By Dee Jae Cox
Cats is a musical, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’, by T.S. Eliot. Cats is the winner of the 1983 Tony Award for best Musical. And Cats is currently in production at the Palm Canyon Theatre through October 11th. – What Cat’s is not… is a production with any kind of comprehensible
I had not previously seen or researched Cats and was eager to see my first production of this London and Broadway phenomenon. I thought going without any preconceived ideas on the show would be an advantage when reviewing. That was a huge mistake. I left the theatre thinking, ‘what in the world was that? And how on earth did that become the third longest running show in Broadway history? Though T.S. Eliot was a gifted and renowned poet, his poems simply set to music with no dialogue and no script to transition the poetry from the page to the stage, felt like one big conglomerated mess under the guise of a theatrical production. I haven’t seen a show that I liked less since Urinetown. And this has got to be the first time that I have ever left a theatre without a clue as to what I had just spent two hours watching.
I did go home and do my search to try and find out what that musical was supposed to be about. Evidently Cats, tells the story of the Jellicle cats who have to make the ‘Jellicle Choice’ and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside layer and come back in a new life. And I care because…? While these poems may have been much more pleasurable in the written format, put to music I had no clue what they were singing about. I read that due to the Eliot estate preventing the use of any kind of script and insisting that only the original poems could be used as the text, the musical had no identified plot during the initial rehearsal process in London, and many actors were confused about what they were actually doing. I can certainly empathize with those actors; I had no clue myself what the contemporary groups of performers were actually doing, though I will confess they certainly acted like they had a purpose.
The saving grace in the Palm Canyon Theatre’s production was that this is a theatre that knows how to put on a show. J.W. Layne’s set and lighting design were incredible. Se Layne’s, Costumes and choreography was what saved the show for me. The beautifully executed dances were a pleasure to watch, so that even when I had no idea what the plot and storyline were, I could simply allow myself to enjoy the dance.
And there is no denying that if any song was a breakout hit for this show, it was Memory. I fell in love with Barbara Streisand’s rendition of the song years ago. And the highlight of Palm Canyon’s production of Cats, has got to be the song Memory, performed by Julie Rosser as Grizabella. It was truly the only moment in the show when I had a real glimmer of who a character was and the message that was being conveyed.
While I cannot recommend ‘Cats’, The Palm Canyon Theatre does produce quality theatre. If you want to see a little bit of Broadway in Palm Springs, this is the place to go. It is disappointing and worth emphasizing that not even one of their upcoming thirteen shows for this season was penned by a female author. But they do have an amazing lineup and it looks to be a theatrical bonanza of good theatre in the coming months, so a season membership could definitely be worth your while.
“Cats”, is being performed through October 11th, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.
For Reservations: Box Office: 760.323.5123 – www.palmcanyontheatre.org
Dee Jae Cox, is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project and the host of the hit radio show, “California Woman 411.”