Webber tale purr-fectly done

Despite a script that goes on too long, the production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's blockbuster, "Cats,"
PHOTOGRAPHER:

It would not have been inappropriate for The Gazette dance critic, Wendy Liberatore, to have reviewed “Cats,” the 1983 Tony winner now at Proctors through Sunday. It’s packed with dance.

But I was glad to get reacquainted with this Andrew Lloyd Webber blockbuster because, despite a script that goes on too long, the production is first rate. The tour’s director/choreographer, Richard Stafford, has put together a cast of strong young performers, all of whom display superb ballet and modern dance training; thus, the show pulses with energy from beginning to end.

And music director William Waldrop and his band partner beautifully.

The show springs to life during the prologue, which features colorfully costumed cats scampering in the aisles and nifty lighting and sound effects. The play proper immediately showcases the clever poetry of T.S. Eliot, on whose “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” the show is based, and this cast knows exactly how to convey the amusing tone of “The Naming of Cats.”

These cats, by the way, are in a junkyard, so they’re a motley crew, each with a story to tell, and each hoping to be dubbed by Old Deuteronomy (Seth Lerner) the cat who’ll get to come back to life.

During the course of the evening, we meet The Old Gumbie Cat (Cara Michelle Fish), who leads a lively tap routine.

Next comes Rum Tum Tugger (Zander Meisner), a preening Elvis knockoff who is beyond swiveling his hips: this cat thrusts them!

The whole company scores in “The Jellicle Ball,” an extended number that is, by turns, fast, sensual, and touching.

Webber miscalculates with “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” however, an unnecessary playing out of the marvelous story of Gus, the theater cat, featuring the excellent Anissa Hartline and Christopher E. Sidoli.

The Skimbleshanks, Macavity and Mr. Mistoffelees scenes are well executed, but, once again, less might have been more.

And what of the show’s most famous number, “Memory”? The tune is as beautiful as you remember it, and when it’s reprised near the end of Act II by Grizabella (a compelling Tricia Tanguy), you’ll get the chills you paid to get.

So go. Lots of folks, including youngsters, showed up for opening night. And if you go, see if you can spot the shape of a cat in the set. I don’t recall seeing one there when the last touring company came through town, and it’s a deliciously tongue-in-cheek bit of self-reference to a mega-hit that needs occasional tweaking.

Cats

WHERE: Proctors Mainstage, 432 State St., Schenectady

WHEN: through Feb.10

HOW MUCH: $54-$20

MORE INFO: 346-6204

Categories: Life and Arts

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