|Date||30th April 2016|
|Society||Ballywillan Drama Group|
|Venue||Riverside Theatre, Coleraine|
|Musical Director||Eric Boyd|
|Choreographer||Sharon Logan and Victoria Lagan|
Author: Sheelagh Hobart
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical ‘Cats’ is based on TS Eliot’s book of poems ‘Old Possom’s Book of Practical Cats’, which was a childhood favourite of ALW. The Eliot estate decreed that only the original poems be used as text and therefore the story is completely told through music with poem, song and dance.
This is very much an ensemble piece with individual character cats coming forward to tell their story and disappearing into the crowd again. The entire ensemble, who were on stage about 90% of the time, were totally engaged with feline movement even when entering or exiting. Even the ‘kitten chorus’ were focused throughout and took part in much of the dance movement. It is difficult to pick out individual performances – not least because of the wonderful ‘cat’ make-up which changed faces completely. Dancing and gymnastics from Victoria the white cat (Olivia Baker) and Cassandra the brown cat (Ellen Knox) was excellent and they had many agile and beautiful cats accompanying them. “The Jellicle Ball” was truly amazing at the end of Act 1, leaving me punch-drunk by the scale and length of the huge production number. Jennyanydots (Chloe Barclay) brought great charm and personality to “The Old Gumbie Cat” while Rum Tum Tugger (Leon Woods) was full of life and often brightened the mood after a quieter number - and his diction was very good. I loved the pair of cats – Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser (Niamh Cunning & Hannah Baxter) – who were full of mischief, in contrast to Bustopher Jones (Abby Robinson), the posh gentleman cat. Old Deuteronomy, the Jellicle patriach, was played by Joel Murphy with the required gravitas while Macavity the mystery cat (Mollie Cochrane) added excitement and mystery with her appearance, as did Zahra Carmichael as Magical Mr Mistoffelees with her excellent solo dance. Lucy McDowell gained sympathy in her role as Grizabella the glamour cat – in threadbare attire she was obviously a faded star. She sang “Memory”, the show’s best-known song, with a lovely mature alto voice.
Highlights of choreography during the show as well as “The Jellicle Ball” were “The Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles”, “Growltiger’s Last Stand” and “Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat”. The action took place on an excellent permanent set of a rubbish tip – very stable for ‘cats’ climbing all over it. Huge congratulations to Set and Props designers and builders. Sound was well balanced and diction was perfect. Lighting was amazing – the whole show took place during the night and yet you could see everything, and special lighting effects were excellent. As I mentioned before; Make-up and Wigs were really effective and, with costumes from Utopia, each ‘whole cat’ was as good as any professional version. Kittens’ costumes were not available from the costumiers so were made ‘in house’ and were equally good.
Difficult and occasionally discordant music was well managed by Eric Boyd and his 6 piece band (each musician playing more than one instrument) and by singers alike. Choreography was outstanding and extremely well rehearsed, with even some tap included. Likewise, Brian’s direction and staging was of a very high standard. The show, in its entirety, was above reproach and I was blown away by the whole performance. A standing ovation from the audience to finish with was well deserved and I thank the company so much for their invitation.