(Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Written by Patrick Chavis
Cats was, for nearly a decade, the longest-running Broadway show in history. Some of the songs in Cats are iconic. I’ve never seen Cats, but I found myself humming along to the tunes as if I’ve known them my entire life. Cats is playing now at the Segerstrom Centers for the Arts for a very short run of 6 nights. While this production will probably thrill the already initiated Cats fan. The spectacle of Cats can leave newbies a little confused with the direction of the story.
Cats is about cats – all kinds of different cats. Have I mentioned there are so many different kinds of cats? The aforementioned cats are part of tribe or group called the Jellicle Cats. The Jellicles have their traditions and different stories associated with the unique cats in their tribe. In a way, it’s better to look at Cats as a bunch of short stories describing the cats of the community. The short stories are sort of tied together with the storyline of the two of main cats Old Deuteronomy — the wise, old leader cat — and Grizabella an old, female cat who used to be a popular Glamour Cat, and now the tribe has turned their back on her.
Cats’ storyline can come off as extremely simplistic for the first timer if you have no context coming into the show. The first act features a bunch of different cats being introduced through song. After the introduction of one cat done, we are then introduced to another cat and then another and then the first act is finished. Towards the end of the first act, I thought this play has a lot of exposition but the second act will provide a payoff for all this exposition. Then we get to the second act, and a parade of new cats continues to be introduced, and I’m still wondering where this catapooloza is going. If there is a plot in Cats and I truly believe there is. The plot is about Grizabella who’s no longer accepted by the cats that once loved her. The performance given by Keri Rene Fuller is superb, and it’s on par — if not better than — the original performance from the West End production. Her solo will break your heart in two. It also brings Cats’ message of acceptance, forgiveness, and understanding for all people — I mean cats.
There are stand out songs in the Cats. my favorites of the night were “Memory” and “Magical Mister Mistoffelees”. Both songs have memorable melodies and interesting stories to go along with them.
The ballet style dancing and movement are practically nonstop in this show and it is one of the more interesting parts about Cats. Cats are coming from stage right. The cats are coming stage left. The cats are coming from the top of the stage. There’s always something going on. Sometimes, with so much going on, it was hard to keep track of what exactly was happening. The dancing and choreography are so extensive I found myself getting lost in the spectacle and forgetting exactly what was actually going on in the show. On the other hand, I’m watching a show about singing cats — best not to overthink it.
At times it was hard making out what the cast is singing, but for the most part, everything was audible at least from where I was sitting in the Segerstrom.
Cats at Segerstrom is an experience, and while it may take a bit of learning curve to really engage with the story there’s a lot of things to enjoy in this Broadway classic.