Photo from CATS Manila souvenir program.

Listening to the songs of CATS during my childhood introduced me to the world of Broadway Musicals. So when we learned last November that CATS would run in Manila, we immediately bought tickets for the opening night show.

What CATS is all about?

CATS is about the annual tradition of the Jellicle cat tribe whose members meet in a modern junkyard setting with the midnight moon in the background. Before sunrise, the leader of the tribe will select the jellicle cat that deserves to be reincarnated.

Throughout the show, the cats invite the audience to the Jellicle ball as they are introduced one by one. The cats are very particular about their identity and use three different names: one that is used by the family that owns them, then a more dignified name and a secret name.


Photo from CATS Manila souvenir program.

You’ll get acquainted with all the cats starting with Victoria, a young white cat, and Munkustrap, a large grey tabby.

The first act starts off with introducing the different unique cats:

Jennyanydots, The Old Gumbie Cat, essentially a fat cat;
— The playful Rum Tum Tugger, Female cats find him extremely attractive. Aside from Grizabella, he made the entire show very entertaining because he always wanted to be the center of attention;
— The ostracized Grizabella, the Glamour Cat (played by Lea Salonga). She left the tribe years ago to explore the outside world;
Bustopher Jones, a large “twenty-five pounder” who always eats and is in his signature white spats;
Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, a duo of prankster cats who always have fun but get into trouble most of the time;
Old Deuteronomy, the leader of the tribe;

Grizabella appears again to end Act 2 with the song, “Memory”.

Photo from CATS Manila souvenir program

Act 2 continues with the Jellicle ball, and introduces:

Gus, the theater cat,  an old famous theater actor;
Skimbleshanks, The Railway Cat;
Macavity, the sinister cat, who appears and kidnaps Old Deuteronomy;
Mistofelees the magical cat who is summoned by Rum Tum Tugger to conjure Old Deuteronomy back to the ball.

The entire show finally ends with Lea singing a powerful rendition of “Memory” and the Jellicle cats accepting Grizabella back into their tribe. Old Deuteronomy chooses her to journey to the “Heaviside Layer” and be reborn.

What we love about CATS

Photo from CATS Manila souvenir program

— We love Lea Salonga’s performance, especially when she closed Act 1 with the song “Memory” and sang it again during the finale.

— We love the Tagalog translation of “Memory” as sang by one of the foreign actors during the opening of Act 2. Maybe many people in the audience were not expecting to hear Tagalog in a Broadway show.

— We love being able to interact with the CATS throughout the entire show. They were very playful and some of them mingled with the audience during the 20-minute intermission.

— We love the cat-like dance choreography, which is a mix of ballet and jazz, mimicking the gracefulness of real cats.

— My personal favorite is Mr. Mistofelees, the magical conjuring cat, who performed the best dance of them all.


CATS Manila Meets Inception

Photo from CATS Manila souvenir program

However, the show seemed a bit slow because…

— The voices of the cats were not very clear, probably due to some problems with the acoustics. Only Lea’s voice was quite clear.

— The theater set was fixed throughout the entire show. At the start, we were mesmerized by the multi-colored lights of the modern junkyard and the midnight moon (the centerpiece in the backdrop), but the initial charm didn’t last for us. The set resembled junk appliances and things were made to look larger than life to approximate the world of cats. (Plus, there was a Surf branding as part of the junkyard set.)

— The show is 80’s old-school, Broadway show. I was not able to relate to the poetic descriptions and characteristics of the cats. This is the first show that I watched where I did not get anything meaningful.

— Each mention of “Jellicle” puts you in multiple levels of Inception-land.


Final Tips

Photo from CATS Manila souvenir program.

1. The show starts exactly at 8pm, New York Theater time. If you’re late, you’ll have to wait for a few minutes outside.

2. Cameras are not allowed, but they don’t collect mobile phones anymore like in Miss Saigon. During the intermission, when the Cats mingle with the crowd, some people used their iPhones or their mobile phones to take photos. (There were still some people in the audience who abused taking mobile photos even after the intermission.)

3. Buy the nice souvenir program (for P500) and the CATS Complete Original Broadway Cast Recording (P650).

CATS Performances have been extended until August 22, 2010. Don’t miss it!


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Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. We watched CATS with the Happy Gang. 🙂

P.S. Next Broadway Show craze in Manila is Xanadu! Block off your schedule for the opening weekend on September 4 or 5, 8pm.