Theatre review: Cats

Written by: Mike Shaw

In 1968 legendary theatre practitioner Peter Brook wrote about the concept of Deadly Theatre, describing it as theatre that not only fails to elevate or instruct, it hardly even entertains.

Had he been writing 40 years later, Brook could have dispensed with the term Deadly Theatre and just referred to Cats instead.

When it first opened in the early 1980s, Cats was no doubt an impressive show but those days are long gone – it’s time to forget the memories of what it was and move on.

Lumpen, meandering and filled with interminable opera-lite sequences, Cats is a perfect example of a musical that has failed to stand the test of time. It’s not the cast’s fault; but there is only so much can be done with such a tired show.

Cats the musical is shit

Set, costumes, choreography and lighting are still fantastic, while the impressive opening number establishes the tone for what should be a gripping production, but what follows is an incomprehensible mess.

The plot hardly exists, the tunes (bar the obvious exception) entirely forgetful, and the singsong dialogue painful to interpret. Cats still looks wonderful but is a solid gold example of style over substance.

They shoot horses don’t they? But the question of what to do with a mange-ridden cat is a far more pressing concern.

Author: Mike Shaw

Founder and editor of The Void, among other things. Interested in movies, tech, theatre, comics, WWE and UFC. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeshaw101 or check out his site

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Responses to Theatre review: Cats

  1. Wow, here’s a review written by someone who has no taste in theatre, knows nothing about drama or acting, probably watched the movie while intoxicated, thus the “incomprehensible” plot, which is so ridiculously obvious to anyone with a 3rd grade reading level. Crap Dude, you live under a rock?! Just Google “Cats” and any fool can see that it has EASILY stood “the test of time”. Go write a review about something you actually know about! This is totaly the wrong place for a CATS review whether good or bad anyway!:
    “The Void is a fun-loving, adrenaline-rushed, entertainment-based website focusing on all things cool in the world of movies, TV, music, comedy, books, comics …etc.”

  2. ur an ass cats rocks

  3. Matt SmithNo Gravatar

    Totally! Cats is the worst show ever. Only idiots like it.

  4. errmm.. NO! cats is a good show. its one of broadways longest running musicals. it may be a little wierd but i luv it soo dont frackin diss my show because its the bomb-diggity. if u guys really understood it and watched it all the way through, you would know that ur comments are CRAP! imm a frackin 12 year old n have loved this since i was little. u have no clue whut ur talkin bout. YEA! STICK THAT IN YOUR APPLE JUICE AND SUCK IT LOSERS!

  5. no no no cats is the best play?
    /movie i have ever seen so go die in a hole

  6. What the hell are you on about? Cats rocks. Its obvious you have no taste in theatre/ you were spoiled as a child/ you have no creative talent.

    God people like you are just weird and annoying.

  7. Kerry CatownerNo Gravatar

    Cats, like my career, is best forgotten.
    It only caters to the furry community and to lonely theatre geeks who are desperately clinging to the last vestiges of a style of musical theatre that went out with the dinosaurs.


  8. Ha ha ha. Couldn’t agree more, Cats is an old-fashioned show and isn’t entertaining AT ALL. I saw it twice and hated it both times.

  9. Dave in LANo Gravatar

    I just find it funny that the reviewer says “Cats is a perfect example of a musical that has failed to stand the test of time”, yet it’s been around for nigh on 30 years… I’m not saying it’s a great play, its just a collection of poems set to music with some cool costumes, nifty set design, and nice choreography. At least it’s head and shoulders over the abysmal “Movin’ Out”. Yeah, it meanders aimlessly, but it’s like a Miley Cyrus song… Catchy enough to make you tap your toes, get stuck in your head while sitting in traffic on the freeway, and make you tell everyone who’s a theater snob that it’s awful. But, it’s still fun.

  10. Hector in ManchesterNo Gravatar

    Dave in LA – “failed to stand the test of time” means that its perceived quality hasn’t remained, not that it has ceased to exist. Given this, the reviewer is absolutely right.

  11. Rod in PerthNo Gravatar

    I saw this on Saturday and I couldn’t agree more. There really was no plot. They just introduced Cat characters. That was it. It was a collection of cats. That was it. Fair enough there was dancing and it was quite original, but when you compare it with musicals like the Lion King which combines both amazing production and storyline, Cats is an abysmal failure.

  12. Such is the WorldNo Gravatar

    What a very narrow opinion you appear to have Mr Shaw! As can be seen Cats HAS stood the test of time being one of the longest running musicals on broadway (other than Phantom of the Opera). I don’t know whether it is you have been living under a rock for the past 3 decades or you have no taste in musical theatre, the standards of Cats has not slipped – myself being one of the lucky few who viewed the very first showing. I agree Cats is not for everyone, but I do not think we have seen the last of these felines as their popularity is still strong, Asia now falling in love with the production performed by the Australian-Pacific cast.

    All I can say is that you may have to see the show live and rather relax and enjoy the show as a whole enjoyable experience rather than trying to sit there and find faults.

  13. Hector in ManchesterNo Gravatar

    Such is the World – please see the above, you dumb cunt.

    Hector in Manchester
    March 15th, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Dave in LA – “failed to stand the test of time” means that its perceived quality hasn’t remained, not that it has ceased to exist. Given this, the reviewer is absolutely right.

  14. JoConradNo Gravatar

    I saw it today, and have been a fan of musical theatre for a long time.

    Did not enjoy it. Music and dancing was all great, but there was no plot to hold it together…and that made it rather boring, to be honest. And why was there a pirate cat?

  15. Snickle and SmichelleNo Gravatar

    This is bullshit FUCK YOU, Cats rocks
    I fact, it’s my favorite Broadway show dammit >8O
    Sorry you had to read that vulgar expression of my sidekick, but we truly believe tht cats is a creative musical which inspires human thoughts and regognition through animals and music. cats is wonderful for those with imganitive minds and musical souls and had enchanted viewers for decades. we are 12 yrs. old dammit! i can fucking write like this and u 20 yr. hos r shit.

  16. What the Hades! You need to come out from under your rock, man. CATS has been popular for the past THIRTY YEARS. It’s not for everyone, true, but there is a plot. Did you not listen to the songs? The Jellicles are trying to (as they do every year) make the choice to see who will get the honor of being reborn. Old Deuteronomy makes that choice, hence his importance in the whole thing. The cats that are introduced are the cats that are trying for the honor of going to the Heaviside Layer (their heaven). It’s a play about acceptance as well. If you recall, Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, was resented by the cats in the beginning of the play; but after hearing her sing “Memory”, the cats are moved at the tale of her lonliness! So Deuteronomy chooses her to be reborn and the cats accept her into the Tribe of Jellicles.
    Can’t withstand the test of time my arse.


  17. Harriet KissesNo Gravatar

    Cannot agree more; Cats was a terrible show and SO out-of date. At the end, it was really just for old people.

  18. Shae shaeNo Gravatar

    Cats is the best musical ever!!! I’m sure there is a good reason why you don’t like it so much.

  19. lol Cats is bullshit – even worse than Starlight Express.

  20. Kim BrunnerNo Gravatar

    There is a plotline in case you couldn’t see. So here it is laid out for you:
    Every year the cats choose one of their own to recieve the gift of immortality. Each “introduction” song is the cat being nominated to recieve this gift. Then you see Grizzabella. She had left the troop a few years prior to see what the real world was like and had just returned in that state. In the end the leader of the cats, Gus, picks her to recieve the gift of immortality.
    As to why it’s so famous:
    Cats was written to be a play on humanity. You may have to watch it a few times to understand it but the writter and composer put many types of personalities in the cats so that way the audience will see themselves as the cats. If it were litterally jsut about a bunch of cats then yes, I can understand the hatred. But it’s meant to showcase humankind in an entirely unthought of way.
    So please, before you start ranting on about how shitty something is, do your research or watch it a few more times.

  21. DefenceCannonNo Gravatar

    Yeah, CATS is the best. I mean, who the HELL does he think he is. He actually thinks that he can watch something he doesn’t like and then COMMENT on it?! I feel like slapping him across his naive face.

  22. DefenceCannonNo Gravatar

    On second thought hold the slapping. 😛

  23. I’m proud to be an idiot.

  24. Rhymes With MemesNo Gravatar

    LOL I’m so proud that people who cannot agree on OPINION have to call their opponents such vulgar names! you all should be ashamed. This is what Mr. Shaw believes, if you disagree, disagree with respect. HE saw the show and decided on HIS grounds that it was crap. So what if you disagree. He is a human with feelings and opinions of his own.

    “Pirate Cat FOR LYFE!!!!!”

  25. I wholeheartedly concur. If I didn’t know that the show was based on TS Elliot’s book of practical cats I could have sworn that Lloyd Webber had a bunch of leftover songs from other musicals and merely cobbled a bollocks premise to hang the tunes together.

    So why is it still running? Probably the same reason that cats as a species have survived as a popular domestic pets… some people are just idiots. What is interesting about cats? Cat lovers are usually obsequious cretins who require to be dominated. As a result, they put the feline species on a pedestal and make the show a continuing success. Would the show have been as successful if it had been about dogs for example? No. And why? Because dog lovers don’t feel the need to blindly serve the species in the same way.

    Granted, back in the day it may have been innovative and I agree that the costumes are good. But can you really say that it has stood the test of time because it is aesthetically pleasing? If decent costumes were the key to longevity, Buck Rogers would be as highly regarded as Star Wars! The story is wank.

    The reason that the show is still running is because the majority of theatre goers who attend a performance more than once do so because it is the only event that they can bear to tear themselves away from their own cats to attend. “I feel bad leaving Tiddles at home alone but i think he will approve, my attendance is an homage to him!”. And you can tell these people a mile away, they are the ones manically screaming at the stage, wearing cat ear style headbands and trying to stroke the performers.

    At some point, the rest of us get duped and think “there must be something to this show”. But there is not. There is one decent song, a couple of kitch toetappers and the rest is bollocks.

    Be honest, how many of you who have written in defence of Cats on this board can in all honesty say that they did not go home and tell their own cat what a great night they had at the theatre with “his friends”. Please tell me if that is not the case and I may begin to believe that I am missing something in the show that others are seeing. Until then, I will continue to argue that this is a show which panders to a niche much in the same way that the Rocky Horror Picture Show does to the homosexual fraternity.

  26. Just been to see Cats, What the hell was all that about, biggest load of crap i’ve ever seen. Anyone who thought that was anywhere near half decent hasn’t got a clue.

  27. Hahah these comments are great and the original review is spot-on

  28. Just been to see this in London. What can i say, if your a TS Eliot fan you might like it but i found it totaly plottless and painfull to watch. Credit to the performers who done their best in a directionless play but otherwise its the worst show i’ve ever seen by far. The first half largely consisted of one tune(Jellical cats) strung out for a full hour by an orchestra that made me feel i was watching a 1970s BBC science fiction show. By the interval i’d lost the will to live and went to the nearest pub for a beer. Some might like it, i’v got a feeling some pretend to like it to be in the clique(like modern art) Not me i never returned from the pub!

  29. I have just looked online as I thought maybe it was just my but I was highly dissapointed. I have wanted to see the show for years. There was no strong story line just dragged out introducing different cats. Compared to Wicked it doesn’t even get 1*

  30. We travelled to London for the night with my sister and two children. We have seen many musicals/theatre productions and was really looking forward to seeing Cats and has been on my hitlist for a while.
    What can I say, the positives are great costumes and great dancing and that’s all I really can say.
    The negatives, there is no real plot to the story, in fact there is a very simple story with one main song that runs through the entire show which leaves you with a feeling that you were missing the story. We were all highly disappointed, it doesn’t come close to any of the other musicals I have seen.
    Go see something else, in a world were money is tight for the average family, spend it elsewhere

  31. As someone who has watched numerous west end shows during the past fifteen years this is without doubt the worst by a mile! It is a pretentious mis match of sketches with no direction and music (with the exception of one song) as painful as listening to a real life cat fight at 3am when sleep deprived. I thought the set and costumes were average and, having left at the interval, feel that I have a duty to warn others not to make the same mistake.

  32. I went to the London Palladium to watch this show last night. Choreography and singing was okay, however with no real story line I was confused as to what was going on and didn’t understand it whatsoever. I left at the interval and felt like it was such a waste of money

  33. I agree it is the biggest load of rubbish l have ever seen -the music is terrible consisting of of fairly decent send sung 4 or was it 5 times and the rest of it was basically one long drawn out instantly forgettable piece of musical rubbish based on one of the most contrived twee bits of music l have had the misfortune to sit through -l too would have gladly left at at the interval (actually that’s a lie l would have gladly left after 15 minutes) the composer of the music is iny opinion lucky to have the reputation he has when the only word l can think of to describe it is dross -the story line (if you can call it that) is equally poor the cast do their best but there you have it totally forgettable contrived dross -do your self a favour and go and see anything else instead as it will certainly be better by miles

  34. Cindy LouNo Gravatar

    After watching Cats, I do not rush home and tell my cat what a wonderful time I had celebrating her. I can say that I’m far from idiotic just because I enjoy something that others may not, and I will not resort to name calling based on someone else’s view of a musical. Everyone is entitled to share his/her opinion without being attacked over it. Cats isn’t intended to be anything other than fun, just fun! If you aren’t a cat lover, don’t see it. Go watch Spring Awakening or a Sondheim production.

  35. catsisgayNo Gravatar

    What a load of rubbish!

    stupid people running in cat costumes and shouting all around the place

    out of 10 i give 1 because the song memories was good but overall it was just a load of crap

  36. cheesemanNo Gravatar

    Cats is great man, saw it first about 20 years ago in the new London and about 5 times since, (most recently in Blackpool) Aye ok the story isn’t exactly complicated or indeed, makes much sense but it looks great, sounds great and because a few of the dancers made a fuss of my 6 year old, she’s now obsessed with her singing and dancing insisting we put her in a more advanced dancing school. Lighten up man, not everything in life needs to be complicated, I went to see the lion king and wasn’t massively impressed, overhyped bollocks….

  37. I could not agree more!

    Cats was legit the worst thing over ever seen, I left at intermission. Dated, definitely no storyline, lame tragic cat porn for stupid people.

    Has left me seriously concerned about the future of the human race

  38. I saw Cats and it sucked horse cock. And I mean really humongous horse cock. An hour into the show I wanted to stick needle s into my ears and eyes

  39. If possible I would have gotten into time machine, went back into time and prevented my self from going. Hell, I would have euthanized all the cats in the play

  40. The majority of people here sadly cannot appreciate a piece of theatre that is delightfully whimsical AND emotionally moving. As for the person who said that anybody who liked it is an idiot, sorry – you’ve betrayed yourself as an ignorant and intolerant ass. The person who wrote that this is a play on humanity is spot on. There is emotional resonance and depth here, and there is a plot also. Eliot’s wordplay is clever and inventive, and I find every song striking and memorable, complementing the lyrics beautifully. This has imagination, whimsy and heart and I think it’s terrific fun. But you either get it and love it, or it’s lost on you. And don’t be so condescending as to think that anybody who loves it cannot appreciate ‘quality’ theatre. Pretentious gits! ‘Cabaret’, ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Next to Normal’ are my favourite musicals, but ‘Cats’ is gorgeous and bloody good theatre to boot (if it is ACTED well – you need great actors in addition to great singers/dancers). How can you not find something like ‘Old Deuteronomy’ or the final number stirring? Bah! It’s a great show. I can imagine the impact that it had at the time of its first run. Sick of contemptuous idiots trashing it and Andrew Lloyd Webber. He has more talent in his pinkie than any of you naysayers have in your entire carcasses, so stick it up your behinds.

  41. Robin OteroNo Gravatar

    Worst. Musical. Ever.

  42. Average JoeNo Gravatar

    Cats only has no plot or storyline to cretins to shallow and thick to understand it.
    It is a story about identity, rejection, redemption, acceptance and salvation.
    It is more relevant today than ever.
    Jog on thickos, jog on.

  43. CATS was a great musical, in my opinion, but that being said, it is a DIFFERENT kind of musical. There IS a plot, even if getting to the Heaviside Lair isn’t your idea of a plot, but it’s not meant to be something like Wicked, Les Misérables, Hamilton, etc., with a stronger storyline. CATS is meant to be entertaining. The characters, the costumes and the music is meant to entertain you. You need to go to the theater, sit back and just let it flow over you and around you. It’s not a musical that you have to go to with your thinking cap on. It’s unfortunate that people can’t express differing opinions in a more constructive manner, though, that’s for sure.

  44. David Mitchell is to make his West End debut next year in Ben Elton’s stage adaptation of the critically acclaimed BBC TV sitcom, Upstart Crow.  This all-new comedy

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