‘Cats,’ on stage now at Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center, hasn’t burned through all nine of its lives quite yet | Arts Stories + Interviews | Orlando

click on to enlarge

picture by Matthew Murphy/courtesy creation

John Anker Bow purrs as growing older actor Gus

In historic periods — i.e., the mid-1980s — just before I grew to become besotted with Les Miz, the initially Broadway demonstrate that I expended my individual income to see extra than once was Cats, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s notorious adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s feline-targeted poems. Initially honored with seven Tony Awards, this groundbreaking vanguard of the Fantastic White Way’s West Conclusion invasion at some point fell from fashion, with the iconic immersive output abandoning its advertised promise to operate “now and forever” in late 2000.

Considering that then, my double-CD forged recording has largely sat on the shelf. The previous nationwide touring business of Cats that frequented Orlando (above a dozen years back) was so dire that I fled at intermission and don’t even get me begun on the CGI-soaked nightmare gas that was the flea-infested 2019 film variation. Needless to say, I arrived at the Dr. Phillips Centre with the most affordable of anticipations for this hottest tour of Cats, which is primarily based on the 2016 Broadway revival. Significantly to my surprise, this time all around I found myself experiencing the furry festivities additional than any viewing I could try to remember considering the fact that that magical to start with come across nearly 40 several years back.

Probably it was viewing lovable adoptable kittens from the Pet Alliance outside the house the location ahead of the exhibit that put me in a receptive frame of mind or perhaps it was the way the Walt Disney Theater’s impeccable amplified acoustics allowed me to fully grasp just about every syllable of the tongue-twisting “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” opener, as opposed to the muddled mess I remembered from the Bob Carr. But I assume that most of the credit score for reawakening my unironic adoration for Cats will have to go to Hamilton choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who labored with returning primary director Trevor Nunn to re-visualize Gillian Lynne’s legendary dances, adapting her trademark animalistic gestures and injecting them with fresh new power and mindset.

This production’s other MVP is lightning designer Natasha Katz, whose use of strobes and shade-shifting LEDs injects some topic park-design razzle-dazzle into designer John Napier’s ginormous junkyard set and anthropomorphic costumes. Practically nothing will at any time very equal actors crawling out of tunnels amid the audience all through the overture, as they did in the original environmental generation, but the glowing eyes Katz conjures from the darkness are a realizing wink to that memorable moment.

Most importantly, past the aesthetic trappings, this generation of Cats unearthed my attachment to the necessary psychological main of the demonstrate, which experienced been buried under decades of matted fur. Though not Actors’ Fairness union members, the cast’s young members are all dynamic performers. Athletic dance quantities featuring the Mick Jagger-esque Rum Tum Tugger (Zach Bravo) and magical Mister Mistoffelees (Paul Giarratano) electrify the audience.

Even so, it’s the far more mature people — primarily John Anker Bow’s aging actor, Gus, and Tayler Harris’ tragic Grizabella — who actually recaptured my heart, reminding me that beneath all the household-pleasant fluff, Cats is in the end all about empathy.

The clearly show even now has all the same fundamental flaws — principally a paper-skinny plot with no true remarkable momentum — but despite my doubts, this tour delightfully demonstrates that Cats has not burned through all nine of its lives very nonetheless.

Occasion Facts


Wed., March 30, 8 p.m., Thu., March 31, 8 p.m., Fri., April 1, 8 p.m., Sat., April 2, 2 & 8 p.m. and Sun., April 3, 1 & 6:30 p.m.

Stay on prime of Central Florida news and sights with our weekly newsletters, and consider supporting this totally free publication. Our compact but mighty group is working tirelessly to convey you Central Florida information, and each individual tiny little bit will help.