Review: ‘Cats’ at the Blaisdell Concert Hall
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
In entertainment, as in many other things, you generally get what you pay for. The opening night performance of CATS-Eye LLC’s national tour production of “Cats” last night in the Blaisdell Concert Hall is a perfect example. It is great musical theater.The last time Honolulu saw “Cats” was as community theater at Army Community Theatre almost five years ago. The ACT show had some exceptional performances but in reviewing it we had to say “the gap that can exist between a cast of paid full-time professionals and a cast of theater enthusiasts who must also work full-time day jobs has rarely been more evident.”
This “Cats” is well on the other side of the gap. The male cats in this show lift their partners with effortless grace. The big ensemble numbers are performed with uniform precision. There are no supernumerary felines cluttering up the stage as at ACT. And when that certain cat — we’ll omit the name so as not to spoil the surprise for anyone who’ll be seeing the show for the first time — finally goes to the Heaviside Layer, the trip involves more than climbing a scaffold and waiting for the lights to go out.
Even more remarkable is the fact that on opening night several key roles were played by swings — those “extra” members of the company who step in to a role if an actor gets hurt or, in this case, can’t get a flight out of the snowed-in East Coast.
And so, Honolulu got to see Nathan Morgan (Old Deuteronomy) presiding with commanding gravity as the God-like patriarch of the group. Morgan got Act II off to a strong start with “The Moments of Happiness” and brought the show to a powerful conclusion with “The Ad-Dressing of Cats.”
Kevin Zak (Skimbleshanks) radiated personality as the cheerful and energetic railroad cat, and Larry A. Lozier, Jr. (Macavity) exuded malevolence as the ruthless master criminal cat.
No announcement was heard in the concert hall at show time about the understudies but no one was short-changed by their performances.
The show lived up to expectations on all counts.
Chris Mackenthun (Mistofflelees) received spontaneous applause in the middle of his big number — and was charismatic from the moment he appeared on stage. Matthew Taylor (Rum Tum Tugger) seemed at bit subdued at first but soon hit his stride as the bold and brassy, irrepressible and frankly sensual member of the group.
Other members of the regular cast also gave spot-on performances. Erica Leigh Hansen (Jennyanydots) was delightful as the “old gumbie cat” who leads a troupe of tap-dancing cockroaches. Will Porter (Mungojerrie) and dance captain/swing Allison Little (Rumpelteazer) capped their zesty number as mischievous “cat burglars” with the dramatic “double windmill” finale.
Bronson N. Murphy (Asparagus/Growltiger) and Laura Cable (Jellylorum/Griddlebone) were appropriately sweet and poignant in “Gus: The Theatre Cat,” then broadly comical as the stars of “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” a parody of opera and 19th century melodramas.
Jordan Dunlap (Victoria) was breathtaking in her Jellicle Ball solo.
Kathryn Holtkamp (Grizabella) plays the dying but unbowed “glamour cat” as a study in fading strength and grim determination. For her, “Memory” is both a requiem for long-lost glories and an expression of the pain of going on when there is nothing left to live for. Heidi Giberson (Sillibub) also sings “Memory” — and so we experience the juxtaposition of one life coming into its own while another approaches its end.
Amid all the marvelousness on opening night there were two noticeable but easily corrected problems. First, there were several times when the music was much louder than it needed to be. Second, Taylor’s microphone could be heard hitting against his costume each time he moved a certain way.
Neither of those opening night problems is reason enough for local “Cats” fans to miss the show.
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
When: 7:30 p.m. today and Thursday, 2 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $35 to $70, prices vary by night. 50% off for age 4-12 for the 6:30 p.m. show Sunday
Info: 591-2211 or (808)745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com