Michael Eck, my colleague at the Albany Times-Union, saved me from having to write a long preamble to this review by putting the matter succinctly: Theatre critics aren’t allowed to like Cats, but C-R productions has mounted a production that even a critic can love. This is the third production I have seen – I saw it on Broadway in 1992 and at the Mac-Haydn in 2006 – but this is the first time I understood what all the fuss was about. Cats will never be great drama, but this production proves that it can be great theatre and a whole lot of fun.
I realize that my problems with the earlier productions were partially due to the Goldilocks Syndrome. The Winter Garden was Too Big, and the Mac-Haydn was Too Small, but the Cohoes Music Hall is Just Right. You are close enough to be able to identify the individual cats, but far enough away to get the whole big colorful singing and dancing picture. Also, this was the first time I heard the show unmiked and could actually hear and understand the lyrics – most of which are taken directly from T.S. Eliot’s wonderful volume of poems Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats that I so loved as a child.
Director/choreographer Jacob Brent has assembled a breathtakingly talented cast who give the material what it needs the most to succeed – heart. The collective energy on stage is impressive and the singing is as fabulous as the dancing.