Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" poetry, the original production of Cats ran on Broadway for a staggering 18 years. This touring production felt slicker than the original, more extravagant, and faster paced, but the story is the same. The Jellicle Cats have gathered in the junkyard for their annual ball. They will celebrate all things feline and Jellicle all night long, and in the early morning their beloved leader will choose one cat to ascend to the heavyside layer and be reincarnated as another cat. This production has a clearer narrative line than the original, a welcome improvement, but it is still more of a musical revue than a show with a normal story arc. Each of the songs talks about what Jellicle cats are like or tells the story of one or two particular Jellicle cats.
The entire non-Equity ensemble sparkled, thanks to Andy Blankenbuehler's dynamic choreography and John Napier's elaborate costume design. Tayler Harris gave an exceptional and moving performance as Grizabella the glamour cat. Her rendition of "Memory" was touchingly authentic. Taryn Smithson and Brian Craig Nelson were amusing and memorable as mischievous wild cats Rumpleteazer and Mungojerrie. The pair shared a fun energy that was delightful without ever being corny or too over-the-top. However, it was Ibn Snell as Mr. Mistoffelees who absolutely stole the show. With amble charm and impossibly athletic dance moves, Snell's breathtaking turn absolutely captivated the entire audience.
If you have never seen Cats before, this tour is the best possible introduction to this impossibly popular musical spectacular. If you already love Cats, these felines will absolutely knock you off your feet.
Cats ran from March 14-19, 2023, at The Kimmel Cultural Campus, 300 S Broad St, Philadelphia PA. For more information on the tour, please visit www.CatsTheMusical.com.