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Manchester 'CATS' trip report

Date and Time: Thursday March 20th 2003, 7.30pm
Place: Manchester Palace Theatre, Manchester.

Well, this trip involved a LONG train ride, with Richard (Ampersand) accompanying me, I think it was a 2 hour ride (?) all the way up north from London. After I think it was 2 hours of wandering around, eating lunch/dinner and such forth, we finally made it into the theatre, bought programmes, discovered that the brochures weren’t available yet! (Grr!!) we got to our seats, and waited for the show to start.


The announcement over the tannoy system to the audience was that the swings onstage were Ben Tribe as Coricopat, Amy Ellen Richardson as Jemima, and Stori James as Mungojerrie. At hearing that, I was really excited, because I haven’t seen Stori perform in what seems like so long.
I actually think I saw him going across the front of the staging area before the lights dimmed and stuff…but it could have been my eyes playing tricks on me…

ACT I:

Prologue ~ There was less laughing at the cats appearing than the West End, I can‘t figure out why that was. One of the women in the front row shrieked because one of the cats, I think it was Rumpleteazer, came in the side door and sniffed at her! Everyone was laughing at her! I noticed they had lights all over the front of the overhead area of the stage, and the same circle of lights that descended above the stage (that rigging thing Misto dances under?)
First problem I noticed was that in this theatre, they have five horizontal speakers placed at either side of the stage, halfway up and attached to the wall. This masked the view of whoever was on the top of the oven….thereby I could not see as well as I’d like.

Noticed of course, without Etcetera, Tugger did not act the same as London. I think, from what I can remember, and what I could see, Bill Bailey was pushed by a stage crew member, and Tugger stayed on the main area of the stage for the dances. Therefore when Bill finished swinging, I think for some of the trapeze moves he was upside down he stayed up on top of the oven and disappeared for a while.

Oh yeah, and also noticed Mungojerrie (Stori) being all grinny and acting up to Demeter! Mind you that was to be expected, since Demeter was being played by Barbara King and she’s alongside him with choreography and so forth for the tour.

Naming of ~ This looked strange to the eye, when all scattered out, there seemed to be LOTS of cats, but all collected it seemed to be a much smaller, compact group.
Victoria wasn’t as flexible as some of the London actresses. She only took her leg up three-quarters of the way, but admittedly did the splits better than any actress I’ve seen before! Cassandra (Summer Strallen) was at the left front of the stage watching Vicki all the time. Then Mistoffelees (Guy Paul) came onstage again and that was when I noticed how slow the music was.

Invitation to the Jellicle Ball ~ Munkustrap (Norman Bowman) came back onstage for the invitation and stood on the trunk throughout, not centre stage as usual. Victoria, in the middle of the assembled group at the front, makes the same sweepy motion she does in the video.

Gumbie Cat ~ There was a LOT going on here…unlike London, Skimble doesn’t run about with things under his arms getting ready, lol.
Mistoffelees, not Jennyanydots (Karen Clegg) was in charge of shooing the kittens when they were finished in the mice costumes.
Demeter, Bombalurina and Jellylorum came in from the front of the stage, and then went up the back to sit and sing. The naughty cockroach, again, was Carbucketty….lol Jenny got quite annoyed with him…
The tap dancing routine was same sort of length as London, possibly a few changes as to staging, and a beautifully choreographed piece. Still funny to see Jenny nearly falling off the stage however! ;)
Mistoffelees, Demeter, Bombalurina, and Jellylorum come down the front to dance with Jenny and the cockroaches, and at the end Munkustrap had to come to the rescue of Jenny at the cry of ‘Tugger!’ and a loud bout of meowing.

Rum Tum Tugger ~ Tugger appears up the back left of the stage (think of the Video Production) instead of the centre area like in London. He seemed to be following Bombalurina around the stage! What made me giggle was that the ball he kicked was pink and fluffy…lol, NOT macho, I’m afraid Tugger… There were a few things I found annoying…for a start, he stuck his tongue out too much, lifted his leg like he was a Pollicle about to wet himself constantly (!) and didn’t have the same swaying swagger and mannerisms that I’ve now come to associate with Tugger. But on the whole, other than that, he was a good dancer and I couldn’t fault his performance too much. After sticking his tail in the yowling Rumpleteazer’s mouth ;) and sending his posse, consisting of Tantomile, Victoria and Jemima into yowls and screams, instead of raising his arms as I’ve seen John Partridge do, he did a sort of double spin in mid air then landed. I kinda wonder how he did it, to be honest…
Anyway, when Grizabella appeared he stopped mid sentence, and stuck his tongue out at her, instead of mouthing naughty words…*giggle*

Grizabella ~ A terrific performance, and I was reminded of why I love Chrissie Hammond as Grizabella. Her voice blew me away, the song completely emotional and very sad.
And I was ALSO reminded of why I don’t like Barbara King as Demeter, her voice is a bit too deep and too cockney. She says ‘Macavit-ay’ instead of ‘Macavity‘. What I noticed to be different, which is unlike other performances, the note of the end of “Grizabella the Glamour Cat” at the end of the song, isn’t held, its just a abrupt end.

Bustopher Jones ~ I laughed my way through this!
Bustopher was trying to pat Coricopat’s paw at the end lineup, and Coricopat kept moving his hand and Bustopher got confused. Another funny sight was Carbucketty and Bill Bailey chasing his feet and Bustopher looking perturbed, LMAO!
As in all other productions, he gives Jenny the flower, and she, by tradition, pretends to faint with Jellylorum catching her.

Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer ~ WOW! Stori James, I adore you! I’ve never seen such a good Mungojerrie! All the cheekiness I’d expect to see. The acrobatics by both him and his Rumpleteazer were excellent, the only flaw was the music was way too slow. And particularly nice to hear again what was edited out on the video!

Old Deuteronomy ~ Mistoffelees goes offstage to get Old Deuteronomy. A unusual greeting between Tugger and Munkustrap, they sort of clenched fists and touched knuckles. Tugger actually at this point proved he had a good voice. Stuart Ramsey certainly started to endear me, probably right now he’s my second favourite Tugger actor now.
When Old Deuteronomy comes up Tugger turns his back and thwaps his mane, then turns back to greet him, that really looked funny.

Pekes and Pollicles ~ I really had to giggle at two things here. First off, when Munkustrap made the announcement at the start, as in London, Tugger jumped down off the top of the junkpiles, and followed him across the stage, making fun of him, and copying every movement! LMAO! I think Munkustrap caught on, looked round, and Tugger went all cool and hip and strutted offstage!
The second was Summer Strallen, sitting up the back as Cassandra with Old Deuteronomy. She just couldn’t be bothered to bark, and you could see she’d put on this disgusted face that said ’this is WAY below me..’ *grin*
Again, appeared to be Rumpleteazer and Mungojerrie in disguise. Tugger’s bagpipe playing, yeah, uh….he caused total chaos, thankyovermuch, before getting angry glares and throwing the bagpipes over the back of the set!
Rumpus Cat got several laughs at the part where Munkustrap says “Fiercer or hairier…“ and I noticed neither of those two cats bowed at the end of the song.

The Jellicle Ball ~ Whee! The best part! I noticed how tall Jemima (Amy Ellen) was, tallest Jemima so far! All very good in dancing, etc, added part of Misto/Carb dancing with Jemima and Vicki, which I believe was also in the London performance. (?)
Tugger grabs Bomblurina after her solo part dancing with the other queens, and leads her up the back. She spent a few moments snuggling with him then hopped up and walks off. I think after she’d gone I saw Cassandra giving Tugger a look as well, then when Tugger approached Cassandra slunk off, and so Tugger was alone again, lol!
Played the mating dance like the video, Demeter without a partner, Munkustrap is with Deuteronomy again, (eww, lol!) but Tugger’s with Bombalurina who got into the most unusual high kick position on top of him, it looked more like a beautiful balancing act than anything else.
Grizabella did reappear, and was seen in top right audience box then disappears after watching a while. Then it was the final dance! Huge applause followed this, then Grizabella came back on.

Memory (part 1) ~ All the other cats left, except Old Deuteronomy, who stayed on the tyre with his back to her. He turned towards the end of her song, and reached out to her, but didn’t get up. As in London, he stayed onstage and signed autographs for a lot of eager little kids and teenagers, but I didn’t go up…theres always another time tho! *grin*

ACT II

Moments of Happiness ~ When the cats came back into the auditorium Demeter entered via the side door by our row. She walked down the aisle a bit, rubbed her head on the woman’s knee on the end of the row, and caught me staring at her, and just stared back. It was so funny!!! Then she did this cute little meow thing with her mouth, and I was like, wow….a fellow Demet(a)er, lol…

Gus the Theatre Cat/Growltiger ~ Gus is back!! YAY! The pirates in Growltiger’s scene were Mistoffelees, Skimbleshanks, Tugger and Munkustrap, with a small set up the back of the staging with sails and a helm (the boats steering wheel) Backdrop same as London with the sudden appearing boat sails and disappearing moon.
The performance, however, seemed to lack a spark of something, and the walking the plank part was different to London. However the Siamese choreography was excellent, one of the best performances I’ve seen.
The duet performed between Griddlebone and Growltiger was the English version! First time I have EVER seen it performed live, and it worked really well. The mattress was not a mattress, more like a small couch, lilac coloured, and the four ‘pirates’ gathered to sing along and Tugger in particular taking more notice of Griddle than anything else, lol!

Skimbleshanks ~ He went to ‘sleep’ on the rigging on the side of the stage, near Misto, who nudged him to wake him, and he nearly fell off!! LMAO!

Macavity ~ He appeared in the box, same as Grizabella did earlier, and mwhaha‘ed! . Then he suddenly came onstage and Old Deuteronomy was dragged off to the left side, with all the cats scattering. He didn’t speak as I recall, like he does in London.
The song…performed by Bombalurina and Demeter…already given my verdict on Demeter’s voice, but Bombalurina was also way too low in tone and alto. Not very feminine, and made the song seem dull and slow. Of course the slow music didn’t help…all in all, I was disappointed, even London was better than this! I should give credit to both however, it was danced very well, I can’t fault that.
The fight……very well choreographed and planned. More CATS than in London come out to help, and of course Alonzo saves the day. The lights out effect seemed weak however, the fuse blow effect sounded more like a bowl of popcorn popping...

Mistoffelees ~ Well, we actually had Cassandra doing the transformation! Guy Paul makes a very good Misto, even if he was a bit tall and broad to seem like a magic cat, and wasn’t quite as flexible and didn’t have the same grace, and didn’t do half as many acrobatics as the London Misto’s I saw. But what acrobatics that were done were flawless and I still wonder how Misto can turn that many times around and around without getting dizzy and falling over…anyway as expected, our Old Deuteronomy returned safe and well!

Memory (part 2) till the Addressing ~ Very rousing. Chrissie’s a PERFECT Grizabella. Much the same as the video, from here till the end, although for obvious reasons the tire didn’t rise so much, and the Ascension staircase descended at a side angle like the video. Tugger was standing on the trunk area, higher than the other cats.

At the end when all the cats come out for the encore, they lined up, something I don’t remember them doing in London. And of course the line-up wouldn’t be complete without Bill doing a amazing set of flips across the front of the stage…


Afterwards, to the stage door…

Met several of the performers, those that stand out in my mind as being particularly nice and chatty were Skimbleshanks (Matthew Gould) Carbucketty (Paul Farrell) and Alonzo (Matthew Cole), but I liked Skimble in particular….maybe it really is true that Demet(a)er had a affair with a ginger tom, lol..;)
~Demeta~

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