Cats-Manila is just an amazing experience! It was a feast for the eyes, the ears, and the spirit.
I, with my family, watched the matinee show last July 24, 2010 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. We arrived at the venue having some time to purchase Cats merchandise (courtesy of Playbill). Needless to say, the show started on time, and you better be there on time because they won’t let you in at some parts because actors use the corridors to come in and out of the stage.
A quick synopsis: Cats is based on T. S. Elliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” — a compilation of poems about the different kinds of cats. The musical’s lyrics is based entirely on the poem, which posed a challenge to Andrew Lloyd Webber in putting music into it. As the musical, it talks about the story of the different Jellicle Cats led by the Old Deuteronomy, and the latter’s choosing of one of the Jellicle Cats to be reborn to move “up” to the Heaviside Layer. Who is it the Old Deuteronomy will choose? (N.b. Don’t expect Lea Salonga to show up throughout the musical. She only comes out thrice.)
Cats Manila production is a blockbuster hit having different genres present in the show. It has comedy, drama and even horror. The whole show, I believe, meets Aristotle’s definition of a great drama. The actors were all superb. Characters delivered the comical parts to purrfection evoking the right laughs at the right parts (e.g. Old Gumbie Cat, Growltiger’s last stand – my favorite, Rum Tum Tugger is just fantastic). Grizabella (Lea Salonga) evoked pity from the audience to the highest level giving us goose bumps at “Touch me, It’s so easy to leave me” just before she was to be announced as the new Jellicle cat. Maaawa ka talaga sa kanya. The cast are all professionally trained actors ballet dancers and classical singers. You only expect great performance and execution from them. Watch the sidelines, and you will see the “cats” all in character if they are not under spotlight. All their movements are all very calculated and precise. There is no room for imprecision because if that happens, then the whole number falls into pieces.
Another success to this hit production is its set. The set is patterned to its original London version. As you enter the auditorium, you will be amazed with the splendor of the props, the color, the lights, the hydraulics, and the floor. They are all well-coordinated and useful. No prop is left unused. Just noticed the license plate on the car engine prop: it advertised its major sponsor. Would have been a better detail to place instead “TSE 1” (in reference to T. S. Elliot) as it was used in the London set. The lights were also used very effectively. The sounds were inconsistently loud and soft though. It’s purrfect when the ensemble sings, but almost inaudible when an actress with a tiny voice sings. I almost missed the “Memory” when it was translated into Tagalog and sung by an Australian!
Other things I noticed comparing it with the Original London production. Mr. Mistoffellees doesn’t sing in this cast. He kept his mouth shut for the whole show, but kudos to his amazing dancing skills that compensated for his lack of singing. His usual singing parts were sung by another cat instead. Grizabella is supposed to be an aging cat, but Lea Salonga’s voice was too young and fresh for the character, but I must say, however, she delivered it purrfectly. She still evoked the right emotions from us and she has indeed made us proud! I am very proud because we have a very own talent amidst a group of Australians. We are able to provide our own talent to represent us in a company that is 100% foreign.
Here are some tips to enjoy your cheapest or most expensive ticket:
1) Arrive an hour and a half early and get something from the Cats merchandise. The cheapest souvenir I saw was the P450 keychain. It’s worth getting one! Aside from that, of course, get a copy of the Playbill.
2) During intermission, enjoy the CitiLounge with free food during intermission and fill up a raffle (and risk being offered a credit card though) and you might win a Cats merchandise.
3) If you got an aisle seat at the orchestra, you’ll be lucky enough to be purred by the Cats cast during intermission and have your picture taken with them. Cats move along the aisles even during the show to interact with the audience so don’t be surprised!
4) Enjoy the set, the lights, and sounds. It’s a real treat for your senses!
5) Watch how the cast dances at the curtain call. They all go out of character and wild! Oh and don’t forget to give Lea Salonga a standing ovation. 🙂
6) For matinee audience, tough luck, the cast doesn’t have meet and greet. For gala or last shows, you’re lucky to have meet and greet! Just be patient and have your souvenir program signed. They’ll probably go out. (Somebody verify this with me.)
7) Have your picture taken near the stage! Do it as soon as the show ends because the ushers will happily usher you out the orchestra in no time. 🙂
8) Read T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” and listen to the Cats CD to familiarize yourself with the tunes.
Overall, it’s a great show both for kids and adults. Your children will enjoy the set, lights and sounds, and even some funny antics. Adults will appreciate the same things kids will do, but will realize the depth of the plot.
Enjoy the show peeps. 🙂