REVIEW: Cats at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
First a disclaimer: I am a 42-year-old man who had never seen Cats.
Of course I was aware of the West End juggernaut that has run on and off since its launch in 1981.
And of course I am aware of the work of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
But the extent of my foreknowledge as I walked into the Mayflower was that the show was very likely to be about cats.
And on that front I was not disappointed.
The show kicked off with the ‘cats’ prowling and gliding there way to the stage down the aisle as opener Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats kicked in – a good foot-tapper to get the crowd going and ease in any novices like me (although judging by the packed house covering all age groups, I may have been the only one!).
And then, frankly, it all went a bit bonkers.
For anyone who doesn’t know the background to Cats, the story, such as it is, is based on a book of poetry by TS Eliot.
A young Andrew Lloyd Webber loved it, so decided to build a musical around the words of Eliot.
And so Cats was born.
I will confess, I found it all a little hard to follow in the first half – my bad – but the all-singing, all-dancing cast at The Mayflower bossed the stage, which was complete with a smart ‘back alley’ set.
Marianne Benedict as Grizabella bought the first half to a close with a short snap of Memory.
But for me it was the second half where the show came alive.
Non-stop fantastic songs, a lengthy (and brilliant) story-within-a-story of Growltiger’s Last Stand, Mr Mistoffelees (the amazing Shiv Rabheru), the foot-stomping Macavity and, of course Memory in all its glory.
Another standout performance came from Greg Castiglioni as Growltiger and Gus the Theatre Cat.
By this point, I’d crossed the line – Cats made sense – something I feared would not happen at the start.
In short, it’s a tremendous, entertaining and yes, slightly bonkers, show put on by a hard-working cast who make a great sound when singing together on the big numbers.
It runs at the Mayflower until August 20. Go, sit back, enjoy.