Theatre Review: CATS

This stunning production has brought the magic and wonder of the original CATS back with a vengeance!

Presented by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, David Atkins Enterprises and Base Entertainment Asia in association with The Really Useful Group
Reviewed 20 March 2016

When CATS first premiered in 1981, it was a theatrical sensation and phenomenon. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber set to T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats, direction by Trevor Nunn and choreography by Gillian Lynne, the show set the musical theatre world ablaze and was a ‘cat’aclysmic hit wherever it played.

The original Australian production was truly wonderful, but was followed a few years later by a very lacklustre revival. When this reviewer heard that a ‘re-worked’ version was coming to Adelaide, he was extremely skeptical, but will now eat kitty litter – this stunning production has brought the magic and wonder of the original CATS back with a vengeance!

While retaining most of the original staging ideas, Webber, Nunn and Lynne have breathed new life and energy into the show. Nunn has added some nice little touches of humour and drama, tweaking his original direction to make more sense and show off each individual ‘cat’.

Webber has re-jigged many of his arrangements,adding to some of the dance routines and including some new songs – it all works and refreshes a classic piece of theatre beautifully: especially the inclusion of a ‘rap’ number for a bling encrusted, tattooed, dreadlocked ‘new look’ Rum Tum Tugger, played marvelously by Daniel Assetta.

Delia Hannah plays the role of Grizabella, the Glamour Cat to ‘purr’fection. Hers is the quintessential portrayal of this extremely difficult role. Act One ends with Hannah beautifully under-selling Memory, only to then hit it out of the ball park (or in this case, the junk yard) in Act Two, with stunning support from Stephanie Silcock as Jemima.

CATS2The entire cast of this production absolutely stun and amaze with their expert dance skills and vocals – this is the perfect example of ensemble teamwork and needs to be seen to be believed. But, this reviewer must mention his personal favourite – Josh Piterman! This performer steals the show as Gus the Theatre Cat and in almost the blink of an eye as Growltiger. As Gus, Piterman displays some very fine acting skills, giving perhaps the best rendition of that character, and then immediately becomes the most superb bass baritone as Growltiger – it is almost impossible to believe that this is the same performer, such is his skill in perfecting both roles.

With brilliant musical direction from Paul White, stunning lighting and fantastic costumes and make up added, this is a production that will stay in one’s mind for many years to come.

If you saw the original CATS, see this one to re-live the joyous ‘memory’ – if the show is new to you, see it to experience a truly spectacular piece of musical theatre.

Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Twitter: @briangods

Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre
Season: Until 10 April 2016
Duration: 2 hours 40 mins (including interval)
Tickets: $69.90 – $109.90
Bookings: Adelaide Festival Centre website


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