Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Now and forever
It’s always fun to go to public events with Megan. In addition to the pleasure of her company, I get all these approving smiles from women of a certain age. No doubt they’re thinking: isn’t that sweet, that nice man is taking his granddaughter out for some very improving culture.
Last night’s event was Cats. Yes, THAT Cats, the Andrew Lloyd Webber juggernaut currently playing at the Keller Auditorium as the Portland stop in a national tour. Though the spectacle premiered in 1981, I never saw it back in the day, because there were no comps whatsoever to be had. (In my student days, I saw only the second acts of Broadway shows anyway, and Cats just didn’t tickle my spider sense.) So I was grateful for the opportunity to see what nearly 30 years of fuss has been about.
Well. Talk about truth in advertising. The play is about cats. Probably you already know this is all based on a book of light verse by T.S. Eliot, of all people: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, from 1939. (Intriguingly, however, the one song you can actually hum, Memory, hails from Tom’s groovier, more avant-garde phase.) None of it makes a lick of sense, really, but it’s all very colorful, and the talented touring cast dances their tails off. (Ahem.)
The video posted above is not of the current national tour, but this is exactly what last night looked like; apparently all the production elements are codified. Never mind that the dance vocabulary and Webber’s hodgepodge of a score are shopworn (the synth-heavy arrangements recall MTV of yore), the thing is an event. The gleeful opening night audience include a startling number of people (and I’m talking adults here) with velvet cat’s ears on their heads and/or sporting puss print outfits. Impressive!
Cats is probably not a show for jaded theater lifers like myself; I can’t help but see through the tricks and even be a tad irked by the staginess of it all. But for those who still thrill at pulsing strobe lights shone in their faces or for whom lots and lots of makeup hold a forbidden fascination, the show may be magic. Certainly last night’s audience enjoyed the play thoroughly.
Know what else I’ve never seen? Les Miz and Miss Saigon. I’m counting on the Keller’s Broadway series to also fill in these lacunae in my theater education, tool. Where was I, anyway, during the waning years of the Broadway musical? It feels like I skipped from Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar straight over to In the Heights and Passing Strange. Feel free to tell me what I missed.