WOW!'s most recent show “CATS” ran from 12-17 February 2018.
Based on T.S. Eliot’s whimsical collection of poems, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical brings together a tribe of Jellicle Cats on a moonlit evening, who must make the “Jellicle choice” to decide which of them will ascend to the mysterious Heaviside Layer to be reborn.
Featuring such celebrated standards as the haunting “Memory”, CATS became an international phenomenon. The show first appeared on the London stage in 1981 and went on to become the longest running musical both in the West End and on Broadway. A magical, moving, and often hilarious glimpse into the lives of others, CATS takes Eliot’s lyrical poetry and puts it into the mouths of a diverse company of singing, dancing felines.
WITHAM OPERATIC WORKSHOP (WOW)
Director Rhianna Howard
Musical Director Susannah Edom
Choreographer Shelley Moore
Performed at Witham Public Hall 14th February 2018
WOW pulled out all the stops for this popular show ”Cats”. The energy which was evident from the opening “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” continued and never let up with an amazing pace.
The choreography was outstanding with the entire cast all involved in most of the dance numbers with some “star” performances in Shelley’s first as the Choreographer.
All credit to her innovative and clever routines which she must have worked the cast tirelessly on in this production, and it paid off with a feel of a dedicated company who gave back 100%.
It would be impossible to name all the characters as there are so many in this show and really everyone on stage had their own interpretations of the “Cats”. All were very individual and this came over strongly.
Strong performance from Ben Collins as Rum Tum Tugger with a terrific voice, Christopher Tierney as Munkustrap, Tom Nicoll as a most imposing Old Deuteronomy, Fraser McLauchlan as Skimbleshanks, Ben Rolph as Mungojerrie, William Hackett as Bustopher Jones and so the list goes on.
With the ladies we had Cerys Wilkin as Grizabella with a haunting rendition of “Memory”. How enjoyable to listen to her playing a very emotional character which was lovely and very poignant.
I liked Ryan Wuyts as Gus the theatre cat together with Isobel Pearce in a very emotional scene and brilliant diction from them both in their singing.
Lily Downes as Jennyanydots was full of fun-very lively, and as with all the cast 100% in her character. Sophie Hill as Mr Mistoffelees together with Ben as Rum Tum Tugger gave the magician’s personality meaning, and another terrific dance routine.
I cannot speak highly enough about all the fantastic full on chorus numbers with a great sound from the voices on stage. Top marks for the top sopranos who really did so well in the demanding range for the voice, also Ella Bradley’s Jemima solo, which was part of “Memory”, and likewise Tom Nicoll playing Old Deuteronomy in “The Addressing of Cats”.
To have such a talented cast was amazing with performances from the ages of 11 through to 21, with the majority being in the 11-15 age range.
Rhianna as Director did a terrific job with so much skill in using the whole cast and Susannah as Musical Director brought every ounce of harmony and musicality out of everyone on stage. The dancing was as a company some of the best I have seen.
I would like to mention each and every member of the cast on stage but it would make for a very long review, so if you are not mentioned please believe I loved it all, and you all.
Such pretty cats from the beautiful Tasha Gooderham as Victoria with exquisite dancing, Yasmin Sharp as Bombalurina, Daisy Greenwood as Demeter, both saucy cats, and the most imposing Old Deuteronomy from Tom.
A good orchestra, great sounds on a demanding score and lighting and sound really good.
Many thanks to F.O.House for your welcome and hospitality. Many Congratulations for a show which will have delighted your audiences. A sell out of the show says it all !!!
Review by Ron Fosker, Braintree and Witham Times
Witham Public Hall
Basing a musical on a set of poems by T S Eliot doesn’t sound like an obvious route to success.
But a success Cats was, to such an extent that it broke records both in the West End and on Broadway.
WOW, average age 15, who have an enviable reputation as one of the classiest acts around, brought it to the Witham stage in a highly skilled, alluring and sometimes ravishing production.
From Tasha Gooderham’s lithe and willowy ballet dance to Lily Downes’ knockabout falling-out-of-a-box routine and from Tom Nicoll’s towering vocals to Christopher Tierney’s overall command in the central role, the action bursts off the stage.
Cerys Wilkin, in her first WOW appearance, is delightfully gnarly and grouchy as the old despised cat Grizabella and also gets the chance to shine with a heartfelt rendering of Memory – as does 11-year-old Ella Bradley in a memorable performance she is unlikely to forget.
The stage show hides the work that has gone on beforehand. The cast all started with white catsuits and applied the spray paint to produce the feline transformation. And Liz Watson and her team of ten make-up artists then spend 20 to 30 minutes on each cat every night.
Director Rhianna Howard, choreographer Shelley Moore and an excellent band led by Susannah Edom bring it all together.
Review by WAOS Chairman, Stewart Adkins (A seasoned reviewer although possibly a little biased?)
A feline phenomenon! Setting a bunch of poems about cats to music and creating a musical! How unlikely is that? And yet the WOW! production of CATS is visually and aurally stunning. Without benefit of plot (what there is requires a fairly deep understanding of the poetry to make much sense of it first time around) what makes this hang together as a show, in my opinion, is the great teamworking and the seamless flow from one number to the other. In many cases a character steps forward and makes reference to another character, passing the musical baton along as the show progresses. Equally important is the maintenance of some form of characterisation for each individual, so that we can see activity and interaction wherever we look. Of course there are times when everyone is following the same choreography as taught but at other times the stroking and stretching is individual creating interest and maintaining audience attention. The quality of singing is outstanding for any group but particularly for a youth group, where the common fault is usually the absence of a head voice. Not so here; close your eyes and this could be a top notch choir. Open them again and be amazed at the ability to climb such vocal heights whilst moving in the most original and energetic fashion. The principals are superb giving no clue to their relative youth and inexperience. Make-up, costume, lighting and sound fool the senses into believing that we are not just curious onlookers but part of the action. The festoon lights above us and the use of the auditorium for some entries draw us in and help that effect. Make no mistake, WOW! has made a little piece of musical theatre history here, which all participants, onstage and off, will remember and treasure for a very long time.
Theatrelife Review by Nikki Mundell-Poole (theatrelife.org)
Cats was a London phenomenon running for over 21 years in London’s West End along with a national tour. Only to recently be revived in 2014 at the London Palladium. So it’s quite a challenge for any amateur society to tackle this dance based musical but WOW! have and the challenge has paid off.
The set was great along with some fantastic lighting and both were a perfect backdrop for some stunning costumes and wigs. In addition, the excellent make up helped capture the characters, especially as each one is completely different giving lots of opportunities for cast members to express themselves.
There were so many outstanding performances it’s difficult to know where to start but I loved Lily Downes as Jennyanydots – her boundless energy and lovable personality shone through, Ben Collins as Rum Tum Tugger had all the moves and delivered some great numbers and both Daisy Greenwood as Demeter and Yasmin Sharp as Bombalurina both oozed style and confidence delivering some great routines and vocals.
Tom Nicholl had huge stage presence as Old Deuteronomy both in stature and delivery and Fraser Mclauchlan as Skimbleshanks delivered his number with great panache and was one of the few who I felt really embraced the cat movement and posture. Cerys Wilkin was delightful as the banished Grizabella, she has an amazing voice and her final performance of ‘Memory’ was very moving. Munkestrap played by Christopher Tierney was the glue throughout the show holding it all together and Ryan Wuyts was delightful as Gus, the Theatre Cat with just the right amount of pathos and charm along with Isobel Pearce as Jellylorum who was also very engaging.
There were so many other great performances with such a strong cast from William Hackett as Bustopher Jones all the way through to Ciaran Brewer as the Rumpus Cat.
One name to watch out for in the future is definitely Ella Bradley as Jemima – she was delectable as the young kitten with a beautiful voice.
The list of names could go on and on, as there were so many lovely moments throughout the show and the choreography was just at the right level to ensure a high standard throughout.
Huge congratulations to the cast for a great show, I’d say you have to get tickets to see this but if you haven’t already got them then you will miss out on a fantastic nights entertainment as the show is already a sell out!