×

Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cats’ Returns to Broadway

With:
Tyler Hanes, Leona Lewis, Ricky Ubeda, Christopher Gurr, Andy Huntington Jones, Daniel Gaymon, Quentin Earl Darrington, Georgina Pazcoguin, et al.

Memories could be fatal to this revival of “Cats” — specifically, the memory of Betty Buckley as Grizabella, singing “Memory” as it’s meant to be sung, with heartbreaking beauty and exquisite pain by a great stage performer. Leona Lewis, the British pop star anointed by Andrew Lloyd Webber himself, isn’t in her league. Happily, nothing as catty can be said of the rest of this fabulous revival of the 1981 musical phenom that padded its way around the world on little cats’ feet.

It’s showtime at the Neil Simon Theater, creatively transformed into a great big, beautiful trash heap for this faithfully resurrected extravaganza set to the whimsical poems of T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Cats.” (Look for the clever visual reference to the poet’s greatest work, “The Waste Land.”) Webber has smartly mined the natural music in Eliot’s jaunty rhythms and clever rhyme schemes, applying them to the specific characters of his cats, who live in the shadows but leap into life when the moon is high.

John Napier’s spectacular set extends into the orchestra, side walls plastered with detritus from the alley where these unwanted cats live, and up to a ceiling festooned with the twinkling lights of an unreachable heaven far above their heads. Natasha Katz’s midnight-blue lighting scheme lends magic to the moonlit setting for Heaviside, while those curious cats’ eyes winking at us from out of the velvety darkness add to the mystery.

Andy Blankenbuehler, fresh off his whopping success with “Hamilton,” has performed no radical surgery on Gillian Lynne’s memorable choreography, other than freshening it up a bit. A corps of brilliant dancers leap with feline agility through every style of dance, from toe-tapping Broadway jazz steps to the classic ballet moves so gracefully executed by lithe Georgina Pazcoguin as the little white kitten, Victoria. All spiffed up in the colorful trick costume of a Tuxedo Cat, Ricky Ubeda frolics through the intricate steps demanded of Magical Mister Mistoffelees. While Christopher Gurr has certainly perfected his strut as Bustopher Jones, the Cat About Town, he also has a nice turn as Asparagus the Theater Cat.

The wonderful names lend much of the charm to Eliot’s feline creations — acknowledged by the company in the enchanting number, “The Naming of Cats,” lifted from the poem of the same name. Napier’s character-specific costumes (and extraordinary ace makeup) acknowledge the cats’ individual personalities, while luxuriating in their striking physical beauty.

But as it was in the early days of this enduring musical, and still is, the genius of the show is in the dancing. At this early stage of the game, before the inevitable injuries and burnouts, the dancers are in perfectly splendid form. Quentin Earl Darrington has great authority as Old Deuteronomy, while Daniel Gaymon’s athletic Macavity, Andy Huntington Jones’ regal Munkustrap, and all the other members of the Jellicle tribe are flying high — now and forever.

Popular on Variety

Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Cats' Returns to Broadway

Neil Simon Theater; 1371 seats; $149 top.

Production: A Shubert Organization, James L. Nederlander, the Really Useful Group, and Cameron Mackintosh presentation, with Roy Furman, John Gore, Stella La Rue, Grove Entertainment, Burnt Umber Productions, Independent Presenters Network / Al Nocciolino, and Peter May, of a musical in two acts with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" by T.S. Eliot. Opened July 31, 2016. Reviewed July 29. Running time: TWO HOURS, 15 MIN.

Creative: Directed by Trevor Nunn. Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, based on the original choreography by Gillian Lynne. Set & costumes, John Napier; lighting, Natasha Katz; sound, Mick Potter; projections, Brad Peterson; orchestrations, Andrew Lloyd Webber & David Cullen; production stage manager, Ira Mont.

Cast: Tyler Hanes, Leona Lewis, Ricky Ubeda, Christopher Gurr, Andy Huntington Jones, Daniel Gaymon, Quentin Earl Darrington, Georgina Pazcoguin, et al.

More Legit

  • David-Alan-Grier-Blair-Underwood

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood to Star in 'A Soldier's Play' on Broadway

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood will star in a Broadway production of Pulitzer-Prize winning drama “A Soldier’s Play.” The play, written by Charles Fuller, is set in 1944 and follows a murder mystery centered around the death of black Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (played by Grier) who is found on a Louisiana army base. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content