“Cats” isn’t for everyone – much of it is a cheesy, B-grade affair seemingly crafted solely to take over midnight-movie slots from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ Those with an open mind, though, as well as little kids and the T-Swift posse, might find it somewhat pawesome.” Brian Truitt writes in USA Today, in the most positive review I could find. He’s enchanted by Taylor Swift, but turned off by the “nightmare fuel…when human faces are put on tiny mice and Rockette-esque cockroaches.”
More typical is Manohla Dargis in the New York Times:
“It is tough to pinpoint when the kitschapalooza called “Cats” reaches its zenith or its nadir, which are one and the same. The choices are legion: Judi Dench gliding in as Old Deuteronomy, a Yoda-esque fluff ball with a huge ruff who brings to mind the Cowardly Lion en route to a drag ball as Queen Elizabeth I; the tap dancing Skimbleshanks (Steven McRae), dressed, unlike most of the furries — in red pants and suspenders, no less — leading a Pied Piper parade; or Taylor Swift, as Bombalurina, executing a joyless burlesque shimmy after descending on the scene astride a crescent moon that ejaculates iridescent catnip…. there’s nothing new about the movies’ energetic embrace of bad taste…”
And then there’s Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune:
“It presents your best and presumably final opportunity to witness Sir Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba and Taylor Swift in whiskers and digital fur.
Is it the worst film of 2019, or simply the most recent misfire of 2019? Reader, I swear on a stack of pancakes: “Cats” cannot be beat for sheer folly and misjudgment and audience-reaction-to-“Springtime for Hitler”-in-“The Producers” stupefaction…..Audiences unfamiliar with the material may be stunned to learn how little there is to “Cats,” not just in terms of narrative but in terms of everything besides narrative.”
“The King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper’s outlandishly tacky interpretation seems destined to become one of those once-in-a-blue-moon embarrassments that mars the résumés of great actors” — Peter Debruge, Variety
“Cat-tastrophic” — David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
“…basically two hours of stray cats introducing themselves..” — Jake Cole, Slant
It’s the annual night of the Jellicle Ball for a tribe of Jellicle cats, and one of them – “the Jellicle choice” – will be picked by wise Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) to be reborn into a new life.
My review of the 2016 Broadway revival:
The first Broadway revival of Cats, which is neither wholly reimagined nor an exact replica of the original, is unlikely to turn off Cats-lovers, nor win over Cats-loathers. It works best as a showcase for the energetic young cast and what it does best – which is dance.
As Mistoffelees, 20-year-old stand-out Ricky Ubeda, season winner of the TV competition So You Think You Can Dance, delivers an athletic solo turn late in Act II clearly tailor-made for his talents.
While director Trevor Nunn and set and costume designer John Napier more or less recreate their work from the original production, new lighting designer Natasha Katz adds her own touches, as does Andy Blankenbuehler, the Tony-winning choreographer of Hamilton.
Although the program carefully credits his work as based on the original choreography by Gillian Lynne, anybody who’s seen Hamilton will recognize Blankenbuehler’s signature moves, including some hip rhythmic bending from the ensemble, but the dancing is most marked by its variety, from jazz to rock to ballet.
If the lyrics are largely lost in the swirl, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score holds up. The performances, though, are uneven. Pop star Leona Lewis, as Grizabella, has the voice for Memory, but captures none of the character’s complexity – the quality dignity mixed with pathos that Elaine Page and Betty Buckley brought to the role.