Last Night: Cats @ Paramount

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Cats is more of an '80s glam-rock concert than it is a musical. The last time I witnessed such an awesome display of synth-heavy dance songs, power ballads, glitzy makeup, and strobe lights was at a Billy Idol concert.

The enormously successful Andrew Lloyd Webber composed show doesn't have much of a storyline to it. A tribe of felines that call themselves the Jellicle Cats gather once a year for the Jellicle Ball where one cat is chosen to be reborn into a new life. (They've already got nine lives apiece so I'm not sure what the draw is of that whole deal.) When they notice their human audience, the cats decide to take the opportunity to sing and dance through a series of introductions. Sad washed up actress cats, criminal cats, magic cats... the list goes on. You just have to roll with it.

The production unabashedly indulges in over-the-top flamboyance and ridiculousness. The jazzy anthem about wanting what you don't have "Rum Tum Tugger" features a fickle feline (Adam Steiner) who gyrates and tongue wags like he's Gene Simmons. Then there's the swaggering number "Magical Mr. Mistoffelees" about a magician (Jonathan Mercer) that comes with an abundance of pyrotechnic effects, optical illusions, and skilled dancing.

Cats' standout number of course, is Webber's haunting composition "Memory" sung by Grizabella, (Anastasia Lange) a washed up singer-actress who longs to return for her glory days. Lange belted out a heart wrenching rendition of the ballad that actually brought tears to my eyes and resulted in an eruption of applause from the audience.

The musical ends much like it starts, with countless cats with rad hairstyles and costumes rocking their way through yet another number. It's like seeing a dozen Billy Idols onstage at once, which makes no sense at all. It's just weird as hell. Yet it's absolutely brilliant.

 
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