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Review of CAT – (THE PLAY!!!) at The Ambassadors Theatre

Gerard McCarthy in CAT- THE PLAY!!!
Gerard McCarthy in CAT- THE PLAY!!! – Photo by Mark Willshire

Somewhere on the spectrum between a love letter and Dear John letter to the world of musical theatre, Cat – (The Play!!!), is a homage to Broadway and to the icons who have made the genre great. A tribute to theatre “not straight theatre, real theatre… musical theatre” Damien Tracey Productions have delivered a production that is a banquet of comedy, nostalgia, heart and perhaps even a little bit of horror! To put it simply, this is one of the best pieces of theatre I have seen in London, or anywhere else for that matter!

Cat – (The Play!!!) tells the story of Dave, who grew up with an insatiable desire to perform in musicals. Despite his ‘almost’ breakthrough role as Jesus’ donkey in the original West End cast of Superstar, and follow-up casting as Evita’s Alpaca, Dave is unlucky in theatre life and struggles to carve himself a place among the greats of Shaftesbury Avenue. But there’s no business like show business and just when it would seem all hope is lost, Dave is cast in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s newest production, Cats, however, as the story progresses it becomes clear that Dave’s path to stardom will be no Jellicle Ball!

Beautifully written by Jamie Beamish and Richard Hardwick, incorporating a plethora of in-jokes and show references, the script is purpose-built for the musical theatre aficionado. That said, the warmth and exquisitely intimate nature of the conversation held between Dave and the audience make this easily accessible to even the greenest theatregoer. As with all great stories, knowing the background enriches the experience but equally enthralling is the prospect of hearing a story for the first time. For those of us who make our home in theatre auditoriums Cat – (The Play!!!) does both; welcomes us into a familiar world but provides a new and exciting tale… or should I say tail!

Gerard McCarthy is exquisite as Dave. The character he delivers to us is impossible not to like, exploding with an infectious enthusiasm and unquenchable thirst for success. He is easily relatable for anyone who has fallen in love with the genre or the idea of treading the boards. His first audition is a highlight of the show and carries with it undertones of a Frank Spencer-esque character that had the audience struggling to regain composure.

McCarthy is quick to reveal his hand as a triple threat and shows not only superb skills at characterisation but also a brilliantly versatile voice and effortless delivery of Richard Jones’ choreography. Without giving too much away, Dave’s character has one hell of an arc and the swift nature with which he makes the transition is astounding. So too is his ability to effortlessly slip between characters, both fictional portrayals, and impersonations of well-known icons. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nunn, Elaine Paige… nobody is safe!

Musical theatre audiences are notoriously protective of the shows we love and as a result can be incredibly hard to please. Cat – (The Play!!!) pays tribute to these much-loved musicals with the respect and reverence they deserve, while also poking fun at the industry, the audiences and most importantly the groupies.

While I may now be slightly more reluctant to frequent the stage door after a show, I certainly would have no reluctance in recommending this production with the utmost enthusiasm. As this run was limited to two days, I can only hope that this was the first of Dave’s nine lives and that our favourite cat will be back in the West End for a longer season in the very near future!

5 Star Rating

Review by Cassandra Griffin

A mirthful parody of show business, CAT – (THE PLAY!!!) follows Dave through his turbulent theatrical career, beginning with his first role as Jesus’ donkey in the original cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. As dreams of West End acclaim and adulation turn to tatters, Dave offers audiences a comedic fictional insight into the backstage drama, romance and intrigue that led to his dreams of stardom becoming nothing more than a distant ‘Memory’.

Starring as the titular feline is Gerard McCarthy. Gerard’s stage and screen credits include Hollyoaks (Channel 4), Titanic: Blood and Steel (Netflix), The Merry Wives of Windsor (The Globe), Saturday Night Fever (West End), Mamma Mia! (West End), Blue Orange (UK tour), Beautiful Thing (UK tour), and BBC Two’s BAFTA nominated The Fall.

Having already enjoyed successful runs throughout Ireland and at the Leicester Curve, CAT – (THE PLAY!!!) is written by Jamie Beamish and Richard Hardwick. The production will be directed by Stephen Whitson and choreographed by Richard Jones

Venue: Ambassadors Theatre
West St, London WC2H 9ND
Date: 25 & 26 April 2017
Running Time: 100 mins including interval
Age Restriction: 12+
Website: www.theambassadorstheatre.co.uk


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