CATS, the New Theatre’s fabulous feline Christmas show, was off to a flying start last night, playing to a packed and enthusiastic house.  The longevity of this hugely successful musical is a tribute to the original production team, and in particular to choreographer Gillian Lynne.  The dancing never stops, whether it is a full blown dance routine or the exquisitely detailed movement of the cats in apparent repose;  a knee gently rubbing an ear, or one paw being carefully placed on top of another.  There isn’t a moment’s downtime for the cast, as each cat moves or pauses in subtly different ways.  Anyone who owns a cat will recognise the little quirks of kitten-like behaviour that have been so brilliantly incorporated into the choreography.

Highly innovative in its time, this show with its 70s/80s retro feel (epitomised by Oliver Savile as Rum Tum Tugger in an extravagant “glam rock” fur collar) has weathered very well.  The songs and the lycra catsuit costumes are now themselves classics, as well as the poems.

There are some fine dancers among the cast, and I especially liked Barnaby Thompson and Katie Warsop’s delightful performances as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer.  There is so much to enjoy, whether it is the magnificent ensemble dancing, the set, the lighting, the music, or Sophia Ragavelas’ rendition of Memory, that everyone who loves musicals should see CATS while it is here in Oxford.

Maggie Watson

18 December 2013

CATS is at the New Theatre Oxford until 5 January 2014: