Review: Nine lies about “Cats”

February 25, 2009
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Nine lies about “Cats” (Which is in the midst of a revival at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre).

1. “Cats” is the epitome of the safe, predictable Broadway show. Go into your way-back machine and try to imagine someone approaching you to provide financial backing for a feline-populated dance musical based on plotless T.S. Eliot poetry.

2. “Cats” is set in a junkyard. Well, the original production might have been, but the folks at Beef & Boards have wisely reimagined the setting. In changing it into an abandoned theater, director/choreographer Buddy Reeder maximizes the use of the space—include the, yes, catwalks—while making his “Cats” unique and surprising.

3. A B&B production means a cut-down cast. Nope. The cast includes 22 performers.

4. You either love “Cats” or you hate “Cats.” Actually, there’s plenty of wiggle room in between. It’s possible to enjoy the show’s dances, atmosphere, and sheer theatricality while hating such excruciating, act-haulting numbers as “Growltiger’s Last Stand” (wisely cut from the official video version) and “Pekes & Pollicles.”

5. “Memory” is the show’s only decent song. If you can stomach the whole premise, then there’s pleasure to be had in much of the score, including “Bustopher Jones,” “Gus, the Theater Cat,” and the infectious “Mr. Misoffelees.”

6. The characters in “Cats” are set in stone and there’s nothing new to be brought to them. Just watch in this production how the “magic” of Misoffelees (Philip Groft) brings back Old Deuteronomy (Ty Stover)—and observe MM’s own amazed reaction. The right actors and director can find new, equally right approaches to even the most familiar material.

7. As much as you try to resist it, the ending of “Cats” is always moving. Sorry, not this time, with a Grizabella (Sandra Simpson) who comes across more as your mother-in-law’s annoying neighbor at her retirement community than as a cat to be pitied and cheered for. Chelsea McLean fares much better as the lovely, heartbreaking kitten who reaches out to—and duets with—the Griz, almost saving the scene.

8. Wrapping a stage in lights is always a tacky choice. Usually, yes. But here, the half-working bulbs not only add to the run-down atmosphere, but also give a nice visual payoff later.

9. The food at Beef & Boards isn’t very good. I’m getting tired of defending the B&B buffet to those who’ve never been. No, it’s not gourmet. But I’ve never been disappointed or gone hungry here. And, come on, there’s pudding. Usually two kinds.

Your thoughts?
  • Hah! I love the format of this review. Fun to read. And makes me wish I had time to go see Cats again!

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • Well you certainly won't go hungry at Beef and Boards, for the price of a ticket to go there, I much rather just eat at home and pay less and not get the food.

    I saw the Producers there, and was quite impressed. It exceeded my expectations of Beef and Boards. Something about the name always turned me off. However, maybe its just because I am a big foodie, but when I am going to go see a show I want to eat a nice dinner not say Ponderosa.

    I of course don't like pudding so that too may be part of why I am not drawn to it.
  • I've never been disappointed by a performance and B&B. The talent, though local, is typically superior to smaller venues. I've come to enjoy seeing regular talent like Kenny Shepherd, Kyle Durbin and Deb Wims. They don't know me, but I certainly know the talent they've brought to many B&B performances. Cats will be not exception to an extraordinary experience. As for the food, it is as good as it gets. It's not a high end think you're going to get a Ruth's Cris Steak and ticket to a live theatrical performance for the prices charged by B&B. In a challenged economy B&B is still a great bargain for fun and buffet food. If that's not your cup of tea then stay home and save a complaint. My fondest memories of my recently deceased mother are the ones where we attended the Holiday show each year. My mom loved it...looked forward to it each year. I shall miss not taking her in 2009.
  • David,
    For the record, B&B casts a mix of local and out-of-the-region talent.
  • Hmmmm. Pudding.

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