“Cats the Musical”, one of the most famous Broadway shows of all time, is currently at Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center. You should have heard of the original Broadway musical, you couldn’t miss the infamous 2019 “Cats” film, and now you can experience it live, for a limited-time. If you are seeing it for the first time, or for the 100th time, why should you go see “Cats the Musical”?
Cats is celebrating its 40th (jellicle) anniversary with a nationwide tour. This (jellicle) tour has already had over 200 (jellicle) showings, and will continue through June 26, where it will end in Portland, Oregon. If you have seen the show before, do not fret, for it holds true to its original (jellicle) storyline, soundtrack and passionate cast. If you haven’t seen this (jellicle) musical before, you might be wondering why jellicle is overrunning this paragraph.
First things first, this is not the same as the 2019 “Cats” movie, and that’s a very good thing. While I had known of the Broadway musical, and heard some of its songs, my first full introduction to it was the film. This review then, is coming from a novice of the musical, who saw it in its true form at the Dr. Phillips Center for the first time. The lights, sound, energy, and performance showcases the wild and wacky world of Cats. But, it does so in a way that is truly Broadway, unlike the odd forms seen in the film.
The music and the characters are captivating, much like my favorite (seen above), Rum Tum Tugger, portrayed by Zach Bravo. His eccentric style and extreme over-confidence would cause laughs and loud cheering from the crowd. But Rum Tum Tugger is certainly not the only cat with a stand-out personality. In fact, that is what made the show great, and offered so many unique song styles.
All of the cats, while of course inherently cat-like, held their own place on the stage. And each performer was given their time in the spotlight. For those who haven’t seen the musical, there is less of a hierarchy between characters than there is in the film. In fact, there are some stark differences between this Broadway musical and its (very bad) film rendition.
The musical focuses less on following the life of Grizabella, played by Jennifer Hudson in the 2019 film. Instead Grizabella, portrayed by Tayler Harris in this 2021-2022 national tour of “Cats the Musical” is kept to the sad shadows until she is precisely needed. As a major plot-point of the musical and the film, I feel Grizabella’s story is stronger when she is portrayed this way. Instead of being the sad main character, we see someone who is truly alone and left to be, someone who yearns to be heard. And hear her you shall, as Tayler Harris’ voice was fully showcased during her stand-out moments on stage.
The ca(s)t also sold the show, as you could watch any specific individual to see another story. Their movements are akin to a feline, but their grace and strength on stage is what sold this show as something from Broadway.
If you have not been before, the Walt Disney Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center is meant for large-scale productions. It is located in the heart of downtown Orlando. The Dr. Phillips Center offers ample seating, accessibility options, views of the city, and the production means to recreate these famous Broadway musicals here in Central Florida.
Even more musicals are coming to the Dr. Phillips Center, including “Beetlejuice,” “Hamilton,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Wicked,” and many more. You can purchase individual tickets, or even become a subscriber to see shows again and again for a lower rate.
For those who have seen “Cats the Musical” before, and are thinking about it again, I truly do recommend the Dr. Phillips Center. This center is a wonderful location, well-fitted to offer what is needed to pull off a large-scale offering. For those who haven’t seen this Broadway musical before, I can tell you a few things.
These songs will be stuck in your head, as they are very catchy. During intermission, I heard numerous men humming the songs while waiting for the restroom. The cast is energetic and intense. For those closer to the stage, don’t be surprised if some piercing feline eyes are staring you down scene after scene. The set has minimal changes, unlike other Broadway productions, but large props are used often. That being said, this does allow for a powerful finale scene.
This broadway musical is not like the film adaptation, and that was good to see. The choreography is on-going. This is a musical, and one that showcases a lot of dancing. You will see numerous dance numbers, some with abrupt endings as the life of an outdoor cat is one of danger and mystery. You will be surprised. Shoes fall from the sky, the antagonist can appear at any time and there is some hidden tech that helps amplify the story.
Overall, “Cats the Musical” has been showing around the world for 40 years. If you want to be a new fan, or are a long-standing one, you can see these performers bring this world to life. But hurry, “Cats the Musical” won’t be in Orlando for long.