From June 18 through June 30, Cats, the award-winning and record-breaking Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, is in Philadelphia. I had the opportunity to see the show and it wasn’t exactly what I expected. I love cats (my wife and I have two that we adopted), and I love musicals. I also adore Barry Manilow’s interpretation of the signature song from this show: “Memory.” However, I found this show to be one of the weirdest musicals I’ve ever seen.
The showstopper, as expected, was “Memory” and it was sung beautifully and with such power that I got chills by the time Grizabella belted out “touch me!” It was easily one of the best moments I’ve experienced at a musical and worth sitting through some of the lesser songs. There were a couple other good songs, but not many. The majority of them were simply adequate.
I should also point out that this musical is light on plot. The story can be summarized in a single sentence: a group of cats are waiting to find out which one of them will be chosen to go to Heaven to be reborn and live another life. So, it’s about death and rebirth. Cats is based on poems by T.S. Eliot, and all of the characters have bizarre names. The songs are used to introduce the audience to each of the cats and not much else happens other than that. It’s a musical full of introductions until, finally, a cat is chosen to go to Heaven. Peppered throughout are interpretive dance numbers that are impressive but no more so than what you’ll see in West Side Story or any other classic musical.
Being a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast, I was disappointed that the audience doesn’t get to see the chosen cat’s rebirth. To me, that was a blown opportunity. It could have been just as miraculous as the Beast’s transformation, had it been included in this musical, yet it wasn’t.
There are certain musicals I could see multiple times, such as Beauty and the Beast, Wicked, and Hello, Dolly! Cats isn’t one of them. Like Evita, it’s worth seeing once for the signature song but that’s about it. The theater was packed, so I recommend buying tickets now if you want to see it while it’s in Philadelphia.