Theatre, West End
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© Matt Crokett
Beverley Knight (Grizabella)

This bizarre musical gets an even more bizarre reboot.

Cats will return for Christmas 2015 with a new cast headed by Beverley Knight as Grizabella.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cats’, which ran for 21 years at the New London Theatre back in the days when people presumably had more money for drugs, is a stupendously weird piece of musical theatre. It’s an almost plot-free variety show based on a very ’80s pretension – an adaptation of a collection of TS Eliot poems – and an unerring sense of the British fondness for felines, face paint and old-fashioned parochial structures.

Updating ‘Cats’ for 2014 via the introduction of a rapper and Nicole thingy off of ‘X Factor’ is a bit like trying to update a Betamax player via the introduction of a rapper and Nicole thingy off of ‘X Factor’: you can’t repurpose with modern signifiers alone.
Nonetheless, this is what Webber and original director Trevor Nunn have done, and in a way, good for them: depressing as it is that we’re forced to turn to the oldies to fill the West End’s largest theatres, it’s good that the creators of ‘Cats’ have made a bit of an effort rather than simply plonking the touring version on the Palladium’s storied stage.

And, actually, the casting of Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella The Glamour Cat is perfectly justified: all she really has to do is wander round looking sad – admittedly in a rather skimpier outfit than Elaine Paige from the original London cast wore – and occasionally belt out bits of ‘Memory’, the show’s best song, which she does very well. She’ll get a few younger folk through the door and probably win over some older folk besides, but it should be noted that it’s a small role, one turn in a long night of turns.

More problematic is Antoine Murray-Straughan’s Rum Tum Tugger, who is now a rapper, rather than the rocker of old. Drenched in bling and accompanied by writhing lady cats and the sound of scratching vinyl, I suppose, charitably, you could say that he fulfils a similar role to the knowing black stereotypes that crop up in modern pantomimes. Still, pantos tend to have ethnically diverse audiences who are in on the joke; on the overwhelmingly white press night for ‘Cats’, the vibe was all a bit ‘Richard Madeley dressing-up as Ali G’.

But, again, this is only one tiny part of the near-three hour ‘Cats’ juggernaut, which kind of bludgeons you into submission via Gillian Lynne’s aerobic choreography and John Napier’s gorgeous junkyard set and still impressive costumes.

There’s some more odd racial stuff and – the pitiable Grizabella aside – it's a bit hmmm how most of the turns are from male cats, fawned over by nubile female cats. But then there’s something undeniably fascinating about the show’s Victorian nostalgia, its melancholic obsession with ageing and death… and, let’s be honest, its sheer weirdness.

'Cats' is a ridiculous and often trying piece of theatre, but its curio value is undeniable. If your interest is piqued and you’ve not seen it before, you’d be a bit of a pussy not to check it out.

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By: Andrzej Lukowski


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Average User Rating

2.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:6
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2 of 2 found helpful

The first act was one of the most boring thing I've ever seen and it was hard to understand what the performer were singing. The second act is an explosion of scene changes, music, dance, light... it seems they spent all the money in what people usually remember: the end. In the second act the audio was much better.

I didn't like very much the choice of combining very colorful costumes with an even more colorful scene set: everything mixes together and nothing stands out.

Nicole Scherzinger sings surprisingly well.

1 of 1 found helpful
moderatorStaff Writer

Zero storyline.  

I think Cats is a Marmite musical - everyone I've spoken to either loves it or hates it.  I hated it.  I need a story to follow, and unfortunately there isn't one.  The only remote action is a the kidnapping of a character, who returns within five minutes!

The dancing and costumes were incredible, but after half an hour even these loose their appeal.

The friend I went with wanted to walk out in the interval.  I made him stay, and he later thanked me, because Nicole Scherzinger's four minute solo in the second half was the only redeeming part of the entire show! 

One of the worst shows I've ever seen in the West End, and I love theatre and musicals.

1 of 1 found helpful

On your way into the theater - if you're lucky - you'll encounter a guy looking to buy your tickets. If, like us, you bought them months in advance and are giddy with delight to finally see one of musical theater's "classics" (with a Pussycat Doll starring, no less), my advice is to let go of your excitement and sell the damn things. A quick buck will be infinitely better than the play.


1. The sound is terrible. (We were sitting on the upper circle, perhaps it's better elsewhere, but I doubt it). The problem is that songs in which lyrics are clearly important are very rarely sung by individual performers. And instead of having a choral synchronicity, you end up with 30 odd singers all just belting it out together. I struggled to make out even every 3rd word and completely lost track of what was happening, save for the broad strokes of a plot that seemed tenuous at best.

2. Once you realise that there is no way you'll be able to make out the story using your understanding of English - and you hear pockets of the audience cheering in apparent delight - you will start thinking that perhaps you are missing something. Yes! Cats is perhaps best understood through non-verbal communication! Like a ballet! Nope... The dancing is cool, but pretty repetitive and clearly not enough to help you understand what the hell is happening. The costumes are fab, save for the Grizabella (Pussycat Doll!) character whose costume is TOO fab - my husband did not even realise the character of Grizabella is supposed to be old and decrepit as she just looks grey-but-glam.

We left during the interval - along with many others.

Don't waste your money - why this thing is so big and famous baffles me.

The set for this production is fantastic, superbly detailed and beautifully curated so that we are immediately transported into somewhere slightly otherworldly. The junkyard sets the scene for an eerie and beautiful theatrical experience, and the costumes and makeup of the cats only highlights the strangeness of it all. The cast move so brilliantly as a collective and are so feline it can be easy to forget they are not cats, and each one exudes personality so well that they you are quite often moved by the things they tell us...As the story progresses we are introduced to each cat and shown their experiences, charms, familiarities, loves, and quirks. Once you realise that this musical is based on TS Eliot’s ‘Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats’ it all makes a little more sense and the almost chapter-like element of the show mimic the poems in Eliot’s book precisely.

WOW lots of negative comments about this show on here so lets freshen things up a bit.  First time to see CATS so there was no "back in the 80's" hangovers or "I remember the original" or "Can't believe they dare change it" just me and my wife out for evening watching something to us that was new. It was BRILLIANT - the stage was amazing, the dance and choreography as so, costumes fab and we quickly picked up the story and what we were being told.  We felt a little sorry for the cast as Beverly Knight got the biggest applause but the show was more than one person or should I say cat.  We would highly recommend this to anyone and not having seen the original we loved the fresh rap additions.  Why keep things in the 80's - everything in life needs a lick of paint from time to time.  Superb and would see this again.

Staff Writer

The dancers and singing was enjoyable and staging was great. Overall a pleasant evening.


Quite possibly the worst musical on this planet. Yes the songs are catchy, you'll probably know them because this show has been going so long. There is absolutely no story line, just some people dressed as cats chilling around the place and being cat-like. The characters don't make you feel anything, and it was honestly one of the only times in my life that I've wanted to leave the theatre before it ends. If you have a choice, book something with more street cred than this spectacular nothingness. 


 I watched cats as a child and totally loved it, so I was really excited to see it again after so many years.

Unfortunately, the current production isn't great. It's only on for 11 weeks and it feels like they didn't make much of an effort.

The timing of music, light and dancers was often off. The dancers were out of sync most of the time and just generally not very good.

I still really like the music and the singing was good. However, I really don't like what happened to Rum Tum Tugger - he's now rapping and break dancing and it just doesn't work. Either update the whole musical or keep it as it is, but don't think you can get away with just refreshing bits of it.

I went on a Thu night and got really good seats for just £25 (they were day seats you can get on the day at the box office), so for the price I guess it was okay. But I think I would've been really disappointed if I had paid the full price of £60 - it's definitely not worth it.

Great performance, good music, excellent costumes, not a bad storyline. I really enjoyed it!

Staff Writer

My review comes with a caveat: I believe 80% of my enjoyment of this musical came from the fact that I loved it as a child. Indeed for a considerable chunk of my childhood my life ambition was to be in 'Cats', so it's no wonder the songs still make me feel happy even though they're hilariously dated. This production was mostly great (and comfortingly similar to the one I saw in the 90s), though it does drag in a fair few places, and the 'trendy' rewrite of Rum Tum Tugger's song was the most embarrassing thing I have ever watched on a stage. But lots of fun, some ace stage effects and Beverley Knight nailed it.


Watching Cats is like going for a ride in a time machine and ending up slap bang in the middle of the 80s and I'm not sure this musical can compete with what else is on offer anymore. It has a fantastically talented ensemble cast and Beverley Knight singing Memory will be sure to give you goosebumps. But don't bother going if you haven't read the TS Eliot poem as you'll be none the wiser. A series of short stories with a weak over riding narrative you're in it for the costumes, dances and a couple of memorable tunes. But ultimately, I think this is one Cat we should perhaps put out for the night and not let back in.  


I had high hopes for this musical, having learnt all the songs when I was a kid at school. Unfortunately I was very disappointed in the story line. The songs and costumes were good, but the whole musical lacked any oomph. I saw it with Nicole Scherzinger, who sang Memory beautifully. I wonder if Beverly Knight can bring the punters in.


How this show got so famous is beyond me. This is truly a waste of time…

I got there with great expectations. I mean ‘Cats’ right? But this is really terrible.

There’s no storyline whatsoever. Just cats singing about their cat life. I’d rather watch a YouTube cat video if you ask me.

The singing is alright, if only the sound wasn’t that terrible that you can’t actually make out any of the lyrics.

The dancing is amateurish at best. The white cat couldn’t even straighten her leg without shivering. Any professional dancer should do that without a struggle!

Costumes are wonderful – colourful and brilliantly made. But this is not enough to save the show.

I felt truly bored and I should definitely have left at the interval. 

Staff Writer

If I could give this musical a minus rating I would. It's the most boring, most "what on earth am I doing here", terrible show I have ever seen...really, ever! There's not plot, no story line, just a really bad imitation of cats (evidently none of the people on the Cats team actually studied a cat because they couldn't even do that properly) and a show that sells because it's famous and that's all. I still can't understand how Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phantom of the Opera be one of my favourite shows and this one be so badly done/performed etc. It's really sad if someone comes to visit London and that's the only musical they see they might think everything is like that. Unfortunetly not even Nicole Scherzinger solo act was worth it (but def was the only thing that could potentially rescue it). I was about to leave after the 1st act but really wanted to know what the fuss was all about and to be honest I would have had much more fun if I would have stayed home playing with my cat! Don't waste your time & money on this. 

I saw Cats originally in the 1980s and it met all of my expectation of a top West End show.  The only bit of this 2015 version that I enjoyed was Memories.  I couldn't understand the lyrics and my 2 grammar school children were utterly confused and kept asking me what was going on.   I would have left during the interval, but the tickets were not cheap. I feel like I've been fleeced.