Full disclosure: When it comes to Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, I am not a Cats fancier. I could get into the reasons -- derivative, goofy music;
absence of a plot or soul; overemphasis on movement, etc. -- but really, at some point it became like the old 50 billion or whatever Elvis fans who can't be wrong. In its 25 years, Cats has broken a gazillion box office records and will probably be seen by around 4,000 Central Kentuckians at the Lexington Opera House this weekend. They aren't wrong, and neither am I. It's ultimately a matter of taste.
When a show gains the fame an notoriety of Cats, the issue is no longer whether you, personally, like it. It's how well does this production preserve the memories for established Cats fans and introduce newcomers to the show?
With that as a standard, we have to give this rendition good marks. This 25th anniversary tour is largely populated by young actors, a number of whom are just out of college.
In some places it showed on opening night (Friday, Sept. 29). The choreography and some of the diction was a bit mushy. But there were some real winners in here too that gave the show a collective wink of its cat eye. Chief among those players was Dave Schhonover as Rum Tum Tugger, who brought a rock star swagger to his performance as if he were channeling Mick Jagger over in Louisville (the Stones played Churchill Downs Friday night, Mom). He was the nine lives of the party. Mark Donaldson as Mungojerrie and Joanna Silvers as Rumpelteazer seemed to be channeling my cats on a 3 a.m. tear through the house with their number about the mischievous duo, and Christopher E. Sidoli was a bittersweet delight as Asparagus, the theater cat. As Grizabella, Angie Smith (photo, above, copyright 2006 by Joan Marcus) was handed the big number, Memory. Her best moment was the halting ballet in front of Old Deuteronomy, really conveying the Glamor Cat's poignant plight. But her rendition of the showstopper seemed more conscious of its diva moment than its heartbreaking context in this show. But if you agreed, you could go home and listen to your recording of Streisand, Betty Buckley , Elaine Paige, or your favorite Memory belter.
For the Cats faithful, I'd imagine this show is a good memory. For me, I'm good until the next Cats revival rolls around. In the meantime, as I write this, my cat is demanding a scratchy, and I think it's time to acquiesce.