'Cats' - Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire Breathes New Life Into a Classic!
If you've never seen Cats before, or if like me you have seen Cats many times over the years, this is the production of Cats you should make the effort to take your whole family to enjoy. This production was skillfully and joyfully directed and choreographed by Marc Robin. Robin does a fantastic job of bringing Cats, the second longest-running musical in Broadway history to life.
The Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre is hands down one of the best venues to see musical Theatre in the Chicago area. The space is cozy and houses an intimately sized ‘Theatre in the round’ and director Robin uses every single inch of the space to bring the mystifying and heartwarming movement of real cats to life. I was completely enamored by the way cast members mingled with the audience throughout the show just as cats mingle and cuddle and caress us at home. By leaving some groupings of seats empty and allowing the performers to perch and watch the goings on from the carpeted aisles at our feet and even in our laps occasionally, we got to feel both part of the show and as though the performers had truly become the graceful and mystical creatures they were portraying.
The dancing and choreography is spectacularly playful and impressive. This production really captures the magical quality of cats. If dogs reflect the qualities in human beings that are childlike and innocent throughout life, then cats surely reflect human beings when they reach maturity and progress into old age. The variety of cats portrayed from plump, round and lazy to skinny, aged and falling apart really help humans identify themselves as loveable, and salvageable even with all their odd foibles, scars and matted fur.
The enchanting and complex lyrics of Cats are all based on poetry, the enchanting poems of T.S. Eliot. The “Jellicle Songs” introduces the audience to the wonderful cast of cat characters who are about to attend the mystical tradition of a cats-only “Jellicle Ball”. At this magnificent dancing cat ball held in the middle of night by the light of a full moon, their elder cat, Old Deuteronomy selects one worthy cat to be re-born.
The hit song, “Memory” is sung by Grizabella, the chosen cat. It is essential that this song, which is the catharsis and climax of Cats, is sung by a mature vocal performer whose voice really soars and Heidi Kettenring (with six Jeff nominations, Man of Steel) really knocked it out of the park with her vocally rich and moving rendition in this production.
There is a universal appeal to this show, which has maintained its second position in popularity on Broadway for 23 years between Phantom of the Opera and Chicago. Cats makes you feel good about being who you are no matter what odd type of cat you have matured into when you attend the “Jellicle Ball”.
Cats and their mysterious, unpredictable feline natures are often identified with the female human, and sometimes in negative ways like the terms ‘catty’, ‘cat fight” or the myth that black cats bring bad luck. In a way, Cats has a wonderful underlying feminist message to embrace the female, the changeable, and the vulnerable in our psyches.
Cats the musical, with its challenging dance numbers throws all those negative myths right out the window and reminds us to embrace the marvelous grace, the ballet of acrobatics, that cats hypnotize us with and not to fear it.
Kudos to EACH of the talented dancers in this production, and also to set designer Thomas M. Ryan, and costume designer, Nancy Missimi, for bringing the exciting, loveable and playful nature of actual cats to life so fully in this production.