“The Cat’s Meow” – Great performances in a sinuous and stealthy production – NODA review

NODA Review

Performed by Festival Players at the Mumford Theatre
Directed by Suzanne Emerson

I first saw the Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece ‘Cats’ in London sometime in the 1980s, and
whilst you would think this would be a huge advantage for me as the show can be difficult to
follow, it wasn’t really as I couldn’t remember too much about it at this distance in time.
A show about cats doesn’t appeal to everyone and the musical ‘Cats’ is a complex piece of work
which needs a skillful director to bring out the seemingly unlinked story. The programme gave a
couple of brief bits of information but it is left to the performers to make their own impression
and tell their own tale. In movement and song this cast created characters and situations with aplomb, stealthily and sinuously populating the varied levels of the set which depicted a run down 1930s “Speakeasy” .

The lighting (John Moore & Martha Gregg) enhanced every story. We were observers at the
Jellicle Ball and we were treated to great lighting, different for every cat’s tale.
The musicians under the baton of Musical Director Joe Griffiths were excellent. This is not an
easy score having many different styles but they took it all in their stride.

The choreography was shared between Andrea Birdwood, Chris Cuming, Emma Olley, Jenny
Lewis, Kathie Pugh, Kirsty Smith, Matt Hawksworth, Rosie Wells and Suzanne Emerson. Given the amount of dance required this was a splendid idea which managed to create balance, enthusiasm and interest with this energetic cast, never detracting from the fact that they were nearly always singing whilst dancing. The exception to this was the Jellicle Ball and this was extremely well performed, the cast could move without the worry of song and it was a spectacle.

The costumes were practical and colourful and looked great. The makeup was extremely good.

The Ensemble were just that, they moved and sang as a company should, creating atmosphere
and drama not just to support the principal characters, but as an entity of its own. Don’t ever
believe that being in the chorus means you are not seen. This ensemble worked their socks off
there was hardly a moment when nothing was happening.

This was essentially a company show with the principal ‘cats’ stepping forward to present their
stories. There were stand-out performances from Rosie Wells (Skimbleshanks), the acrobatic
Mungo Jerry and Rumpleteaser (Stephanie Swan and Laurie-Lee McDowell), the thieving Macavity (Sarah Monkman) and the amazing Mr Mistoffolees (Kristian Turner). Playing a lonely,
downhearted outcast can never be easy, but Cat Nicol’s Grizabella was excellent. ‘Memory’ is
such a difficult song to sing. There were some excellent voices and so many great characterisations in this cast and it is impossible to mention everyone, suffice to say there were
no passengers in this production, this was essentially a large team enjoying every moment.

Congratulations to director Suzanne Emerson for the vision and execution of this difficult
musical. With an enthusiastic company combined with an expert orchestra, interesting
choreography, practical set and creative lighting this show was the Cat’s “meow”

Julie Petrucci
Regional Representative NODA East District Four South