“Jellicles can and Jellicles do” and the cast of Trevor Nunn’s revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, certainly do too.
Melbourne has just enjoyed a short season of the acclaimed musical, and Brisbane is now the place to go if you want to catch this gem. It’s a production well worth attending, as The Newsroom found in Melbourne.
There’s action from the get-go, an eruption of lights revealing a moody junkyard setting. A spotlight sweeps the room, exposing the glowing eyes of cats as the first strains of music fill the air. The kitty-cast members bound rapidly through the stalls to the stage, pawing and sniffing the audience members along the way, to open with the classic Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats.
Led by Aussie darling Delta Goodrem as Grizabella the Glamour Cat, the cast deliver a full-throttle and punchy performance, evoking all of the grace and agility of their feline counterparts. Goodrem’s portrayal of the shunned and tattered former beauty, Grizabella, is astounding. Full of vulnerability the light and shade of the pop star’s voice beautifully expose the hopelessness of an old cat pining for her youth. Belting out the words to Memory her frail and hesitant movements and wide childlike eyes embody the spirit of nine lives spent longing for the happiness she once knew.
In contrast, Daniel Assetta as the devilish Rum Tum Tugger is certainly on the right side of every door with his stellar and comical portrayal of the curious cat. Assetta delivers a modern and mischievous tomcat complete with a snapback cap, dreadlocks and drop-crotch pants. With gold chains hanging from his neck he raps and breakdances his way through The Rum Tum Tugger – which any cat owner can identify with. Staring alongside Assetta during the show-stopper Mr Mistoffelees is Christopher Favaloro, whose performance in that role is nothing short of magic. His flawless dancing earns him generous applause.
Gillian Lynne’s exciting and animalistic choreography allows the cast free rein to unleash their cat-selves. Notably, Bill Tanner choreographs the amazing, fun and upbeat Gumbie Cat Tap which is beautifully executed by Holly Megan as Jennyanydots, Samantha Morley as Jellyorum, Sarah Kate Landy as Bombalurina and Amy Berrisford as Demeter.
Matt Mcfarlane pounces proudly around the stage as Munkustrap drawing the audiences into the story from his first moment on stage. He plays the curious narrator with ease and excitement. The operatic tenor Jason Wasley is sincere and endearing in his portrayal of Jellicle leader, Old Deuteronomy.
While I felt all the cats delivered outstanding performances, much of the clever lyrics and talented vocals where compromised by the overpowering volume of the live orchestra. For me, the this detracted from an otherwise fantastic and beautiful show. (Others have praised the sound; it seems to vary quite severely around the theatre.)
Trevor Nunn’s interpretation of this musical theatre smash is the purrfect combination of modern and traditional.
It will be on in Brisbane until February 14 then moves to Adelaide and Perth. With any luck the other venues will be kinder to the orchestra. Tickets available from Ticketmaster. – Review and photo by Kaitlyn Wilson