You heard me loud and clear, FURends.
I, the mau, want your attention. And so with my kindred felines in Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s dance-musical Cats which I was able to watch on Sunday, November 17, at The Theatre at Solaire.
Accompanied by my three sons, I felt PAWsitively exhilarated for this second Webber’s magnum opus which we had decided to experience together after the bewitching The Phantom of the Opera.
Was it an exclusive theatre engagement among The Royal Gineses this time? Well, readers, you would have been perplexed if my sister Cristy were not with us. Hahahaha…
I’m not KITTEN you. Cristy (Tita Nano to my sons) is a valuable regular fixture in our theatre adventures. 😸But, hey, our small population increased by one that day.
Meet, Angelica Tan. She would have been my beloved daughter if I had the ability to change my destiny as a mother.
However, that Sunday, she is my former Grade 6 student/dancer/friend/running buddy/co-theatre fanatic. Angie gamely joined us in this shindig with my furry fandom in a huge junkyard inside The Theatre.
When the orchestra played the light happy MEWsic of the overture, it promised the audience a first-rate entertainment. With the use of specially designed light-and-sound pyrotechnics, one had to be awed as the cat-like moving actors appeared on stage. (Steve Jobs, enteeeer!) Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Their skin-tight outfits unraveled stunning figures to die for.
MEOW, I have to let the cat out of the bag (pun intended). Among Webber’s masterpieces, this musical is not one of the top three picks which I first want to watch live (Yes, I’m waiting for Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar after The Phantom of the Opera). One reason I can cite is the unFURmiliar songs here. There are only two songs which I can associate with Cats. Who has not heard Memory? This was a hit the first time Cats was staged in 1981. Barbra Streisand immortalized this song. Magical Mr. Mistoffellees is the second cut I can recall because I purchased this premiere collection of Webber’s genius works when cassette tapes were still FURRY much the in-thing in the record industry in 1992.
For the rest of the songs, it was my first time to hear them. Nonetheless, the Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats made me like it at once.
Another reason is that the plot seemed to be fragmented. Could its poetic source material be a factor? To the uninitiated, Cats lifted most of its lyrics from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a 1939 book of poems by T.S. Eliot. Thus, its plot gave the impression of being weak compared to the strong plots of Miss Saigon, The Wicked, Les Miserables, and Webber’s TPOTO. Minus a background about the musical, one may even find it difficult to understand the libretto which can partly be attributed to the British English, spoken by the majority of the cast of this UK Theatrical Production.
What made Cats thrilling though was the PAWsome choreography by Gillian Lynne. A dance enthusiast, I marveled at each performance. It was laden with so much avante-garde creativity. Take out these dances and you might be taking out its magical effect on the audience. I cannot blame my youngest son if he found a boring part in the MEOWsical. If not for the humorous moments –Rum Tum Tugger going down from the stage and dancing with a female theatregoer and a female cat singing the reprise of the first stanza of Memory in Filipino which could have been mistaken as Nihongo (🤣😂) –he might have fallen asleep and wasted his ticket. Hahahahaha…Well, my son still tremendously enjoyed Cats as a whole. And I can say that it’s the same for me despite wondering why there were minimal exposures for our kababayan Joanna Ampil, who played Grizabella, the aging outcast and who was chosen among the Jellicle Cats to journey to Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.
The story revolved around her, yet I could only count in my fingers her appearances. Her first rendition of Memory fell short of what I expected from her performance since she’s a seasoned thespian. It quite lacked the emotion and the PAWer. I know this is a rational judgment, but PURRhaps, I’m making it obvious that I’ve been an Elaine Page admirer ever since. Oooops…Do not contradict me. I may turn HISSterical. Hahahaha. Well, she redeemed herself the second MEOWment she sang Memory. She deserved the audience’s thunderous applause after the last note had faded. I can say that her portrayal of the Glamour Cat was LITTER-ally convincing. Pinoy eh! 👏🇵🇭
What I also like about this musical is allowing some of its actors mingle with the audience. The Lion King also made use of the theatre side doors for their entrance, but no actor-audience contact happened. We had the chance to be close to the “cats” twice. Lucky for those theatregoers who were dramatically clawed at by these felines. And during the 15-minute intermission, people queued to have a photo souvenir with Old Deuteronomy, the kind and just leader of the Jellicle Tribe, on stage. Some theatregoers were FURtunate to catch some PURRty kitties who did not exit immediately after Act 1.
Cats is another musical which did not receive a standing ovation from me, but this does not mean that I left the theatre dissatisfied. Hellooo! I just raved it up with my fellow cats and ailurophiles alike! In a special way the whole theatre experience relaxed and charmed me. I mean us. Our post-musical photo ops will speak for themselves.
We had so much fun photo binging which would be interrupted by a brief but great convo among these post-millennials –Arthur, Alexander and Angie (A3)– who were schoolmates in SJCS (Saint Jude Catholic School).
Afterwards, Angie left ahead of us while we checked on the Cats memorabilia.
Then, surprise, surprise!!! I got my early Christmas presents from the twins after asking me what I wanted to take home from the shop.
How could I say that Cats is not worth narrating about? To repeat Grizabella’s epic line, I’ll say “Let the memory live again!”
From the musical down to our cats-coma (Angie, thanks for this!😸) I feel an indisputable joy.
Just like the cats, I am a human mau whose source of happiness is to be simply petted but FURever remembered and loved.
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with my memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is
Look, a new day has begun…”