As a youngster with stars in my eyes, the first musical I ever saw was CATS at Brisbane’s QPAC. Based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, all I can remember of this career-hatching production, were the big starry curtain and the over-sized junk that filled the stage – it was magical.
Harvest Rain has also pulled a feat of magic with their record-breaking arena spectacular. Flying from their usual perch at QPAC to the Convention Centre down the road, in order to house over 800 cats, the spectacular is not in flashy lighting (although it has that thanks to Jason Glenwright), or big sets (Josh McIntosh), but the sheer number of cat bodies onstage. Seriously, someone should ring the Guinness World Book of Records (and probably the RSPCA).
There are two really big stars of this show. The obvious one is Marina Prior who plays Grizabella with aplomb. Although under the cat makeup and costume you can’t really tell it’s a big star, the celebrity-pull on the billboard helped sell the professional production.
The second star of the show is director/choreographer Callum Mansfield. The large-scale choreography was reminiscent of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, with so much to look at. Large groups coming in from various auditorium entries, and like the magicians scarf, just kept coming – all with different choreography going on from the main ensemble on the risen cat-walk stage (pardon the pun). The energy, enthusiasm, and sheer love for what they do was palpable and there were many moments of tearful joy felt as I watched these youngsters take their first steps onto a professional stage and life in the theatre.
With many of the chorus cats coming from various schools in Brisbane, I was astounded at how they managed to pull off rehearsals with such a large cast (let alone the costuming and makeup). I spoke with one of the cats afterwards who explained that they rehearsed in groups of 20-25 and then used one of the large high-school auditoriums.
With so many talented dancers in Brisbane, this display shows a lot of promise for community musical societies who often lack in the dance department (with the exception of a few who never neglect this important component; Harvest Rain being one of them).
It was a lovely touch to see the orchestra also outfitted in cats costumes, and under the steady baton of musical director Maitlohn Drew, the music equalled the magnificence of the singing (with one small but significant solo horned phrase needing a little extra practice).
Wonderfully cast, the lead line-up was filled with triple-threats whose individual characters were well developed and singing voices, top class.
Dean Vince as Munkustrap, the narrator of the show, had great stage presence and solid vocals, as did Patrick Oxley who played old Deuteronomy with refinement. Steven Tandy was a crowd favourite as Gus the Theatre Cat, and Bustopher Jones.
Astin Blaik as Jennyanydots was fun and vivacious and her lively character was big enough to hit the back row. Casey McCollow as Jellylorum and Griddlebone, having many Harvest Rain productions under her kitty belt, looked very comfortable performing in front of a 3000+ crowd and gave a lovely performance. Ethan Jones as Rum Tum Tugger was dynamic and injected even more energy and spunk, like a dancing firecracker that makes all the felines swoon as he struts past.
With only a short season (this weekend), get your tickets NOW to see Harvest Rain’s awe-inspiring arena spectacular of CATS at the Convention Centre in South Bank and have a Jellicle time!