"A hit all over again"
-The Stage-

"Beverley Knight is wonderful"
-The Telegraph-

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Exhilarating as ever

Critic Rating

3 November 2015, London Palladium
Guest Reviewer Guest Reviewer
It is easy to see why 35 years after its London premiere, Cats is still drawing audiences around the world. Following its much anticipated return to the West End last year, Cats has returned yet again to the London Palladium, where it is as exhilarating as ever.

Gillian Lynne’s eye-popping choreography takes centre stage, while Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score is catchy and diverse, often transitioning from upbeat to poignant in two shakes of a cat’s tail. ‘Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat’ is a fabulously frivolous tune, and Evan James is engaging as the song’s lovable titular character. Anna Woodside and Emma Lee Clark exude feline flawlessness during their thrilling rendition of ‘McCavity’. The most anticipated song of the show is undoubtedly Grizabella the Glamour Cat’s ‘Memory’, performed this year by Beverley Knight. With pleading eyes and a feeble frame, Knight’s Grizabella quietly haunts the stage in act one, then stops the show with her 11 o’clock number in act two! Despite having made a name for herself as the Queen of British Soul, Knight proves yet again that she belongs on a West End stage.

In terms of production design, not much has been altered since the show’s initial London run. Costumes and makeup are extraordinarily detailed, and help to give every single cat in the show’s 22-strong cohort a totally unique appearance to match their varied personalities. Meanwhile the oversized junkyard set is kitschy but intricate and definitely sets the scene unmistakably. In some ways these elements make Cats feel quite dated, but equally they bring an air of familiarity and nostalgia to an otherwise rather illogical musical.

A couple of changes have been made to modernise Cats, namely the reinvention of The Rum Tum Tugger as a rapper, decked out from his whiskers to his paws in gold lame and sporting a baseball cap. Marcquelle Ward is likable in the role, and his cheekiness brings fun to some of the drier scenes in the show, but overall the reinvention feels unnecessary, and even in a show with such a broad variety of music as Cats has, his hip-hop number sounds a little bit too incongruous.

All in all though, Cats has stood the test of time. Relentlessly thrilling choreography and memorable music make it an unmissable treat for any musical theatre fans and casual audience members alike.

Review by Charlotte O'Growney

Lisa Martland
It’s Beverley Knight on this occasion who takes on the crucial role of Grizabella and she does a fine job of creating the character in such a small space of time. Her rendition of Memory somehow mixes anger with vulnerability, although she could perhaps tone down some of the gestures – so appropriate for her parts in The Bodyguard and Memphis – but a little distracting here.

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Rupert Christiansen
Interest in these performances focuses on the casting of the soul and R&B singer Beverley Knight as Grizabella, the raddled and neurotic tragedy queen of the Jellicle crew who gets to sing “Memory”. It’s Knight’s third musical on the trot (she comes to the Palladium straight from appearances in The Bodyguard and Memphis) and she is absolutely wonderful – “majestic though in ruin” as John Milton put it, and singing with touching sensitivity and nuanced musicality rather just belting it out. I felt the authentic shiver down my spine at the climax: she is an artist.

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