‘Cats’: if this reads like a rave evaluate, it is meant to!

David Santolin as Skimbleshanks and ensemble. Photograph: Ben Appleton.

Musical Theatre / “Cats”, Canberra Philharmonic Society. At Erindale Theatre till March 18. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

HAVING seen fairly just a few productions of “Cats”, each skilled and novice, I have to admit that it’s a present I’ve typically struggled to get pleasure from.

The recognition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicalisation of a string of TS Eliot’s poems, requiring actors to spend the night mimicking the mannerisms of cats, has all the time remained one thing of a thriller to me.

That was till final evening when this outstanding manufacturing by the Canberra Philharmonic Society had me on the sting of my seat from starting to finish.

Director Jordan Kelly and choreographer Caitlin Schilg have surrounded themselves with a outstanding ensemble of dancers, singers, musicians and creatives to create an enchanting feline world during which each member of the massive forged comes throughout as recognisably particular person.

A unprecedented setting, the work of grasp designer, Ian Croker, utilises each centimetre of the Erindale Theatre stage to carry the motion proper right down to the viewers. It’s filled with nooks and crannies for the cats to perch preen and conceal, whereas offering loads of room for a succession of spectacular dance routines.

This can be a actually ensemble manufacturing with a lot of the forged on stage all through. The stagings by Kelly and Schilg are outstanding in that each quantity has a completely totally different choreography. Schilg has drawn on an entire gamut of demanding dance kinds to create a sequence of brilliantly staged manufacturing numbers which are executed with admirable dedication and precision by the massive ensemble.

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Often for productions of “Cats” the casts include slim, taut and terrific dancers. This forged definitely has these, however in line with the director’s idea to create a sense of group, it additionally contains veteran actors and a variety of physique sorts.

Costume supervisor Pip Muller and her big crew of makers, have embraced this concept by creating imaginative particular person costumes and headdresses for every forged member. The costumes respect the normal idea, flatter the wearer and are enhanced by particular person make-up, designed by India Cornwell, that displays the character of every cat.

As a result of James McPherson’s sound design is so good, attentive viewers members are in a position to determine varied characters from the descriptions contained within the lyrics of the songs. For example, diminutive Kara Sellars performs a personality known as Tumblebrutus who’s described in a tune as “Stumpy”. Sellars has embraced that description to create an lovely character you’ll need to comply with all through the present.

Garrett Kelly, a stand-out because the horny Rum Tum Tugger, has greater than the kittens screaming as he sings and dances up a storm early within the present. Jeremy Chan and Silvana Moro as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer delight with their frisky acrobatic routine. Daniela Oddi thrills along with her wonderful flexibility and style because the white cat, Victoria, whereas David Santolin lights up the stage as Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat. Jessica Gowing (Bombalurina), Kara Murphy (Electra) and Samantha Marceddo (Demeter) are sheer delight each time they take centre stage, nailing their harmonies and sassy choreography with pizazz.

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Be careful for Phillip Marland’s poignant flip as Gus the Theatre Cat. Observe how Paul Sweeney instructions the stage as Previous Deuteronomy and the way the stage lights up each time David Cannell inhabits it because the suave, preening Bustopher Jones.

The position of Grizabella, the fading-glamour cat, is written as a star flip with the hit tune “Reminiscence” requiring an impressive singer. Kirrily Cornwell introduced extra to it than only a voice. From her first entrance, to her terribly staged exit on the finish of the present, Cornwell imbued her characterisation with a compelling pathos that was heart-wrenching. The timbre of her voice is completely acceptable for her character and, for sure, she nailed the all-important key change. Hers was definitely a star flip.

There are numerous extra performances worthy of remark, nonetheless house doesn’t permit. However it might be remiss to not point out the excellent musical path of Alexander Unikowski. From the very first notes of the overture, his tight management over his wonderful orchestra was apparent.

Prolonged pauses and thoroughly balanced orchestral sound, supported by imaginative lighting design by Alex Clifford, produced an thrilling air of expectation at the start of the present. Elsewhere he confirmed wonderful restraint by not permitting the orchestra to overwhelm the lyrics, however nonetheless produce an thrilling full-bodied sound for the large manufacturing numbers.

A triumph for Canberra Philo, Kelly, Schilg, Unikowksi and their crew, “Cats” is a kind of uncommon native productions the place every little thing was “proper on the evening” with each essential aspect, path, choreography, design, sound and lighting completely in place to make sure a memorable night of theatre. If this reads like a rave evaluate, it’s meant to.

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Ian Meikle, editor