animal magic about it.
May 30 - June 4, 2016
Tickets cost from £20.
Age guidance: 3 , no one under 3 will be admitted.
Running time: Approximatley 2 hours and 40 minutes including a 20 minute interval.
Captioned: Thu 2 Jun 7:30pm
Signed: Wed 1 Jun 7:30pm
Audio described: Sat 4 Jun 2:30pm