22 September 2010

‘Cats’: On screen, on stage, in Manila

That a cat is not a dog* is not the moral of the musical, Cats. It has no moral, neither does it have a compelling, let alone cohesive plot. Why then has it been running for almost thirty years in different countries and, just recently, found its way in Manila? Because it’s clear about its intention and executes it very well: dazzle.

I bought the Cats DVD in 2008 knowing nothing about it except that it was one of the longest-running musicals on Broadway and in the West End. And this is what I learned after watching: It was T.S. Eliot’s already lilting verses in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats set to sublime music and exhilarating choreography. A treat to lovers of song, dance and well, cats, it became my bedtime musical for around three months. Doubtful that it’ll ever be staged here in the Philippines, I vowed to see it live when I go abroad. So when news came out that it’ll be staged in Manila by a team that involves The Really Useful Group (the outfit behind the original London production), I bought tickets as soon as they were available.

I watched the show twice in its Manila run last August; first on August 3 (in its second week) and then on August 29 (the last performance). When people would ask, “Is it good?” —or upon learning I saw it twice, “Is it that good?”, I would give a very calculated response, knowing how friends and colleagues, while at one point are interested in theater, may be too busy or too short of cash to go out of their way to watch a musical extravaganza. If I said, “Go watch it”, the thing must be worth their nonreturnable time and money. Otherwise, I could give them the option to borrow my DVD.

The Cats crew already flew from the Philippines to Taiwan for their next round of performances. This roundup will come belatedly to Filipino patrons who saw Cats for the first time, but to fellows who wish to watch it soon but are unsure of what to expect, allow me to share my response to the question, “Is it good?”.

Read the rest on Interlineal.net

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