From October 8-13, Memorial Auditorium hosted CATS for the kickoff of the 2013-2014 Broadway Series South season. My mother and I scored tickets for the musical on October 10.
I had never seen the musical before, and I knew nothing of the plot; however, I figured that since CATS is the second longest running musical on Broadway it would be easily enjoyable and easy to understand. Plus, I have a technical theatre background and interest
But, this was incorrect after I watched act one completely confused.
I understood the first two songs of act one; the first was an introduction and characterization of the Jellicle tribe of cats through the song “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” and the second was the song “The Naming of the Cat”, about the complexity and importance of naming a cat.
The next song (“The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball”) transitions to developing the entire plot of the musical — which I obviously missed. I must have been entranced by the beautiful dancing or maybe some microphone issues because I understand neither this song nor what happened following it.
This is what I missed: the Jellicle tribe holds an annual Jellicle Ball which is more or less an audition for cats of the tribe to be chosen by the supreme ruler Old Deuteronomy to receive an extra life.
So, in my confused stupor, I uncomfortably sat in my seat and waited for the following songs (each cat’s “auditions”, which I learned later) to be over. It’s not even that I didn’t enjoy the musical; I know what to look for and enjoy in a musical besides just the plotline due to my interest in technical theater.
Sitting there confused gave me a chance to pay more attention to the dance choreography, set design and the character’s costumes, which I typically enjoy just as much as a musicals plotline.
The dance choreography and costumes, along with the actor’s ability to capture the essence of the cats, took the musical to the next level. The set also set CATS in a realistic and believable environment, making the musical come alive and seem more real.
Intermission followed shortly, but in that quick time my mother and I — who I realized was lost in the plot as well — used our nifty smart phones to look up the plot of the musical.
We found an article about the plot which helped clarify what was happening in act one. Without the use of our phones, neither of us would have understood anything that happened next.
Also, to our humored disbelief, the article even wrote that “…reading a synopsis before hand is recommended,” because of the confusing organization of the musical.
CATS, even though I had some difficulty comprehending the plot, was amazing. Act two quickly rolled by, each song and event now making sense.
The best part about CATS was the fact that the actors interacted with the audience, breaking the fourth wall in song and in action; in the song “The Rum Tum Tugger”, the actor actually came off stage and danced with a girl in the first row. Also, during intermission, the cast — in their costumes and makeup — pranced, darted and moseyed throughout the isles, entertaining children and adults alike.
The technical aspects of CATS were also impressive; the set was stationary, meaning there was no shifting whatsoever. I assume this gave the designers more time and ability to put little details — and special effects — into the set. There were little quirks and tidbits that pleased the eye in this multi-level set. They used the whole stage left to right and even top to bottom — at the end of the show, the cat chosen for the extra life was lifted into the rafters above stage in a cloud of smoke — which was incredibly impressive.
Overall, this musical impressed me. The music was diverse changing between modern, upbeat songs to slow, classic; the choreography fit in sync perfectly with every style of music in the show. The set was flawless and the actor’s ability to capture the movements of a cat really tied the show together.
I would recommend CATS to anyone, and I hope the show comes back to Raleigh very soon.