Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Cats" opened last night at the IU Auditorium for just two performances. The production is marked a heavy emphasis on dance and movement. The pieces weren't especially catlike but were well executed and energetic. Depite the emphasis on dance, the spoken dialog and the choral and solo singing were strongly handled and with letter perfect in diction. The songs come from light pieces in the usually heavy poet T.S. Elliot's collection "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." At the show's beginning we are promised an initiation into the world of cats' secret "ineffable" names and the selection of a cat to rise out of the earthly realm.
In "Cats" we do get to meet quite a variety of fascinating felines. Martin Hurt as Old Deuteronomy welcomed us to the lessons. IU grads Staci Rudnitzky and Molly Logan gave us two delightful specimens, Jennyanydots and Rumpleteazer. Kevin Wanzor was featured as the feeble old Gus the Theatre Cat and as his alter ego Growltiger in his last stand. Wanzor was joined by Nicole Johndrow as Gus's faithful friend Jellylorum and Growltiger's faithless love, Griddlebone. Ryan Jackson had the most extensive male solo dance number as the magical Mr. Mistoffelees. Dee Roscioli played the role of Grizabella, the shabby former Glamour Cat, with the show's best known song "Memories." She was also the one who got to depart the stage in a sort of "ET" fashion on a mysteriously lighted flying disc.
"Cats" is organized like an English Music Hall Revue. Some turns were intimate little pieces, others involved the whole company. Each scene was a mini drama complete with its own reprise and sometimes even a reprise of the reprise. Although I enjoyed the show, a few of the pieces went on a little too long for me. However Tuesday night's performance played to solid applause and a standing ovation from the Auditorium audience.
"Cats" at the IU Auditorium has one final performance, this evening at eight.