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Should I Give Cats a Try? 
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Young Hoofer
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Post Should I Give Cats a Try?
I wouldn't call myself a hard-core ALW fan quite yet. He is my favorite musical composer but I have yet to hear/see/whatever some of his shows including Cats. Now dispite the fact that it is Broadway's second longest running show (or is it third now?) and that it is ALW I have stayed as far away from Cats as humanly possible. Yes, I've heard Memory (the wonderful rendition by Michael Ball) and the orchestral powerhouse that is "The Jellicle Ball". I've stayed away from everything else because frankly I think that Cats looks rediculous. That and I hate, hate, hate Sarah Brightman (don't hate me).
But...I know that a lot of people hold Cats in high regards so I am curious about Cats. I know I can't enjoy it any less than I enjoyed The Beautiful Game. But the question I have for all of you guys is "Is Cats worth giving a try?" The cast album is $25 on iTunes. Is there enough classic webber in there other than Memory and The Jellicle Ball to warrant such an ivestment?

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Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:34 am
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
Madison-Todd wrote:
That and I hate, hate, hate Sarah Brightman



:D YAY! I hate her too. I personally hate Cats, I think it's ridiculous and idiotic. Just my humble opinion.

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Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:49 am
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Young Hoofer
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
I personally love Cats, so I would definitely recommend you give it a try :)


Fri Mar 08, 2013 4:35 am
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
It depends on what you like in the first place. The first thing to remember is that Cats is more a ballet with singing, than a musical. So much of the story and character is told through dance and music, not the lyrics. It is also a concept musical, meaning the central theme explored is more important than the standard dramatic narrative of most musicals.

With that in mind, the music is highly varied. Each character sings in a different musical style. From rock to jazz to classical, to parody operetta. So there is almost certainly something you will like. "The Rum Tum Tugger" (rock and roll) and "Macavity: the Mystery Cat" (sleazy jazz) are two of Webber's best character songs.

Now, obviously, from just a cast recording, you are going to have no clue as to what is going on. Which recording then becomes the question. I assume you mean the original London recording (since you mentioned Brightman, but don't worry, her part is small). I would not start there, personally. It's fun, but still has the mess of an untried concept about it, and some very poor editing and cuts to it. Then there is the Broadway recording. I hate this one, myself, and would not recommend it at all. If you must get one in English, then go for the Australian recording. It is the most complete English recording, having the whole libretto recorded, and is the product of a finished show, rather than a work in progress as London and Broadway were. If you don't require it in English, then the Polish and Vienna highlights are both wonderful recordings (Polish more so) and the Hamburg live recording is more (but not totally) complete.

My advice would be to turn to youtube. There is a great variety of good (and terrible) versions on there, so you can get a taste to see if you like the music before anything else.



Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:45 am
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
Well, on the one hand it's silly escapist crap...


But on the other the music's a lot of fun and it's enjoyable in a guilty pleasure sort of way. I recommend the Broadway cast to listen to (I'm curious as to why Mungojerrie above dislikes it), and then the filmed version if you feel so inclined. I'm not huge on it myself (like I said, it's utterly escapist) but it has its moments.


Fri Mar 08, 2013 3:19 pm
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
The video version is terrible, in my opinion. It's horribly edited and the camera angles are too awkward. You have to see it live in order to understand it's appeal. If you ever decide to do so, be sure that it's a good quality production. Unfortunately, the current national tour here in the US (which is currently on hiatus) is very cheap. The orchestrations are dreadful and heavily synthesized. I would absolutely listen to a cast recording before seeing it, as I fnd it nearly impossible to appreciate the music with that tour. Also, try to see it up close so that you can feel more apart of the experience.

Mungojerrie_ rt said it perfecly: it is a dance show more than a musical. There are story elements that hold it together, but it is otherwise a revue in format. I find the dancing and choreography mesmirizing; the infusion of anthropomorphisim into dance is fascinating to watch (I think basing choreography on animal movements is brilliant- not weird at all). The TS Elliot poems, which make up most of the lyrics, are whimsical and even a little philosophical at times (you can read them online). The music varies in genres and styles. My favorite moments in the show are the quieter ones: The Naming of Cats, Victoria's Solo, The Moments of Happiness ...they're very mysterious, sometimes dark, moments. And of course, there's Memory. Let me just say that no recording will ever compare to hearing it live. The last verse is seriously the most powerful belt I have ever heard. It made me jump in my seat when I first saw the show. It is truly a thrilling song to hear live.

If sitting through two and a half hours of dancing with no storyline or character development does not sound appealing, then perhaps Cats is not the show for you. Otherwise, it is a very enjoyable and unique show, unlike anything you have ever seen. I think people saying it's stupid or shallow are being dramatic. It does not try to be anything more than what it is. Approach it with an open mind, knowing that it's different, and I think you'll find something to appreciate about it.

Edit: I love the Broadway recording for Betty Buckley, and the London recording for the original Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, but in terms of orchestrations, the Hamburg recording is the winner.


Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:56 pm
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
The film, yes, is shockingly edited, with petty and haphazard cuts made to reduce the running time by half an hour. It has a mixture of brilliant casting, and terrible casting.

Cptn. Wazoo wrote:
with no storyline or character development

That statement is simply not true. Again, the character and story come through music and dance, not lyrics. The characters are feline analogies for human personalities. To say there is no character or story is to not pay attention (or simply not understand the language of dance. For example, Demeter never says in words that Macavity is her ex-lover whom she both loves and hates, she dances it.

As for the Broadway recording, it is dull and lifeless. Most of the cast can do better, but they simply didn't on the recording. It also has poor orchestrations, and a low sound quality.


Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:15 pm
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
Cptn. Wazoo wrote:
The video version is terrible, in my opinion. It's horribly edited and the camera angles are too awkward.


Yeah, there's a lot of editing gaffes throughout, it's kinda surprising. And the direction can never make up its mind whether it's a filmed stage play or a full-out film, so we get an odd hybrid that, while it does lead to some great moments, also leads to some really terrible decisions like the close-up on Cassandrea during "moonlit eyes" in the Jellicle Ball. I also can't stand John Patridge in that.


And Mungojerrie, there certainly are story and characters...but barely a focus on story and little to no development. It's not where the musical's interests lie.


Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:03 pm
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
The video cast is pretty good, and I appreciate the 90 (?) piece orchestra. But I just don't see the point in a video production in the first place. The show should be experienced live.

Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
That statement is simply not true. Again, the character and story come through music and dance, not lyrics. The characters are feline analogies for human personalities. To say there is no character or story is to not pay attention (or simply not understand the language of dance. For example, Demeter never says in words that Macavity is her ex-lover whom she both loves and hates, she dances it.


I acknowledged that there are story elements, and I do agree with you regarding the dancing. But over the course of the show, there is little to no development in the story or characters. None of them truly change or progress, with the exception of Betty Buckley's portrayal of Grizabella (which is why it's so brilliant). If you feel differently, I would like to be proven wrong.

As for the Broadway recording, I agree that the orchestrations are a little clunky, and I dislike the cuts they made throughout (especially the instrumental after The Moments of Happiness!). But I adore Betty Buckley, Marlene Danielle, and Timothy Scott. Though they were much better live, based off of the bootlegs/clips I've listened to.


Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:18 pm
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
Frankly, Buckly's Grizabella is awful. Not because she can't do better, but because she didn't want to. She has said so herself. She simply stands and sings, with zero effort to portray a dying prostitute begging for forgiveness and acceptance. Delia Hannah, Debbie Byrne, Izabela Zając and Julia Howson re just a few example of vastly superior performances.

Marlene Danielle was not on the Broadway recording, as she was a swing at the time. Donna King is the Bombalurina on that recording, and dreadfully dull on it.

The problem with the film is David Mallet is directing. Like with his other video productions, he swings between shots so wide nothing is clear, shots so close all you see is a foot, and shots that last half a second, so it is impossible to make out what's going on.
They prerecorded the vocals in a studio and mimed to them like most musical films, taking multiple takes, but then took zero advantage of what can be done on film, but not stage, so it combines the worst of both worlds, using the best of neither.

You are right in that no one character is developed to a significant degree, but then, everybody gets two moments in the show, as the focus is on the collective rabble of characters and how they reflect society through cats, rather than on any one individual. The story of Grizabella is more a look at how the rest of the characters react to her (despised by the older cats, mocked by others, accepted by the innocents), rather than her story as an individual.


Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:34 pm
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
I would like a link to that interview, because that is entirely the opposite of what she has said in the interviews that I've watched and listened to. Hell, in one of her interviews for Broadway World she goes into detail about how she was almost going to be fired during the previews because she was failing to stop the show. She later got her inspiration from watching a homeless woman on the streets of New York, who was hideous looking like Grizabella, but walked around like she was the most beautiful person on the planet. THAT is Buckley's portrayal of Grizabella- a wise, proud cat who is tired and worn, but too proud to curl up and die. That, to me, is far more interesting than the typical "woe, is me" emotional temper tantrum that we see actress after actress give us over and over again. I'm bored of it, it's too one-note. Anyone can act sad.
Stand there and sings? Absolutely not. Watch her Tony Performance. Her feline mannerisms, vocal inflection, and subtle movements are brilliant.

My bad. Well no wonder she sounded better on the clips I've seen.

I completely agree, I would have much preferred a professionally recorded live performance, like the Sweeney Todd tape with George Hearn.

What do you mean by two moments in the show? Please elaborate. Also, I've always thought of Grizabella as the most human of all the cats, the one that the audience can relate the most to. That is why she is ultimately the most important character.

Edit: Watch from 15:25 - 20:41 ......it's very fascinating.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chlD4lb9nHs


Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:01 pm
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Post Re: Should I Give Cats a Try?
I can no longer find the interview, unfortunately.

Watching the interview you linked, I can see why I do not like her performance: she doesn't change it. She developed the facade that Grizabella has, but never drops it at the right moments. Memory is a breakdown. It is her end, so her haughty facade should crumble to reveal the desperation underneath. Buckley's never does that. She stays proud, so there is no reason for the other characters to forgive and accept her, as she never demonstrates her regret. That is why I adore Delia Hannah's performance. She comes out with a completely haughty exterior, and as the show moves on, we see it crumble. Remember this character was developed for Judi Dench to play, so it's never going to be simple.

The two moments stems from the original casting. The show was not finished, and the only cast member was Judi Dench, who asked to be in it (she was originally to be Jennyanydots, then Grizabella was added later). In order to attract people to audition for this show with no set roles, they said that everyone gets two moments in the spotlight. There have obviously been revisions to the show since then, but some elements of that remain.


Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:51 pm
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