Congress Theatre, Eastbourne
Until May 31
Review by Kevin Anderson
Any cat lover will tell you that cats are simply people with fur.
And at the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne this week, that notion is brought stunningly to life.
Cats is back, and it’s as fabulous as ever. The Lloyd Webber show has changed little over its 30 years. But then, it doesn’t need to.
Great music, awesome choreography, wonderful sets and costumes: this is as accomplished, inventive and exciting as anything you will see on stage for a long year.
Wherever you look, there are cats. Spilling into the audience, giving you that enigmatic feline stare or pawing at your programme over your shoulder.
The seasoned theatre-goers lap it up and the nine-year-olds are just entranced.
Typically, musical theatre is an equal fusion of words and music. But here, Eliot’s deft and witty poetry is the spark, and the music and the dance catch fire in a joyous conflagration.
To paraphrase Sondheim, Cats needs dancers who can sing.
Both ensemble numbers and solo singers are lyrical and confident. And when the dance and song combine, their energy and pure breath control defy belief.
Hannah Kenna Thomas (Victoria) sets a gold standard with the show’s very first, mesmerising solo.
And that standard is matched right across the astonishingly talented company.
This show brims with breathtaking movement that would grace the Royal Ballet.
With Moonlight, the show’s signature song, Sophia Ragavelas is worth your ticket money alone.
Her shabbily poignant figure evokes Elaine Paige – not that she needs comparisons – and her final reprise has stunning, thrilling power.
And local favourite Charlene Ford, who played Aladdin in last December’s Devonshire Park pantomime, makes a striking contribution as Bombalurina.
After the interval the show catches its breath with Deutoronomy’s benign dignity and a restrained, nostalgic old Gus the theatre cat.
But it gathers pace again in a climactic finale: the stage bathed in red light, with dazzling pyrotechnics and even a hint of Glam Rock.
Simply, a flawless show.
Cats continues at The Congress Theatre until Saturday, May 31 - pages 74/75 for programme listings