Dates and Venue 7 - 12 October 2008 @ 8pm (Sun at 7:30pm with Sat & Sun matinees at 2pm) | The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts

Reviewer John Jane

Adapted from The Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a collection of children’s poems by T.S. Eliot, Cats has become the most financially successful stage musical ever and much of the show’s success is due to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s contagious score.

The PURR-formers assembled for this touring production did an excellent job in planting these memorable tunes in the audience’s psyche. The 21 member cast who play the 25 characters gave 100%. Not just limiting their performances to the stage floor, they frequently visited the seats of members of the audience.

The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts stage was magically transformed into a junkyard, complete with the back end of a car, worn-out major appliances and various other junk, scaled up in proportion for human-sized cats. This junkyard becomes a cosmic chaparral in which all the “cats” get an opportunity to strut their stuff, revealing characters very much like those that we might observe in a human community.

As the “cats” take their turn at centre stage, other things are going on in the background with other cast members improvising catlike antics such as preening and stretching after a nap.

Cats lacks any real plot, with Andrew Lloyd Webber simply setting Eliot’s jeu d'esprit verse to dance and music. Neither are there any principal characters, though Anastasia Lange is wonderfully tragic as the once glamourous show cat, Grizabella, who does a stellar job on the show-stopper “Memory.”

Ilona Ahearn- Rubenstein is fabulously feline as the sympathetic Jellylorum; Stephanie Cambell is PURR-fect as the slinky and exotic Cassandra and it’s impossible not to notice the talent of new-comer, Cara Cooley as Bombalurina.

Among the “tom cats,” Danny Beiruti is super-cool as the CAT-aleptic, hard-rocking Rum Tum Tugger and Ryan Wiliam Bailey is amazingly protean in his triple roles of Gus the theatre cat, fat cat Bustopher Jones and Growltiger.

John Napier’s flamboyant costumes and splashy make-up kept with the spirit of Eliot’s “cats” and at the same time allowed dancers freedom of movement.

If there was ever a show that the whole family can go out and enjoy, this has to be it. Cats is as much an experience as it is musical theatre – a magical evening to delight audiences of all ages.

© 2008 John Jane