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Review: Cats at The Concourse, Chatswood

Review by Michelle Sutton

The musical Cats based on the poems in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by TS Eliot, opened on the West End in 1981 and played for 21 consecutive years there, making it one of the longest running shows in West End history. Willoughby Theatre Company seeks to capture that magic with their production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical at the Concourse Theatre in Chatswood. Directed by Stig Bill, the production is a playful and colourful celebration of dance, music and imagination.

The musical boasts an enchanting set, with multiple levels and a sparkling tree that reflects different colours in the centre. The glowing moon can be seen through a window. The lighting design is mysterious and evocative. The set is dressed with old books, appliances and knick-knacks. The stage sets the scene for whimsy and magic. The costumes including catsuits and tails for all, enhance this sense of wonder and fantasy.The production design is a lovely visual treat to enjoy.

The cast is comprised of exceptionally talented triple-threats, who do choreographer Stephanie Edmonds’ choreography more than justice across several styles including ballet, tap and jazz with the assistance of tap specialist Felicity Caldwell. The vocals of the cast are also extremely strong with the performers singing a number of different styles throughout the show. There is impressive and exciting aerial work incorporated throughout the show under the guidance of the show’s aerial specialist Jerome Study. Daniel Terribile as Mungojerre and Tianna Koollos as Rumpleteazer have a joyful, playful partnership as the mischief-making cat-burglars. The partner work in their number is delightful to watch. Joseph Nalty plays Mistoffolees the magic cat, and stuns with technical ability and beautiful fluidity of movement in his dance solo. Matt Shepherd’s Rum Tum Tugger was a comedic standout, with a charismatic presence and connection with the audience. Gavin Brightwell brings the required gravitas and booming voice for Old Deuteronomy the wisest of cats and Nikole Music shines as Grisabella with beautiful voice that is equal parts delicate, fragile and powerful to deliver a moving rendition of ‘Moonlight’. The ensemble is professional and polished and the entire cast are meticulous with their movements and characterisation. Musical director Matthew Herne does a wonderful job with the score.

Cats is an iconic musical and as such has occupied a place in popular culture for many decades. It has a reputation of not being for everyone, perhaps only catering to a small amount of theatre super-fans but my experience of Willoughby Theatre Company’s production is that it is a magical, silly, wondrous, fun show that anyone of any age could enjoy, whether they are familiar with theatre and dance or not. Cats is a dazzling spectacle of wonder and fun from its opening notes until its final number. Cats is playing at the Concourse until October 29th and is a spectacular display of music, colour and magnificent local talent.


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