Amateur group, Highcliffe Charity Players, have taken on an ambitious project in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats but have completely come together and pulled it off, giving a great nostalgic euphoria to fans, and joy to newcomers.
The show, which is based on poems by T.S. Elliot, follows a group of cats as they meet for their yearly meeting and tell their stories in preparation for their leader to decide who gets to go to the Heavyside Lair.
You walk in to the theatre with the curtains open so you can already see their wonderful set, then the show starts and the cats start to emerge from their hiding places, and you see how stunning their costumes and make up also are. The set and the costumes are very professional, they look as if they would be in a professional touring production of the show.
Cats is a very dance centred show, which can be difficult for amateur groups who are not trained to the extent that West End performers are, however, there were some amazing dancers in this cast, and those who were not as skilled gave it just as much enthusiasm. With help from the great choreography the cats came to life on stage.
Vocally is where the show completely sold me, the harmonies, including the high operatic tones, and the deep bass, were on point, and all the songs were articulated with as much precision as was intended from Lloyd Webber.
Some of the stand out performances for me came from Duncan Reid as Munkustrap, one of the leaders of the group of cats, who embodied this character perfectly, Harry Young as Rum Tum Tugger, the bad boy of the group, with the Rock’n’Roll feel of John Partridge’s performance from the DVD, and of course Tracey Taylor-Jenkins as Grizabella who stunned the whole audience with her rendition of the infamous song ‘Memories’.
Another mention goes to the cute young kittens who won over everyone by just being adorable, a great addition to the show.
Fans of the musical might find themselves disappointed in the loss of the song ‘The Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles’ (which is on the DVD) which in this version is replaced with Gus the Theatre Cat’s ‘Growltiger’s Last Stand’ from the original soundtrack, which I haven’t seen before but the cast performed it amazingly well.
Overall, only praise can be given to the cast and crew, who clearly put in a large amount of effort to create a production that they should be proud of. Everyone on stage was smiling, and having fun. But the really telling part of a show’s success is how the audience reacts, which was with a standing ovation on opening night, proving that they did a great job.
Cats is showing at The Regent Centre, Christchurch, until Saturday 2nd November. For more information and tickets, visit the website here.
[Main image from Highcliffe Charity Players]