Cats | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


Cats, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Over two decades the felines in Andrew Lloyd Webber's menagerie have easily enjoyed a million lives. Most recently they've been incarnated in Marc Robin's industrial-strength staging, the regional premiere of a new post-Broadway version. Just as Briar Street Theatre gave up its innards for Blue Man Group, the Marriott space has been totally transformed into an abandoned amusement park, with colored lights, soft fog, and a catwalk by which the Jellicles reach their annual moonlit ball--everything but a scratching post and a litter box. Robin's ferociously frisky choreography introduces tap and boogie-woogie into the usual Las Vegas "bump and hiss" routines, and the dancing sprawls splendidly over the space, as acrobatic pussies clamber through the delighted audience.

The larger-than-usual 10-person orchestra and 26-human ensemble impressively combine forces. Even in proscenium presentations, Cats has never seemed so exotic. Such spectacle can't help but distract from the show's utter lack of plot, its weird Dr. Moreau-like concept of vertical felines, and a score that mutates T.S. Eliot's playful lyrics into Las Vegas show-stoppers. This is nothing if not a splendid showcase, notably for Susie McMonagle's battered but beatific Grizabella (her "Memory" practically had audience members putting her in their wills). Robin's cathouse also explodes with Oscar Campisi's nonstop twirls as Mistoffelees, Brian Herriott as the thespian veteran who sings "Gus the Theatre Cat," and Craig Ramsey's inexhaustible Rum Tum Tugger.

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