‘Cats’ Is Weird, Wild and Wonderful at Pantages Theatre (Review)

The company of the 2021-2022 national tour of Cats. Photo by Matthew Murphy/Murphymade.

Cats is a long-running musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer behind The Phantom of the Opera, Evita and many more. The musical was always something that escaped my attention, and when the trailer for the 2019 live-action Cats film was released, it didn’t do the musical any favors. As you can imagine, my expectations weren’t that high from watching the actual stage musical. After finally seeing it at the Pantages Theatre on opening day, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the story of the Jellicles. Cats is a weird yet wild and wonderful time thanks to its catchy music, exciting choreography, and sublime performances by the cast including Tayler Harris, who is a standout as Grizabella.

The musical is based on T. S. Eliot’s 1939 Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats about a tribe of cats called the Jellicles. During the annual Jellicle Ball, the Jellicle cats decide on who should enter Heaviside Layer and be reborn like them, and the structure of the musical features different cats and their personalities as they vie for that spot.

The company of the 2021-2022 national tour of Cats. Photo by Matthew Murphy/Murphymade.

The North American tour at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles opened last week and featured performers dressed as cats, and it took a bit to get used to it. (They are dressed as giant, anthropomorphic cats, after all.) My attitude quickly changed after seeing the performers’ personalities, and their dancing and listening to the melodic songs. By the end of it, I couldn’t get enough of the Jellicle Cats.

Hardt Casting and Paul Hardt have done a great job of casting for Cats in finding the best performers in terms of skills and appearances to match their characters. Hank Santos as Rum Tum Tugger exudes rock star status, and Cameron Schutza’s operatic tenor is breathtaking. Lexy Bittner as Cassandra and Erica Lee Cianciulli as Bombalurina are captivating. The list goes on and on.

Tayler Harris as Grizabella. Photo by Matthew Murphy/Murphymade.

The star of the show is Tayler Harris as Grizabella the Glamour Cat, someone who is feared by the cats. The other cat contenders have fun sequences, but when she pops up on stage, the tone shifts, and she gives a raw and emotional performance. When she sings “Memory,” it truly felt haunting and moving, and it had one of the loudest applauses.

The format of Cats is different from the typical musical with a straightforward narrative. The plot introduces one cat to another as the Jellicle Cats figure out who is deserving to be reborn through Heaviside Layer. The stage musical is a perfect format for showcasing a concept like Cats, and in the end, it’s really about experiencing the music and dancing in person.

Cats is a long-running musical, and for good reasons. The absurdity of performers dressing up as giant cats is wildly amusing, and the songs and dance numbers are delightfully entertaining. Many of the performers are solid singers and dancers, with Tayler Harris absolutely shining bright as Grizabella.

Facebook Comments