Last night we went to see Cats at Woking's New Victoria Theatre. We'd never seen Cats before - despite it being in the West End for many years. We were familiar with much of the music, as well as the book of poems by TS Eliot.
The first thing about Cats is that the plot is thin. Paper thin - but knowing the plot won't spoil the show for anyone, so I'll lay it out here.
The Jellicle cats have an annual ball, at which various cats are introduced (such as The Rum Tum Tugger and SkimbleShanks the Railway Cat). At the ball, Old Deuteronomy picks a cat to ascend to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn. Grizabella, and old and decrepit cat is chosen.
(The Heaviside layer is an atmospheric layer of ionised gas, about 90-150km up, used in the musical to symbolise death)
The musical frankly isn't about the plot. It's about the spectacular that is Cats, and it's very enjoyable. I particularly liked Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat - it gave me a big grin, as my cat is named for this cat (by the RSPCA). I also enjoyed Rum Tum Tugger and The Magical Mr. Mistoffeles, both big showstoppers, though some of the flashing pyrotechnics in Mr. Mistoffeles were so bright that they were uncomfortable.
Rum Tum Tugger in particular went down well with the audience, with the characters tendency to say 'look at me, aren't I fantastic?' every time he appeared on stage, even if just in the background. That man could strut.
Some of the supporting cats were simply excellent, ooziing cattiness. There was one woman, a ginger and black striped cat on a white body who really let loose, and just captured the eye (she reminded me vaguely of a young Lulu, made up as a cat) - she just seemed to be really in the moment. She's (currently) shown on the second image on the introductory page from Lloyd Webber. On the other hand the actress playing the white cat, though very good, did appear to relax a little too much when not centre stage. A few times when she was away from the focus of the audience her face dropped and she just looked bored. I think she had a bit of a cold, which can't have helped.
For me, the only real disappointment is the famous 'Memory', it's not from TS Eliot (though Grizabella is a TS Eliot creation) - and to me it sticks out like a sore thumb - it somehow doesn't 'fit' with the rest of the show. It's the only thing giving the show structure though - otherwise it'd be just a series of cats being introduced - but I wouldn't have minded that too much.
It seems that I was in the minority on this, it got one of the biggest rounds of applause (superceded by Rum Tum Tugger and possibly Mistoffelees).