On Friday, the GF and I saw Cats at the Paramount in Seattle.
It's the second time I've seen the show. The first time, I saw it on Broadway in 1987 (or was it 1986?). My high school had an annual tradition called Activity Day. Every Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior had to choose one activity from a list and participate. The activities included Planetarium trips, weekends away, golf outings, and more. There were between 50 and 100 to choose from. If you didn't choose one, it was chosen for you -- Gymn Movie. You had to watch a bad movie in the gymn.
One year, I chose go see Cats.
It was my first Broadway experience, and I had only a vague idea of what was going on. But I enjoyed the music, and for years afterward songs from the show would just pop into my head at random moments. I'd be walking down the street and suddenly Magical Mr. Mistoffolees would be twirling next to me. Or I'd find myself needing to dodge the latest antics of Mungojerrie (or was it Rumpleteazer?)
So 20+ years later, how does the traveling show hold up? Pretty well, though it's not quite the same. The stage is smaller. And while the performers still scamper about the audience, they don't have the same ownership of the space that they did in the custom theater.
The show itself has some pacing issues. Several of the dance numbers go on way too long. While I do enjoy the song and dance, I also want the story to move along. As I've done more writing and work with Play Cole, I've come to appreciate the need to advance the story.
But Cat's is about more than the show itself. It's about Broadway history. Cat's brought in a new era of big Broadway musicals, and paved the way for long running shows like Les Miserable and Phantom of the Opera. Would either of those shows have had the success they did without following the path carved out by Cats? Would we have been willing to accept the people dressed up like locomotives in Starlight Express, if we hadn't already accepted people dressed up as Cats?
Cats opened up Broadway to a wider audience and brought in leagues of new theater goers. Tracing its legacy further, I wonder if Giuliani would have been able to transform Times Square from the seedy version of the 80s into the Disney version of the late 90s had it not been for the new era in musical theater that Cats brought into the city.
But back to the show. If you are a theater fan, go see it when you get the chance. It's a good show, with some great music, and an important place in theatrical history.
If you bore easily from dance, or insist on a fast-paced story, or do not care for plays based on poetry anthologies, suffer from ailurophobia, can't set aside the silliness of the idea, or only insist on best of breed performances, you can probably skip this tour.
I'm glad I didn't.