Cats

Richard Batson Norwich Theatre Royal

Richard Batson

Norwich Theatre Royal

Musicals can be based on the strangest of ideas - and this story about a knees-up for a bunch of moggies is no exception.

In real life the nocturnal coming together of a collection of toms and tabbies in my back garden would result in some caterwauling and probably a cat fight.


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But add some showbiz magic dust to the imagery of clever poetry of a 1939 children's book, and the result is one of the most successful and stunning stage and screen musicals ever.

The nuclear fission between Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical mastery and T S Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats results in an explosion of dance, spectacle, colour and song that has captivated audiences since it was launched into the West End in 1981 - and has now arrived in Norwich on board this touring show.

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The dance is an electric mix of tumbling athletics and feline grace which are combined in most household pussies.

And the music ranges from the haunting Memory to the raunchy rocky grinding of Macavity's fight scene.

The 29-strong cast has no star names but brims with star quality dancing and singing which leaps from ballet and opera to tap and heavy rock with the ease of an alleycat leaping from bin to bin.

But the real star is the show itself - a kaleidoscope of slick choreography and brilliant costumes which swirl in front of a range of atmospheric sets.

And maybe the nine-lives longevity of this cracking show is down to its appeal on so many levels.

The plot scampers through a series of episodes building up to the cats annual Jellicle Ball.

But scratch deeper into the kitty litter and there are a host of characters worthy of any good soap opera.

Gangsters, pranksters, old sages, lazy good-for-nothings, ladies' toms, aged stage stars, sex kittens and faded glamour pusses.

EastEnders with whiskers and tails, but with a happy ending and a feline-good factor.

t The show, which even this reviewer who is allergic to Cats enjoyed, runs until April 19. Box office: 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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