‘Cats’ Lights Up The Fabulous Fox

The award winning musical makes a satisfying return to the stage after postponed national tour

Sean Bruce, Reporter

Almost two years ago, the lights of the local Fabulous Fox Theater dimmed down and the stage stood empty. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down every stage in the world without warning. The city of St. Louis came to miss the glittering lights and out-of-town patrons bringing business into town on show nights. The sudden shutdown caused all traveling shows to cancel their tours, one of which being a production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Cats”. The show, originally meant to tour in 2020, finally made its way back on the road in 2021.

For the unaware, “Cats” is a musical that follows a group of cats called the Jellicle Cats during their annual Jellicle Ball to decide who gets to go to the Heaviside Layer and receive a new life. The show falls under the umbrella term of a ‘concept musical’, in the way that it doesn’t follow one main character or plotline. In fact, the show is heavily criticized for its lack of clear plot by most first-time watchers of the production. These critics are completely unaware of the fact that a musical doesn’t need a plot for there to still be a palpable takeaway or emotion brought to the front of an audience member’s mind. 

From Dec. 21- Jan. 2, the Fox Theater’s stage was occupied by the set of “Cats” presented by TROIKA Entertainment. Although the stage design was a sight to behold, it looked rather familiar. The set seemed to be an almost complete copy of the 1999 staging of the classic show. A side-by-side comparison would show you the same shape of the performance area on both stages as well as a similar set decoration. 

All of these similarities can be forgiven by the excellent performances of all actors and musicians, as well as the technical beauty of the lighting and costume designs. Tayler Harris, the actress playing Grizabella the Glamour Cat, gave an absolutely gut-wrenching performance of “Memory” (a Broadway classic) and got the audience to root for her even though her character is hated by the entire Jellicle Tribe. John Anker Bow gave three impressive performances in just one show, portraying Peter, Bustopher Jones, and Asparagus the Theater Cat. Zack Bravo gave so much energy in his performance as Rum Tum Tugger that the audience was holding onto every word he spoke and catchy lyric he sang.

The costumers had the difficult task of keeping each costume close to the original cat to make sure the audience didn’t get confused as to which cat is which. Even though the costume crew was forced to stay within rigid ideas of what each cat should look like, they still managed to put their own flair into the wigs and details of each cat. The most impressive costume feat came during a song called Magical Mister Mistoffelees, where the titular cat and Cassandra quite literally lit up the stage. Supplementing their incredible dance performance was a pair of costumes that lit up to show the colors of the rainbow, a truly magical addition. 

I, as a repeat enjoyer of “Cats”, was pleased to see how enjoyable and easy to follow the performance was for the sake of first-time viewers. The show was incredible and exceeds the expectations of anyone who expected a repeat of the horrendous film adaptation in 2019. The prolific performances of every single actor on a beautiful stage in flawless costumes make a great theater experience for anyone lucky enough to have seen it.