The musical CATS is based on T-S. Eliott´s libretto of poems, Old Possum´s Book Of Practical Cats. The musical is now forty years old, having premierred in London on Mau 11th 1981. It totalled 8,949 performances before closing on the night of its 21st anniversary in 2002. CATS held the record for the most performed musical in theatre history until 2006 when it was finally overtaken by Les Miserables.
Such was the success of CATS following its premier in the West End´s New London Theatre that it not only jumped on to the Broadway circuit in New York but also became one of the stage productions with the highest audience figures. The London version, for instance, spent all its twenty one years on the Billboard chart.
The performance we finally caught was delivered at The Municipal Theatre of San Bartolome on Lanzarote by The Chespir Theatre Company.
It´s midnight. This is the night of the year when the tribe of Jelicos cats gathers in the garbage dump os San Bartolome to wait for the arrival of their leader, Old Deuteronomy. This cat is the father and grandfather of many of the cats in the Jelical tribe and who, every year, chooses the feline who will pass into a new life in The Paradise Of Cats. While waiting for their leader´s decision, they discover that there are residents of San Bartolome watching them with surprise on their faces. Although at one point the cats are suspicious of those of us in the audience, they later decide to introduce themselves and explain proudly who they are and about the special abilities and virtues of their particular tribe.
The greatest tribute I can pay to this production is to say that it felt just like sitting on our patio at night and watching our own six cats at large. First they select someone to be on night patrol for the safety of the others, another claims the comfiest chair in our set of garden furniture and sleeps with one eye open as the others stroll across for a drink from the watering can and one seeks privacy up on the roof- The restless one jumps on and off window sills and growls like a dog should another member of his ´caternity´ invade their space.
Just like our cats at home, these Jelico cats on stage were of all shapes and sizes. All dressed from painted face to toe that left no clue as to the human form below, some of these cats were silent and stealthy, taking one step slowly at a time as they wandered over their territory. Others would jump or leap out of a shadow, distracting and frightening the more timid members. Some wore coats that were bright and furry and warm and others had coats that looked they had just been dragged through a cat-flap backwards. They included brothers and sisters and mothers and absent fathers and were a somewhat fractious family who only really came together at weddings and funerals and the struggle for each to establish a place in the pecking order was constant. There were those that walked with a constant look back over their should, others who always walked close to the wall and those who sashayed and swayed in a watch me walk as if the whole world was their own.
We have seen Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar performed in this same theatre and I am pretty sure that we wrote in those reviews that Rice and Lloyd Webber would have been proud of the productions. Tonight the stage was set simply but so effectively, a big moon in the sky and a street corner lamp-post casting shady hues over the artfully strewn rubbish on the apron of the stage. The musical arrangements were bouncy when necessary but slower and atmospheric for songs like Memories.
The ensemble could all sing and dance brilliantly whether in group or in a solo piece and the show and its actors gave a performance of non-stop energy to a house as packed as covid protocol allowed. It had all the production values of a West End or Broadway extravaganza and for those of us so used to the English lyrics the Spanish language songs added a new dimension-
We had reached the theatre after a somewhat scary journey through pouring rain along the barely lit road over Le Geria, but managed to find a place to eat before the show at Pizzeria Ca Ceasar in San Bartolome. My wife raved over the best pizza she had ever had and the pear, ham and banana concoction that I washed in chille sauce was light and crispy and delicious and by the time we had enjoyed a couple of drinks and a Tirramissu the downpour outside had stopped, the blue flashing lights of police and ambulance that had been dealing with an accident out on the road had gone on their way, and so we drove the quarter of a mile to the theatre, as beautifully illuminated on the outside as always. And as comfortable as ever inside.
When we finally arrived home at, appropriately enough, around midnight, our own cast of Cats greeted us on the patio. Big Fat Cat was desperately trying to balance himself as he took his shower before retiring for the night. He needs a step-in bath we think. Pretty But Thick was for some reason sitting on the narrowest support strip of our pergola, looking like a breath of wind might blow him off at any moment. Stray was wandering around the group with the disdain of a superior being but was delighted to see us, knowing she would thus be able to find a place at my wife´s breakfast. Rollover was presenting the night´s entertainment with his own break-dance show while Clinger jumped into my wife´s arms, climbed up on to her shoulders and then, clinging on for dear life, draped herself around her neck. Sandra´s cat, who is the grandmother of them all was standing on her hind legs underneath the street light at the bottom of our garden as if asking for a stroke as recognitioin of her beautiful singing.
My wife always says she is ´coming back as a cat.´ If so I hope she is adopted by Lord Lloyd Webber. We could do with the money with all these mouths to feed. !