Thursday, January 23, 2020

Cats, the Movie

Over the holidays my wife Annie and I attended a showing of the movie Cats. We were both completely entertained by the production despite its horrible reviews and criticism of tonal inconsistencies, miscasting, lack of fluidity, fabricated routines, and weak anthropomorphising by the elite snobs that, of course, know more about entertainment than those of us holding a ticket.

Annie and I enjoy theater, having both been involved with the stage in the past either with direction, acting, or support. It is something we look forward to and fully appreciate when we are treated to a good performance. We have enjoyed local theater since we met and have started to enjoy the talent on display in more professional performances at the Lucille Ball Theater in Jamestown, New York. While Broadway may be the penultimate stage upon which to perform theater, it is not something we have indulged in yet. I can see how a performance of Cats in movie theaters might be a great introduction to musical theater, however, that a lot of people may never have access to.

The elitist nature of live theater is no secret and it’s what pushes many idealists away from that arena. Since not everyone lives in a city with a big arts scene, it’s only fair that the general public should get to see a film that emulates the same entertainment as if they were watching a West End show. At the end of the day, it’s entertainment and spectacle for a fraction of the cost and it heralds back to the earliest days of cinema when films were shown for pure entertainment. No fan culture, no critics, just a fun night out. There are plenty of people who just go to the movies occasionally for a bit of fun or to relax. And if kids like the cats and there’s a bit of magic in it for them, then what right do the critics have to judge for others?

The lead cat, Victoria, (pictured above) was played by the Royal Ballet’s principal ballerina Francesca Hayward. She was captivating and you couldn't help but fall in love with her vulnerability and innocence. It has to be inspiring for kids to watch and see someone who really acts with passion, especially if they are in dance or theater. It was a delight to see seasoned Broadway and movie icon Judi Dench (M in Bond movies) cast in the production, especially since she had to pass up the opportunity of a lifetime to play Grizabella (played remarkably well by Jennifer Hudson this time) in a Broadway production nearly 40 years ago due to an injury sustained on the set, so it was sentimental to watch the grande olde dame singing the final song, acting as the superior Jellicle leader Old Deuteronomy.

Of course, Taylor Swift's cabaret routine as Bombalurina was captivating, and I never tire of watching the master Ian McKellen (Gandelf) who performed as the crusty old lyrical theater cat Gus. While I’ve certainly seen better films than Cats, any professional shortcomings may be inherently due to the eclectic nature of the musical itself, and no matter what the adaptation or interpretation, may never be completely redeemed in the critics' eyes. So what if it was a bit absurd; we're all entitled to a little magical escapism now and then.

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