Slinking, Preening, Jumping Felines Are Forever

CATS was bound to be a winner, as it combines two of the British people's favourite things: small fluffy animals and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  The surprise is that in its 17th sell-out year, the show maintains enough energy to revitalise the Canadian National Grid.  As Spinal Tap might put it, the show opens at eleven on the dial, and just keeps climbing.

As the thirty-five-strong ensemble high-kicked their way through the Prologue, "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" on Tuesday night, I already felt exhausted on behalf of performers who had earlier done a matinĂ©e.  Dressed in figure-hugging catsuits, the company features some of the thinnest people outside Accurist adverts, but boy, are they fit. Two songs in, I resolved to dash straight out after and find the nearest all-night gym (unfortunately it was already full of punters who'd had the same idea after Chicago).  They went on to do things with their arms and legs that I could probably last do as a new-born baby.

It has to be said that Trevor Nunn's realisation of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by TS Eliot is short on plot (it's a straight run-through of different feline qualities) but that's not what you go to CATS for.  It's a case of never mind the text, feel the gyrations, which makes the show ripe both for exportation and for tourists in London who have English as a second language.

Drama students are famously sent to zoos to study the movements of animals, and for once that training pays off.  As they mingle with the audience in the semi-round and caper around the revolving set artfully constructed out of junk, the performers precisely capture the flirty, slinky, preening sexy elegance of our feline friends.  They twitch, tilt heads, stretch limbs and arch backs as though to the cattery born.

CATS is a show without tunes that resonate long after they have finished, with the possible exception of "Memory".  Nor does the production possess out-and-out stars.  It is the show itself that exudes star quality - that intangible self-confidence which radiates from something that just knows it's good.

CATS' slogan, emblazoned all over the theatre, is "Now and Forever".  I saw nothing on Tuesday night to make me think that won't be the case.

James Rampton, The Independent