Last week I went to see the musical CATS in the Bord Gais Theatre in Dublin with my mum Bridget and my sister Sharon. We almost arrived late but just made it in time. My mum nearly freaked out when she realised where we were sitting. Up in the high seats. But thankfully she was alright after a while.
CATS is by David Ian Productions in association with Michael Watt with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is based on the book by T.S. Eliot “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”. In the later part of 1977, Lloyd Webber was looking for a new musical and inspiration came from the T.S. Eliot book he had read in childhood. It had been one of his favourite books. Eliot had written the book for his grandchildren in the ’30s. There is a photograph of a young Lloyd Webber with Eliot’s wife holding a copy of the book in circulation. Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in 1888 in St Louis, Missouri. He studied at Harvard, the Sorbonne in Paris and at Merton College, Oxford. The Waste Land was his most famous achievement. He also wrote plays such as Murder in the Cathedral. He died in 1965. May he rest in peace. Lloyd Webber has had a massively successful career. Amongst his credits include Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Wizard of Oz and Lend Me a Tenor. He was the first to bring casting to television with How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? Following this there was Any Dream Will Do, I’d Do Anything and Over the Rainbow. I loved these shows and watched them each week with my family. I especially loved the Joseph one. All those good-looking men! Not to mention the beautiful John Barrowman. I got really excited when I seen his gorgeous husband Scott Gill in the crowd. Then the gorgeous John Partridge joined the panel too in place of Barrowman.
The show had incredible visual presence and special mention must go to David Hersey who is the lighting designer on the show. Past shows he’s worked on include Evita, Les Miserables and Twelfth Night. In this show his lighting was outstanding. It hits you instantly from start to finish in bursts of colourful, sophisticated light. It brought you completely into the heart of the show and to the trials and tribulations of the Jellicle cats. Another very interesting aspect of the show is the clothing which is by the very talented John Napier who has previously worked on Miss Saigon, Starlight Express and Les Miserables. He is also an associate designer of the Royal Shakespeare Company. I love his work and to see his creations in a live show was amazing.
My favourite character in the show was The Rum Tum Tugger who gives a comical element to the proceedings. He makes me laugh. He was played incredibly well by actor Oliver Savile who has previously appeared in the UK tour of Monkee Business as Peter Tork. Savile is a very natural actor whose comic timing was right on point. He is a name I think we will see in the world of theatre for many years to come. Joseph Poulton played Quaxo/Mistoffelees. He is an amazing dancer and he thrilled the crowd with his flawless talent. His moves were difficult and yet he pulled them off with perfect ease making them look effortless in the process. Poulton has previously starred in The Wind in the Willows as Mouse Mark at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and in the UK tour of Ballet Central.
Munkustrap was played by Ben Palmer who has starred as Prince in Snow White at Doncaster Civic Centre and was on Celebrity Quitters on Five. He played the role to perfection and Savile, Nicholas Pound as Old Deuteronomy and he acted really well alongside each other in scene eight: Old Deuteronomy when it is just the three of them in the scene. Pound was amazing in the part of Old Deuteronomy. It was a part which needed a commanding yet guiding presence because he is the leader of the Jellicle cats tribe and Pound who has previously starred in other commanding roles such as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and Peron in Evita did not disappoint.
Susan McFadden played the role of Grizabella and she played the part of the heartbroken cat who wants to get back into the tribe having went into the outside world years ago but who is been stunned by her fellow Jellicle cats and been refused admission back in with so much depth. You could feel Grizabella’s pain through her performance as she walked with her back hunched and her face looking downwards around the stage. McFadden who trained with the Billie Barry Stage School and has previously starred in Bachelors Walk on RTE and Annie in the Olympia Theatre gave an outstanding performance of Memory. Paul F Monaghan had not one but three roles in the show. Each of which he performed very well though special mention must go to his performance as Asparagus or Gus. Gus is a mature actor of the stage who reminisces about his time working with the greatest actors and actresses of his generation. The really fantastic thing about him in this part is how realistic he plays him. When he is recalling his past memories you can hear the way older people speak when they do this. The authencity is perfect. Monaghan also plays Bustopher Jones and Growl Tiger. He has previously appeared as Anatoly in Chess at the Opera House in Wexford and as Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd in the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
Cameron Ball played the baddie of the piece MacAvity. I’m sure villains must be such fun to play and he played him really well. When he rigs the electrical explosion it is a real moment in the show and not something which is done very often in theatre land. Ross Finnie plays Skimbleshanks. Finnie has previously starred as Bob Becket in the Raymond Gubbay/UK tour of HMS Pinafore and also in Doctor Dolittle as Ted at the Apollo Leisure. He plays the kind-hearted uncle to the cats with aplomb.
Will Lucas who studied at Laine Theatre Arts and Glendale Theatre Arts and previously starred in Aladdin at Theatre Severn and in Anthems – the concert with Kerry Ellis and Brian May at the Royal Albert Hall in London plays Bill Bailey and even in his small role his natural acting style and talent shows through. I loved the Old Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots. Alice Redmond who has previously starred in Cabaret in Broadway, Catford and in Carmen on the tour and in the New Vic Stroke played her brilliantly. She has also been a part of Gay Pride, Jermyn Street, Cafe Royal, Water Rats, the Pheasantry and Regent Street as part of her act the Redmond Sisters. She plays this role with perfect comic timing. The little walk she lends to Jennyanydots would to excuse the pun make a cat laugh. Then she breaks into a perfectly timed and executed tap dance.
The mischievous pair of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer were played by Barnaby Thompson and Katie Warsop. He had his training in Laine Theatre Arts and has previously been in the Gotta Sing Gotta Dance UK tour, as a sailor in Anything Goes at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and as Pepper in Mamma Mia! on the International tour while she trained at Italia Conti and was head girl there. She starred previously in Cinerella at St Albans and on The Brit Awards on ITV. They act off each other very well and their dancing is amazing together. They also bring across the mischievousness of the characters very well.
Lily Frazer who trained in Arts Educational Schools London and who previously starred in the ensemble in the arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar and ensemble and the cover for Eponine in Les Miserables in Queen’s Theatre in London played Demeter. Her vocals are incredible and both Frazer and Melissa James who plays Bombalurina give a classy, outstanding performance of “MacAvity is Back”. James also has an amazing voice. Her training comes from Arts Educational Schools and she has previously starred in Doctors for BBC and in West Side Story at RSC Open Stages/Sage Gateshead.
Other actors who made an impression were James Darch as Alonzo, Richard Astbury as Coricopat and Joel Morris as Carbucketty. Darch trained in the Arts Educational Schools London and has been Lucien in Marguerite at Tabard Theatre in London and Prince Charming in Cinderella for Qdos while Astbury was trained in Arts Educational and was in the ensemble in White Christmas at the Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays and in the ensemble in Christmas in New York in the Prince of Wales Theatre. Lastly Morris trained at Gillian Cartwright and then London’s the Central School of Ballet. He has previously played principal roles in Coppelia, The Nutcracker and Carmen. The whole cast came together to make the show spectacular. Especially in a musical like CATS where the cats are a tribe the musical relies on a unified and talented cast and everyone in the cast was incredibly talented and the production and scenes were very tight and unified.
Stand out scenes were The Old Gumbie Cat, The Rum Tum Tugger, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, Old Deuteronomy, Gus: The Theatre Cat, Skimbleshanks, MacAvity, Mr Misoffelees, Memory and The Ad-dressing of Cats.
Trevor Nunn is the director and he is so well respected and known that even people with a passing interest in theatre would recognise his name. He was the longest-serving artistic director of the RSC from 1968 to 1986 where he directed most of Shakespeare along with Les Miserables and Nicholas Nickleby. Associate director and choreographer is Gillian Lynne who started her career at sixteen dancing the Swan Queen in the People’s Palace in the Mile End Road. She went on to become best known for her choreography and direction of CATS worldwide. She also staged Aspects of Love and The Phantom of the Opera. She worked on all of these with Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Re-creator of original direction and choreography was Chrissie Cartwright who previously worked on Sherlock – the Musical and Matilda. Greg Pink is the sound designer. Pink has worked previously on Sweeney Todd and A Christmas Carol. Associate lighting designer was Howard Eaton who has worked on CATS ever since the first original London production and has also worked on the West End musical of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and both the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics. Musical director was Adrian Kirk. He studied at the University of Melbourne as well as learning conducting from Graham Abbott. He has previously worked as musical director on the UK tour of Chicago and Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Producers are David Ian, The Really Useful Group Ltd and Cameron Mackintosh. Ian has previously worked on Grease, West Side Story and The Shawshank Redemption. Most recently he worked on The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre in London. I admire his work a lot because he has worked on so many theatre versions of films I love as well as many musicals I love. Flashdance, Chess, Dr Dolittle, The Producers, Anything Goes, The Sound of Music, Singin’ in the Rain, Chicago, Saturday Night Fever, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Gypsy, Ghost – the Musical, Steel Magnolias, Evita, The King & I and The Rocky Horror Show are also amongst his credits as well as CATS. I am in awe and I think he’s amazing.
The Really Useful Group Ltd also known as RUG was founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber in the year of 1977 and he completely owns it. RUG works on all Lloyd Webber’s musicals but also has worked on The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz in the London Palladium and Toronto.
I’m a huge fan of Cameron Mackintosh. I find him a very interesting man in interviews or speeches and he comes across as really nice but outside of all that he is a fantastic producer and when you look at his ouvere it is easy to see why he is one of the most respected names in the world of theatre. He has been in the business for more than 45 years and has produced the three longest-running musicals of all time in CATS, Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. These musicals are still been performed worldwide. He has also worked on Little Shop of Horrors, Betty Blue Eyes, The Witches of Eastwick, Martin Guerre and Side by Side by Sondheim.
The music is major on this musical. Keyboard 1 was Paul Slater, Keyborad 2/assistant MD was Ben Kennedy, keyboard 3 was Tim Davis, guitars was Alastair Marshall, bass guitar was Nathan Finn, drums were Dave Pack, flute/clarinet/tenor sax is Gavin Tate-Lovery and clarinet/soprano and baritone sax is Andrew Dickinson. Orchestral management was Stephen Hill for Musicians UK Ltd.
Other notable aspects were sound operator 1 is Ollie Wade while sound operator 2 is Gareth Willox. Wardrobe mistress is Trish McAuley, deputy wardrobe mistress is Sally Fernandes and assistant wardrobe mistress is Laura Middleton. Wigs master is Steve Frizzell while deputy wigs mistress is Jess Bishop. Make-up was developed by Karen Dawson. The costume supervisor was Tracy Stiles, wigs supervisor was Jenny Dean and make-up supervisor was Maria Cave. Production assistant was Jeff Brady while dance captain was Lizzi Franklin and assistant dance captain was Ian Parsons. Costume makers were Phil Reynolds, Emily Moore, Kate Jeanne, Sasha Keir and Bob Saunders at Applied Arts, hats were by Sandra North, shoes by BLOCH and make-up by Charles Fox. Like the cast, all the crew together made the show amazing.
The staff at the Bord Gais Theatre were as always really lovely and very helpful and I had a great day out with my girls. Roll on Priscilla Queen of the Desert. All together now, “Go West …”