The North American Tour Company of Cats
Photo by Matthew Murphy
By Kathy Flynn
Jellicle Cats of all shapes and sizes have arrived at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre for a month-long engagement of Cats, winner of 7 Tony Awards including Best Musical, and the fourth-longest-running show in Broadway history.
The sung-through musical, composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber, is based on T.S. Elliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." The play is big on spectacle but light on story, as the tribe of cats are introduced one at a time through musical numbers that serve as character sketches. The slender connecting plot revolves around Old Deuteronomy (Brandon Michael Nase), the elder of the group, choosing one cat to ascend to the "Heaviside Layer" and come back to life.
There's only one set, an elaborate junk yard where our cats live and play, where props add a fun bit of scaling. String lights extend out into the audience, and the cats venture down the aisles several times during the course of the evening, both of which help to bring the audience into the action, as does the breaking of the fourth wall when the cats notice they are being watched.
This revival of Cats has been given a choreography polish by Andy Blankenbuehler, the Tony-winning man behind the moves in Hamilton, In the Heights, and
Bring it On. The ensemble is comprised of vibrant, athletic dancers who bring their characters to life with bold physicality.
Keep an eye on the background action during solo numbers for delightful bits where cats pounce and play and act very kittenish.
The group leader, Munkostrap (Dan Hoy), serves as our narrator as we are introduced to our cast of felines, including Skimbleshanks (Ethan Saviet), the train cat, Victoria (Caitlin Bond), the white kitten, Macavity (Tyler John Logan), the evil master criminal, Mungojerrie (Tony d'Alelio) and Rumpleteazer (Rose Iannaccone) the mischievous, acrobatic twins, and Rum Tum Tugger (McGee Maddox), the alley cat with rock star swagger.
Jennyanydots (Emily Jeanne Phillips), the chubby cat who teaches the mice some new tricks, and Gus (Timothy Gulan) the old actor cat, both breakthrough with lively, fun, standout performances
And then there's Grizabella, the Glamour Cat (
Keri René Fuller), old, shabby, and shunned, alone in her "Memories."
Cats has built its reputation on a tour de force performance here, but disappointingly, Fuller, isn't quite up to the task. Her voice is lovely, but lacks the emotional punch required for the role.
Instead, the Magical Mr. Mistoffelees (Tion Gaston) steals the show with his bravura portrayal and light-up LED tux. It's an electrifying, breakout performance, but I can't help wishing that emotion had won out over spectacle.
Cats runs through Mar 24 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre.
For tickets, visit