By Barry Reszel
The reviewing of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of those typical shows;
Twenty years-plus, all pro records it shattered;
T.S. Eliot’s poems to which Webber composed.
The first thing to know of the current production
At Marriott Lincolnshire, evenings, some days,
Is Director Marc Robin’s soft, deep reconstruction
Lets theater stars sparkle in THREE DISTINCT WAYS.
The first constellation shines back of the stage
With the single best lighting this space will allow;
Though he’s often not on a reviewer’s first page,
Jesse Klug takes this talented ensemble’s first bow.
There are also great sets that encompass the room,
Fully exterminating this theater’s fourth wall;
It’s Thomas M. Ryan’s great work, one assumes,
That drops the whole audience in the midst of it all.
Galaxy two, though they’re second to none,
Are the Jellicle cats who make up the cast:
Mungojerrie, Skimbleshanks, Rumpelteazer, Jellylorum,
Bombalurina, Rum Tum Tugger…* they all have a blast.
Wise Old Deuteronomy and aged Grizabella*
Together provide tender semblance of plot;
Two fine actors portray them, far more than umbrellas
Gathering Eliot’s tales—and there are a lot.
But deserving a stanza of his very own
Is Mr. Mistoffelees,* magical cat;
His angelical dance moves bring the house down
And he’s not even in the union at that.
But above and beyond, there’s still one twinkle left,
A luminous quality hard to define;
When backstage and onstage are splendid and deft,
Then THE AUDIENCE KNOWS the production’s divine.
So when one sees a theater wonk in meditation
The reason’s quite clear to all who play a part
That mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of turning ensemble to family in heart.
(Based on the style of The Naming of Cats from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot)
Plot and character summaries, along with a production history for the musical, Cats, may be found here.
* Mungojerrie (Buddy Reeder) and Rumpelteazer (Laura Savage) are devilish fun, as is scooter-riding Skimbleshanks (Brian Bohr). Bombalurina’s (Summer Naomi Smart) impressive belt in the number introducing Rum Tum Tugger (Jake Klinkhammer) leads into a fabulous dance number, one of many throughout the performance. Jellylorum (Johanna McKenzie Miller) is a noticeably tender caretaker. Old Deuteronomy (Matthew R. Jones) is the perfect deep-voiced patriarch, and yes, Grizabella (Heidi Kettenring), knocks Memory out of the park. Mr. Mistoffelees (Sagiya Eugene Peabody) is a professional dance show of his very own. But know this: there is no weakness in Marriott’s ensemble—backstage or onstage; some names simply work better in rhyme.
Cats runs through May 25 with performances Wednesdays at 1 pm and 8 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4:30 pm and 8 pm and Sundays at 1 pm and 5 pm. Ticket prices range from $40 to $48, with discounts available for seniors and students. Dinner-theater packages are also available. Parking is free. Information and Tickets are available at the Marriott Theatre Box Office, 847-634-0200 or www.MarriottTheatre.com.