Unleashed, CATS continue to prowl the streets of Singapore, swishing their tails and sauntering while we join in and purr in delight. ArtZine tells of the Jellicle Ball (Gala Premiere) we attended on April 14.
By: Fred Chin
The last time I saw CATS was back in 1995, at the New London Theater, in the West End. I still remember the countless occasions when I listened to the 1982 Original Broadway Cast Recording over and over again, before catching the musical several years later in London. It was, no doubt, one of the best days in my life.
14 years later, that same excitement, enjoyment and nostalgia I felt on that day returned tonight, when I attended the gala premiere of its Singapore run at the Esplanade Theatre. Perhaps the greatest musical of all time, no fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber should have any reason to miss CATS when it runs, jumps and sings its way extravagantly into town this April.
Featuring Australia’s finest theater stars, the furry cast effortlessly put up a magnificent show, commanding the stage with pitch-perfect singing and flawless choreography. Every dance sequence was choreographed with every note, the mischievous tunes complementing the high-spirited fun of the cats so well. It was as if the slightest movement created the slightest melody.
The music is diverse, from the loud big band accents and swing rhythms that heightened the double-life of the Gumbie cat, to the trumpets at the flamboyant entrance of The Rum Tum Tugger, magnifying his grand introduction to the audience. The sound of lumbering tubas did the honors of bringing out the weight of the very distinguished twenty-five pounder Bustopher Jones, and the jazzy tunes put forward the thieving nature of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer. The melancholic harmonies manifest the once magnificent Gus and the sadness of Grizabella.
The vocal diversity of the different cast members was another remarkable attribute of tonight’s performance. John O’Hara, who played The Rum Tum Tugger, sang in a manner that would do Mick Jagger proud, and it was most perfect for his self-obsessed, but lovable, character. John Ellis, as Old Deuteronomy, sang as if he was really the oldest living cat one could imagine, at the same in a tone filled with infinite wisdom, doing justice to his character.
Gus, his voice was weak and breathless. As the young Gus acting as Growltiger, he sang an Italian aria exultantly in the mock production of Growltiger’s Last Stand that brought so much variety to the whole musical. Although a little bizarre to watch a production within a production, more specifically, an Italian aria within a musical, and being played by a cat who was once a theater actor, it was a still performance considered by the audience as one of the highlights.
The Prima Donna of CATS was none other than Grizabella, played by the acclaimed Delia Hannah. She played her character’s dejection and the yearn for acceptance by her fellow cats with so much emotion, and it was most moving in capturing the hearts of the audience. It is no secret that Memory is possibly the reason why people come to watch CATS, and Hannah’s performance of Memory was, in my opinion, on par with Elaine Paige’s version, the original from the 1983 album recording.
Tonight’s performance of CATS was undoubtedly one of the best I’ve seen for a musical. It was 14 years ago since I last saw this musical and I could never forget that day, because Old Deuteronomy signed my song book during the intermission. Now, I have another memory to remember, when I saw the greatest performance of my favorite musical on April 14, 2009. CATS is indeed, now and forever.
Pictures by Fred Chin [SLIDESHOW HERE]