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Musical Theatre Review Print

Broadway at Duke: Cats Once Again Proves Its Popularity

October 17, 2006 - Durham, NC:

Every couple of years, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats returns to the Triangle to prove once again why it is still the cat’s meow of British megamusicals. This time, Broadway at Duke brought this West End and Broadway mega-hit, originally staged by director Trevor Nunn and associate director/choreographer Gillian Lynne, to Page Auditorium for a single sold-out performance on Oct. 17th.

The 2006 tour of Cats, produced by Troika Entertainment LLC and Cat’s-Eye LLC and directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford, once again features John Napier’s magnificent sets and costumes (reproduced by Raymond Huessy) and David Hersey’s spectacular lighting and special effects (adapted for this tour by Rick Belzer)—both of which won 1983 Tony Awards®. Cats also took home the Tonys for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (for a script based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and other writings on cats by T.S. Eliot), Best Score (Lloyd Webber), Best Director (Trevor Nunn), and Best Choreographer (Gillian Lynne).

Tour director/choreographer Richard Stafford and musical director Logan Medland put plenty of snap, crackle, and pop into the current traveling version of Cats, and a young and highly talented cast negotiated the marvelous multilevel junkyard set and the dazzling special effects with aplomb.

Cats 2006 stars Philip Peterson as Old Deuteronomy, the aging and ever-compassionate leader of this wild-and-crazy band of Jellicle Cats; Angie Smith as Grizabella, the once-chic but now bedraggled Glamour Cat; Ryan Patrick Farrell as that feline song-and-dance cat Mr. Mistoffelees; David Schoonover as the irrepressible Rum Tum Tugger; and Christopher E. Sidoli as Gus (nee Asparagus), the Theater Cat, whose salad days were decades ago.

Peterson and Smith give crowd-pleasing performances as Old Deuteronomy and Grizabella, passionate performing each cat’s signature song: “The Moments of Happiness” and “Memory,” respectively. Farrell is incredibly light on his feet in his frisky showstopping portrayal of Mr. Mistoffelees; and Schoonover prances around the stage like a rock-and-roll god, 10 feet tall and bulletproof.

Chris Sidoli added a poignant performance as the now-decrepit Gus, the one-time toast of the London stage who sparkles in the play-within-the-play in his famous youthful starring role as the swashbuckling barge cat Growltiger. Sidoli also contributed a nice cameo as Bustopher Jones, Anissa Hartline gave an impish impersonation of Griddlebone, Cara Michelle Fish was cute as Jennyanydots, and Nathan Garland was wonderfully wicked as the evil but incredibly elusive Macivity the one-cat crime wave.

From the very first note to the very last note, this Troika Entertainment LLC and Cat’s-Eye LLC is a winner, because the cats on stage and the cats in the orchestra pit can really howl; and extended applause—and not a great big shoe tossed in their direction—expressed the appreciation of the Broadway at Duke audience for the high-octane Tuesday-night performance.

Broadway at Duke: http://www.duke.edu/web/broadway/. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=2449. Really Useful Group (Cats page): http://www.reallyuseful.com/rug/shows/cats/.