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I purred. I howled. I laughed so hard I coughed up a furball.
OK, not really. I just couldn’t resist using that for a lead for a review of “Cats,” which opened Tuesday at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte.
The show, which premiered in London in 1981, won seven Tony awards in 1983 including “Best Musical,” and continued to play on Broadway through 2000.
More than a quarter of a century ago, “Cats” was avant garde theatre: edgy, fresh.
Now? Well, if opening night in Charlotte was any indication, it’s the kind of show that parents bring their 5-year-olds to see ó which may or not be a good idea, depending on the particular 5-year-old and his or her attention span.
Certainly, kids can appreciate the grand spectacle that is “Cats,” which is perhaps more about dance than anything. The athletic actors do an amazing job of conveying the lissome, acrobatic nature of felines.
The little boy in front of me was so palpably excited by the tap dancing in one scene that I thought he was going to levitate out of his chair. The brilliantly done lighting also adds to the show’s excitement.
The cast’s ability to dance energetically while still belting out lyrics is astounding. A good example of this is the duet between MungoJerrie and Rumpelteazer (Andrew Parker Greenwood and Kristy Cavanaugh).
Andrew Lloyd Weber’s music is also wonderful ó which is a good thing because there is rarely, if ever, a silent moment. I do not recall any part of the show where the music stopped for even a snippet of just plain dialogue.
“Memories,” of course, is the show’s signature song, and Tricia Tanguy, as the aging glamour cat at death’s door, sings this plaintive lament beautifully.
Several actors stand out in this production, including Zander Meisner as the lascivious tomcat Rum Tum Tugger, who plays the part like a randy rock star.
Christopher Sidoli also shines as Growltiger the pirate in “Growltiger’s Last Stand.” Sidoli plays the actor cat as a bombastic scenery-muncher not above upstaging his leading lady, Griddlebone. Sidoli has a great big voice, perfect for the faux opera.
Still, for me, T.S. Eliot’s clever verse is the greatest pleasure about “Cats” ó although at times I couldn’t make out the lyrics, which was frustrating. Most of the poems are in their originally published form, although a few have been slightly revised or added to.
Eliot, who was a frightfully serious poet (“The Wasteland”), showed his playful side in the wonderfully whimsical “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” which was written for his godchildren and published in 1939.
Clearly, Eliot was a man who knew his cats, from the white-spatted Bustopher Jones (“the stoutest of cats”) to the disobliging Rum Tum Tugger who’s “always on the wrong side of every door,” who “doesn’t care for a cuddle” but will “leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing.”
Yes, he “will do/As he do do/And there’s no doing anything about it!” ó which is about as good a summation of feline nature as anyone has ever come up with.
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“Cats” will continue its run at Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd. tonight and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $20-$75.
Call 704-372-3600 or go to www.ovens auditorium.com.
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Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270 or kscarvey@salisburypost.com.

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