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Review: Cats at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle

Cats is back and so are the audiences as people flock to Newcastle to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic. Tamzin Mackie reviews the show

A scene from Cats, the musical
A scene from Cats, the musical

Cats first prowled on to the London stage in 1981, the year Bucks Fizz won Eurovision and Prince Charles and Lady Diana tied the knot.

In the intervening years, the show has pounced on the rest of the world before being revived in the West End, directed by the renowned Trevor Nunn.

So many members of this month’s Newcastle audiences will have already seen Cats and are now sharing the experience with their children or grandchildren.

However, this was my first encounter with the musical, even though I am old enough to remember the hype surrounding the original in the 1980s.

And the 80s is where Cats remains, preening itself. Undoubtedly the period nature of the piece gives audiences returning for a second or third time a comforting and snuggly feeling.

A scene from Cats, the musical
A scene from Cats, the musical

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s orchestration is stuck in its era, the amazing costumes are still basically spandex and furry leg warmers and hearing Memory had me whizzing back to the pains of third year choir practice.

Sophia Ragavelas puts in a spine-tingling performance as the Memory-singing Grizabella.

Also hugely enjoyable are the numbers by Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat (Ross Finnie) and Mistoffelees (Joseph Poulton).

It’s interesting how faithful Lloyd Webber remained to the original text of TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats when adapting the poems and the playful characterisation of our furry friends is remarkable.

Even more remarkable is the finale of the show when tragic Grizabella is... but I don’t want to spoil the ending for those yet to be exposed to the feline magic of this musical with at least nine lives.

Still, it’s not what most of us would imagine a cat would get up to at night!


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