Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats has successfully been played out in theatres around the World since 1981. When the show opened on Broadway it received mixed reviews but still went on to be a commercial success and all these years later, the film based on the show (which was based on poems written by TS Eliot) was released in cinemas to mixed reviews. Though most of the negative criticisms were aimed towards the shows CGI effect, Lloyd Webber couldn’t help but get caught up in the cross fire but his musical masterpiece continues to live on in another form. So what were other journalists saying? Well, to be frank there was some lazy journalism going on, comments such as “there’s no people in it” well the clue is in the title there, it’s called Cats not People. Others commented on the lack of a tangible story, again though, this is where research helps, the history behind the film lies in the stage show which lies in T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Now with a book of poems being the premises it is hardly a surprise that the focus is more on the character development and less about a detailed, complicated plot line. So as a huge fan of the music, and after seeing it on stage twice, I was keen to get to the Cinema and form my own opinions. Of course my interest was heightened by the appearance of Taylor Swift in the film but I’ll go into a little more detail about that later.
My first impression when the trailer first came out was that this is going to take some getting used to, the CGI look of the cats, however when viewing the full production at the cinema my mind quickly got swept into the idea of it all. It doesn’t take much imagination. The music, the main part, remains relatively untouched, the original works are brilliantly executed by the all star cast. Jennifer Hudson received some criticism of her performance of the shows signature tune “Memory,” however, these were unfounded, although she’s no Elaine Paige, her vocals perfectly suited the melody and gave it a slightly modern twist with her use of vibrato and embellishments. The role of Victoria is boosted, still a dancer, she has a more prominent singing role in this remake, Francesca Hayward should receive accolades for her portrayal. This is perhaps the best time to mention Taylor Swift’s involvement. The film version saw a new addition to the soundtrack we came to know and love. This came in the form of Beautiful Ghosts, a song sung by the character of Victoria in the film. The song was composed by Lord Lloyd Webber with lyrics written by Taylor Swift, Taylor also released a version of this in the lead up to the release of the film and you can hear this in the credits. It is an unlikely collaboration but one that really pays off, it’s a beautiful addition to the film and soundtrack. So what about Taylor’s appearance in the film which was so heavily showcased in the trailer? Well here comes my only criticism of the production, her song probably lasts longer than her on screen time, which would be ok if they hadn’t used her so heavily in the marketing of the film. She sings one of the shows most popular songs, Macavity, she executes it well and puts quite a bit of attitude into the role. It would be wrong for me not to mention Judi Dench or James Corden, James is perfectly matched to his character and sings well in the role of Bustopher Jones. Whilst I never imagined a woman could pull off Old Deuteronomy, it is a traditionally male role, Judi Dench is a maestro and a better actor or actress could not have been chosen. The dancing was almost as spectacular as the stage show, particularly in skimbleshanks the railway cat.
To conclude, I think the whole team behind Cats did a fantastic job of bringing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece to life on the big screen. Once it had ended people around me in the packed cinema applauded, something which I have only ever witnessed once before at an industry screening of A Star is Born! Whether it becomes a massive success or a flop, it is in unprecedented territory, nothing of it’s kind has been done before and this pioneering piece of art has undoubtedly breathed new life into Cats and delivered it safely to the door of the next generation.