Broadway in Chicago Presents CATS Review – Feline Lovers’ Top Pick, RECOMMENDED best play pix. through August 4, 2019
First—a much needed cautionary note. Take an unspoken tip from the ever warm and gracious Broadway in Chicago ushers whom you meet as you arrive early for your seat. They are wearing what seems to be wool jackets and not breaking a sweat, even though 90’s humidity-soaked weather is outside. Come dressed for winter when you see CATS at the Nederlander Theater - or you may not only have your joy undercut but also think the experience of sitting in a virtual meat locker for a few hours explains your next day’s sore throat. This reviewer sat behind two patrons who left at intermission, and wonders if this is why. (Note: this may be more a situation of the Dress Circle seats than theater-wide.)
Cat lovers who share the late T.S. Eliot’s passions for anthropomorphic projections aplenty onto their feline companions will likely never leave. (CATS is based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.) You see these felinephiles in the theater queue, some even sporting furry vests. In fact, an educated guess is that a healthy chunk, if not the majority, of audience members on the press opening night were repeaters who have seen this long, long, long running musical before.
After the intermission, all thoughts that you might have made an escape from the freezer are thoroughly dispelled when you hear Keri René Fuller sing Memory again. In this writer’s view, this song is an oasis in a score where one imagines Andrew Lloyd Webber was in some ways restrained from piling on the brilliance of a Phantom of the Opera type score. This song though—how can we possibly get enough of it???-- especially when Fuller bellows it beyond the balcony rafters to the cat gods in the heavens above. What a powerful and life-memorable performance!
It’s the dancers though who get to dazzle the most in this production (Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler based on the original choreography by Gillian Lynne). Ballet grace-powered dance prowess intermingles with no shortage of jazz dancing sultry moves ever in the spirit of cats. These are top-notch dancers all—albeit fellow fans of top dance troupes like Joffrey, Hubbard and Giordano might also find the choreography a bit one-note.
As dazzling as the dancers are, it’s the interplay of costumes and lighting that delivers the most breathtaking wows that usually are just the domain of the likes of Cirque du Soleil spectacle (Scene and Costume Design: John Napier, Lighting Design: Natasha Katz). In fact, another caution is that this production extends the lights into the first floor seats, where the prancing cats also slither at times. If you are going to see this for the first or umpteenth time—get better seats on the ground floor —in this writer’s opinion-- it's worth it to do so.
The best match audience for this show are pre-teen girls who love, love, love their kittens. You’ll see tons of them at intermission doing leg overhead poses for the camera and trying to mimic the dancers’ moves. You too may imagine that one day they will be explaining to a dance or theater reviewer that they first found their inspiration for performing by seeing a touring Broadway production of CATS.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Keri René Fuller (Grizabella), Tion Gaston (Mistoffelees), McGee Maddox (Bill Bailey/Rum Tum Tugger), Dan Hoy (Munkustrap), Timothy Gulan (Peter/Bustopher Jones/Asparagus), Brandon Michael Nase (Victor/Old Deuteronomy),
Zachary S. Berger (Swing), Caitlin Bond (Victoria), Nick Burrage (Swing), Erin Chupinsky (Swing), Tony d'Alelio (Mungojerrie), Kaitlyn Davidson (Jellylorum), Phillip Deceus (Alonzo), PJ DiGaetano (Coricopat), Maria Failla (Cats Chorus), Justin W. Geiss (Swing, Pouncival 7/23-8/4), Rose Iannaccone (Rumpleteazer), Laura Katherine Kaufman (Tantomile), Marina Lazzaretto (Swing), Brett Michael Lockley (Swing), Tyler John Logan (Plato/Macavity), Nathan Patrick Morgan (Cats Chorus), Devin Neilson (Tumblebrutus), Charlotte O’Dowd (Swing), Emily Jeanne Phillips (Jennyanydots), Lexie Plath (Bombalurina), Mariah Reives (Cassandra), Adam Richardson (Cats Chorus), Ethan Saviet (Skimbleshanks), Liz Schmitz (Demeter), Zachary Tallman (Cats Chorus), Ahren Victory (Sillabub), Anthony Michael Zas (Pouncival 7/16 – 7/21)
Through August 4, 2019.
Broadway In Chicago’s
James M. Nederlander Theatre (24 W. Randolph)