‘CATS: The Musical’ Louisville Broadway Review: Great Songs, Costumes

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Scattered among the audience at Tuesday night’s opening of “CATS: The Musical” at the Kentucky Center, there seemed to be an equal number of Broadway enthusiasts and newcomers, which is not surprising if one consider the feline classic to be 40 years old now.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking 1982 musical (“The Phantom of the Opera”, “School of Rock”, “Sunset Boulevard”) has been seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers in over 30 countries and 15 languages . Now touring across North America, the Tony Award-winning show is currently airing through January 23 as part of the PNC Broadway in Louisville series.

Fanatical fans of the feline phenomenon walked out on Tuesday knowing every word of every song in the musical. But for those who have entered the “junkyard” for the first time, which may seem impossible for a show that has been delighting audiences for 40 years, thoughts of “what’s going on here?” were not uncommon.

What exactly happens during a performance of the longest-running musical is primarily what has kept it popular for four decades, though a few new twists have refreshed the kitty litter and cat crowd.

Thanks to costume designer John Napier (“Les Misérables”), full costumes, leg warmers, wigs, and massive amounts of cat makeup are back. A notable update in the second act, Magical Mister Mistoffelees twirls, jumps and sings in a multi-colored jacket – thanks to ever-changing LED lights sewn into his suit.

Also back in all its magnificent glory is the enormous junkyard where playful kittens and curious cats hang out to sing and dance their furry little hearts to choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler (“Hamilton”).

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The touring production, which includes José Raul Mangual as Munkustrap, Max Craven as Mungojerrie, Tayler Harris as Grizabella, and Zach Bravo as Rum Tum Tugger, deliver memorable and enjoyable performances, standing out from the acro-chat set.

But it is this acrobatic ensemble that transforms the stage of a group of actors into a space filled with felines. With a nod of the head, an arch of the back, a sudden exuberant leap, before you know it the mesmerizing choreography and costumes draw you in and forget they’re real humans – you’ll swear these nimble characters are real cats.

The PNC Broadway production in Louisville of “CATS” brings a live orchestra back to the pit. After two years of COVID-19 concerns, there is a richness to the sound of clarinet, keyboard, guitar and live percussion emanating from below the stage. Popular songs weave together an energetic and heartfelt story that takes place on a magical night when an extraordinary tribe of cats gather in the junkyard for their annual ball to rejoice and decide which cat will be reborn.

The theater audience is introduced to specific cats throughout the performance, such as the ultra-masculine Rum Tum Tugger, the sick Grizabella, and the wise Old Deuteronomy. If you have a cat in your home, you’re sure to recognize your pet’s characteristics in at least one of the characters. Highlights of the score include “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats”, “Magical Mister Mistoffelees”, and one of musical theater’s most treasured songs, “Memory”.

Along with the original score by Webber, there’s an all-new lighting design by Natasha Katz (“Aladdin”) and an all-new sound design by Mick Potter. Blankenbuehler’s new choreography is based on original choreography by Gillian Lynne (“Phantom of the Opera”) and direction by Trevor Nunn (“Les Miserables”). Like the cats themselves, the updates add subtle fun to enhance the iconic production.

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If you haven’t seen “CATS: The Musical,” it truly is a feline curiosity and a classic worth the price of a ticket. And if you’re a long-time fan of the show, it’s worth attending for your own “memorabilia.”

The 2021-22 PNC Broadway in Louisville series, which includes “Cats,” also includes “Come From Away,” “Mean Girls,” “Hamilton” and “Anastasia.” Tickets can be purchased at louisville.broadway.com.

Contact Kirby Adams at [email protected] or Twitter @kirbylouisville.

PNC Broadway at Louisville ‘Cats’

WHAT: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical show comes to Louisville with new choreography, new lighting and new sound to tell the story of a magical night when an extraordinary tribe of cats gather for their annual ball to rejoice and decide which cat will be reborn.

Webber’s original score (“The Phantom of the Opera”, “School of Rock”, “Sunset Boulevard”), original set design and costumes by John Napier (“Les Miserables”), brand new lighting design by Natasha Katz (“Aladdin”) and new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler (“Hamilton”) make this a production of a new generation.

OR: Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall, 501 W. Main St.

WHEN: now until January 23. Wednesday and Thursday evening at 7.30 p.m., Friday and Saturday evening at 8 p.m., Saturday morning at 2 p.m., Sunday morning at 1 p.m. and Sunday evening at 6.30 p.m.

TICKETS: $47.39 – $145.67. Available online at kentuckyperformingarts.org or by calling 502-584-7777.

COVID-19 PROTOCOL: To access this event, all customers must wear masks and provide proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test, a PCR test dated within 72 hours of arrival at the event, or a COVID-19 test. antigen dated within 24 hours of arrival at the event.

ALLEY CAT LAWYERS DONATION CAMPAIGN: PNC Broadway in Louisville and ‘Cats’ will partner with Feeder Supply and MIX 106.9 to support wild cats in our community. Through January 23, donation bins for items such as kitten food, non-clumping clay cat litter, and cleaning supplies will be set up at most Feeder Supply stores and during the race. Cats” in the lobby of the Kentucky Center. Donations will be collected by Alley Cats Advocates whose mission is to provide humane treatment to ownerless cats in the Louisville area.

Alley Cat’s Item Wish List:

  • Purina Fancy Feast Fish and Shrimp Feast Floked, Floked Gourmet or Gravy Lovers Poultry and Beef Feast Collection, Canned Cat Food
  • Purina Canned Kitten Food, Any Flavor
  • Purina One Healthy Kitten Formula, Purina One Adult, Purina One Sensitive Systems Non-Clumping Clay Cat Litter, All Brands
  • Purina Yesterday’s News or Feline Pine Cat Litter
  • Puppy Pads
  • Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner for Dogs and Cats (All Sizes)
  • Long-lasting cat scratching posts
  • 3 oz Dixie cups
  • Snuggle Safe Heating Pads
  • Small disposable litter boxes
  • Dawn dish soap
  • Kitchen garbage bags
  • masking tape
  • AA and 9V batteries
  • Paper napkins
  • paper plates
  • Paper napkins
  • Disposable cutlery
  • HotHands Hand Warmers
  • Foot warmers to put under traps (under bait food) on cold days to keep bait from freezing
  • Jumbo Space Saver Vacuum Bags for Storage