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Andrew Lloyd Webber's "CATS" is Revived at the Neil Simon Theatre

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Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot

Directed by Trevor Nunn
Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler
(Based on original choreography by Gillian Lynne)
Orchestrations by Andrew Lloyd Webber & David Cullen

At the
Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street

The CATS Company
Ahmad Simmons, Christine Cornish Smith, Tyler Hanes
Giuseppe Bausilio, Emily Pynenburg, Corey John Snide
Kim Fauré, Lili Froehlich, Leona Lewis, Sara Jean Ford
Eloise Kropp, Ricky Ubeda, Jess LeProtto
Andy Huntington Jones, Christopher Gurr, Daniel Gaymon
Sharrod Williams, Shonica Gooden, Arianna Rosario
Jeremy Davis, Emily Tate, Kolton Krause
Quentin Earl Darrington, Georgina Pazcoguin

The CATS Chorus

Scenic & Costume Design: John Napier
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Mick Potter
Projections Design: Brad Peterson
Music Supervision & Direction: Kristen Blodgette
Music Coordinator: David Lai
Casting: Tara Rubin Casting/Lindsay Levine, CSA
Press Representative: DKC/O&M
Advertising & Marketing: SPOTCO
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Production Stage Manager: Ira Mont
General Management: Bespoke Theatricals
Executive Producer: Nina Lannan

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 4, 2016

Thinking back to Broadway, 1982, my “Memory” (cue lead tune) of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS is of a lengthy cat cabaret revue, one cat and one tune following another, most of which include four catchy notes that reverberate in the mind for days. And so it is again. The 2016 CATS orchestra, led by Kristen Blodgette, includes three electronic keyboards as in 1982, so that each individual tune, within “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats”, “Song of the Jellicles and the Jellicle Ball”, etc., etc., is digitally cloned from the previous, almost all, that is, except for “Memory”. Unfortunately, “Memory” is sung as if it’s for live television, rather than the Neil Simon stage, as Leona Lewis loudly belts it out, with no lush, melting melody. Trevor Nunn has returned as director, but there’s a new choreographer, Andy Blankenbuehler, who designed the sinewy cat dances, some with kicks and tumbles, after Gillian Lynne, the show’s original choreographer.

CATS is a cult show, and it ran on Broadway for 18 years (1982-2000), only eclipsed later on by Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, and, to this day, the original CATS is Broadway’s fourth longest running show. These cats are, at times, mesmerizing and magical. Performed on a stage surrounded by eclectic alley trash, which has a way of looking beautiful, under a full moon and deep blue starry sky, each cat is uniquely spotlighted, with most entertaining with a personal song, up and down those four catchy notes.

The pièce de résistance of this revival is Georgina Pazcoguin, as Victoria, that all-white cat who does not sing, but adds balletic elegance to the imagery, throughout both acts. Ms. Pazcoguin has been favorably reviewed as a soloist with New York City Ballet for many years, and she appears in CATS as a dancer on ballet leave, a gorgeous addition to the visual experience. Her lithe, lengthy limbs rise above her head with seasoned prowess, during dance and song. Here solo was breathtaking. John Napier’s sensational costumes, some full-bodied, some of the arm-warmer-leg-warmer variety, and all with tails, paws, whiskers, and pointed ears, are uniquely fashioned to enhance each cat’s personality.

Among those personality-plus cats, who compete at a midnight ball to be chosen by Old Deuteronomy to enjoy a new life on the “Heaviside Layer” (a gaseous above-earth layer, a metaphor for heaven), are: Quentin Earl Darrington as the larger-than-life, head-to-toe fur, Old Deuteronomy, who rules the ensemble of cats, magnanimously singing his title tune of his own name; Eloise Kropp as Jennyanydots, a quick-witted, mouse-chasing, tap-dancing feline; Ricky Ubeda, whose own tune is “Magical Mister Mistoffelees”, a sexy crowd-pleaser; Tyler Hanes as Rum Tum Tugger, the Michael Jackson-type scene-eater, whose tune is also his title; Christopher Gurr, as Asparagus, whose emotional tune is “Gus the Theatre Cat”; and, once again, Ms. Lewis as Grizabella, whose worn, grey, shaggy costume lends her the aura of Norma Desmond, with eye makeup deliberately falling in tears. It’s Grizabella who’s chosen by Old Deuteronomy to rise to the “Heaviside Layer” on a humungous tire that takes her to her rebirth. With some double and triple casting, I counted about thirty unique stage cats. To see the story of these cats, explore this link about T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

John Napier’s scenic and costume design is perfectly suited to this revival production, although Natasha Katz’ lighting was far too dim to catch the visual nuances among the fine-tuned, furry felines. Mick Potter’s sound was rich and clear, yet the final scenes were certainly over-miced, rock concert level. Brad Peterson’s projections add lovely details to the midnight scenes. Trevor Nunn’s direction, for this production, well spotlighted each cat-character’s personality, yet I’d like to see, sometime, an intimate rendition of this musical, with spare acoustic instruments, on a small stage, smaller cast, as a close-up study of T.S. Eliot’s marvelous, rhythmic poems. Such a scaled-down show would be great for young children, and they could learn those catchy, four-note-imbued tunes, along with that marvelous ballad, “Memory”. Kudos to Andrew Lloyd Webber, who now has three shows running on Broadway, what a feat.

Georgina Pazcoguin and Cast of
Andrew Lloyd Webber's "CATS"
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

Andy Huntington Jones and Cast of
Andrew Lloyd Webber's "CATS"
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

Leona Lewis in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "CATS"
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

The Company of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "CATS"
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at