CATS, it’s the musical that has quite the reputation and quite the fan following. It originally opened in London and ran for a record-breaking 21 years. The same production team, comprised of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn (director), brought this production to Broadway. It ran for 18 years, which made it the second longest running show on Broadway. CATS has won several awards, including Best Musical in both the Tony Awards and Olivier Awards and has been translated into 20 different languages. It is not surprising that Beef and Boards was ready to take on such a sensational show, and I couldn’t wait to see their take on such a fan favorite.
The musical is based on T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” Each musical number is the story of a different cat. The show begins with all of the cats assembling together from all over as part of a “Jellicle Ball.” The purpose of this gathering is for “Old Deuteronomy,” played by JS McLaughlin, to choose the most deserving of cats to make the journey up to the “Heavy Side Lair (Heaven).” Only one cat can make this journey.
Now, let me say this before I begin. CATS is not one of my top favorite theatrical shows. (GASP!) I know. It seems to go against the awards the accolades, and the long running season after season. My problem has always been the weak plot, BUT, where the show lacks a strong plot line for this particular critic, Beef and Boards makes up for with a strong performance. It draws on all the elements of musical theatre. The music captures a nice range of musical genres, with everything from classic ballads to synthesised rock numbers. This adds to the vocal talents of each of the cast members. I am a sucker for great harmony, and this show hits every note perfectly. Terry Woods does an amazing job with musical direction, and John White, Buddy Reeder, and Jill Kelly bring the characters to life with their costumes, wigs, and makeup that rival even the biggest of productions.
It was hard for me to pick a favorite performance in this show. Beef and Boards brought so many different elements to the table. I found myself anticipating performances. Kristin Noonan, as Jellylorum/Griddlebone, had me in awe and holding my breath. Her aerials and her incredible vocal performance is what make a Beef & Boards performance spectacular. Aaron Della Villa, Mistoffelees, truly knows his way around the art of dance in his energetic performance. Judah Frank is a front runner as Rum Tum Tugger. Words fail me on how captivating and entertaining his performance is. It’s just something you need to see to appreciate. He’s that good. Eileen Faxas, as Grizabella, ~ and probably still my favorite character after all these years, brings the show together with her rendidtion of the iconic “Memory.” Lastly, all 22 singers, dancers, and actors delivered performances that had me feeling like I was enjoying the performance in New York or even London.
Whether you’re a hardcore fan of musical theatre, looking for complex dance numbers and hair-rising ballads, or simply up for a night of extravagance and performativity, CATS guarantees an enjoyable night out. The performance, a delicious buffet provided by Chef Odell Ward, and the unparalleled service that we recieve each and every visit truly makes CATS another sensational, out of the ballpark production that I have come to know and expect from Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre.
CATS continues through March 30 at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre. Check show times, schedules, availability, and any other info at beefandboards.com or by calling the box office at 317-872-9664.