THEATRE REVIEW: Cats by RTSA at Rotherham Civic

THEY say never work with children or animals — but what about children dressed as animals? Adele Forrest finds out it it's a winning combination.
RTSA cast performing CatsRTSA cast performing Cats
RTSA cast performing Cats

HEY say never work with children or animals — but what about children dressed as animals?

Well, that worked out pretty well for RTSA at Tuesday’s opening night of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking Olivier award-winning musical Cats.

Director Dee Bennie-Marshall has thrown everything at this — there are magic tricks, acrobatics, operatics, ballet and tap.

A pack of cats (which Google tells me is a known as a clowder) greeted audience members as they took up their seats for the show, nuzzling into them and purring.

Two kittens, played by Scarlet Buxton and Kassia Hibbert, prowled around the stage, which had been transformed into a rusty garage yard.

As the stray cats messed around with cables, it sparked a loud bang and fireworks lit up the stage to ring in what seems like the longest overture in musical history, Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats.

Costume and make-up are key in this musical and it is easy to see why this is RTSA’s most expensive show to date.

Each stunning cat costume and wig is unique, which was a treat on the eyes, while the ears enjoyed some top vocals.

Gracie Molloy received a standing ovation for her version of Grizabella’s huge number Memory.

And Millie Ducker (Rumpleteaser) and Josh Webster (Mungojerrie) wowed with their energetic duet, in which they managed to stay in key while spinning through the air as the music continued to build — I even exclaimed loudly: “Wow” as they landed their last note and spin.

I also enjoyed Sam Simmons’ injection of humour as the hip-thrusting rock star cat Rum Tum Tugger, his furry, leopard print, Elvis-inspired collar was a nice touch. 

Although there are smatterings of individual stories, the narrative requires the large cast to really work as one body to prowl and stalk the stage — which they executed well.

Bennie-Marshall has asked a lot from the young cast to deliver this high-energy show but they proved they’re up to scratch.

I have to admit, this musical is probably one of my least favourite and I think most audience members either love it or hate it. 

The musical was based on a book of poems by T.S. Eliot so there isn’t much substance to the plotline. 

The audience need to suspend reality as the Jellicle cats head to the Jellicle ball while one is chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer — do you follow?! 

It can get a bit trippy at times, particularly when cats appear on stage with mops on their head but I actually managed to get on board with RTSA’s version and it was clear how much the cast were enjoying themselves.

Cats’ popularity shows no sign of slowing down as a feature film adaptation starring Taylor Swift, James Corden and Idris Elba will be released this Christmas.

In the mean time, you can lap it up at the Civic until Saturday.