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CRITIC’S CHOICE: ‘Cats’ purrs anew on Marriott stage

'Cats,' which first made its appearance on the Marriott Theatre stage in 2003, has returned for another go-around with Marc Robin once again at the helm as director and choreographer.

The immensely popular show, with a book based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot, features the lively music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and a cast in the whimsical guise of felines, both young and old, groomed to the nines and scruffy.
The plot – loosely a tale of redemption and a introspection on loss and aging – is skimpy. But audiences aren’t particularly drawn to the production for its storyline.

“Cats” provides spectacle and gives theatergoers their money’s worth right from the opening scene that explodes with the so-called Jellicle cats at every turn.

Breathtaking singing and dancing by seasoned actors like Heidi Kettenring, stunning as the fading and fragile Grizabella (“Memory”), and Matthew R. Jones as the sage philosopher Old Deuteronomy, are complemented by the graceful dance moves of Ellen Green (as Victoria) and the Sam Rogers (as the menacing Macavity).

Among other standouts in the large, athletic cast are Sayiga Eugene Peabody as Mr. Mistoffelees; Liam Quealy as guard cat Munkustrap; Jake Klinkhammer as the Elvis impersonator cat, Rum Tum Tugger; George Andrew Wolff, the old theater cat Gus; Brian Bohr the train cat Skimbleshanks; fleet-footed tap dancer Tammy Mader as Jennyanydots; and two trouble-loving cats: Buddy Reeder as Mungojerrie and Laura Savage as Rumpleteazer.

Meanwhile, Ryan T. Nelson’s music direction is enthralling. The same could be said about Nancy Missimi’s original, witty costuming and Jesse Klug’s lighting design.

Thomas M. Ryan’s illuminated set includes a painted cityscape on the theater’s inner walls that cleverly envelopes audience members and pulls them into the onstage action.