This pop-cultural phenomenon has been performed on stage for more than 50 million patrons in 26 countries for almost 18 years, churning more than $2 billion in ticket sales. Now that Cats has finally made it to the small s... more »creen, attention must be paid not just by fans of this critic-proof show, but also by those entertainment mavens who have somehow avoided Cats until now. The video version has been restaged but, alas, not really reconceived for its new medium. The video cast, assembled from London, Amsterdam, and New York productions, is competent. Ken Page as Old Deuteronomy, Jacob Brent as Mr. Mistoffelees, and Elaine Paige--the original London Grizabella, the Glamour Cat well past her prime--are a great deal more than that. Paige has toned down her theatrical belting of her big number, "Memory," and allowed the faded ruin of her character's soul to prevail in close-up. For all the "covers" of her signature song, Paige's version remains definitive. The video is, by definition, more intimate, not always a good thing: costumes are even more Halloweeny in garish close-up, the cats less cuddly without that all-important interaction, the stage's appropriately midnight lighting transmuted to a Las Vegas neon. And the chorus of cats in production numbers is even clunkier and more amorphous in two- and three-shots. The one complete newcomer to the cast is the 90-year-old icon among English actors John Mills, a delight as Gus the Theatrical Cat. Sir John and his character show the youngsters how it's done in close-up, largely behind the eyes, abetted by a heart-tugging delivery of his one song. Yet virtually all of the songs are lip-synched, further robbing the video Cats of its onstage seeming spontaneity. It's clearer than ever that Lloyd Webber's music is mostly twaddle, with the important exception of "Memory," which instantly and rightly became one of the genuine theater standards not dependent on context, in the vein of Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns." On the plus side, most of the Cats characters and lyrics, from T.S. Eliot's 14-poem Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, are far better defined and understood from the video version. --Robert Windeler« less
B. Marold | Bethlehem, PA United States | 04/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The `Cats' DVD is a cinematic record of the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical as performed on the London stage in, I believe, 1998 starring Elaine Paige in the `lead' role of Grizabella, although the only aspect of her role which warrants calling it the starring role is the fact that this character sings the `show-stopper' song, `Memory' which, if you are to believe writer / director Kevin Smith's bit in `Jersey Girl', has become a real Broadway cliché. The show is the most truly `ensemble' performance I can think of. Few characters stand out for more than the length of a single piece, yet practically all characters are on stage for over 50% of the two-hour performance. Aside from Paige, the only character / actor who is remotely familiar to me is John Mills who is on for but two scenes and who is more of a prop than a character.
I make a strong point of the fact that this is a recording of a stage performance rather than a conversion of the play to a more realistic environment. This conversion is done for most Broadway plays turned into movies, especially for big musicals such as `Oklahoma', `The Sound of Music', `My Fair Lady', and `Chicago'. But this conversion is not always successful. That is, the very big realistic setting is not always an enhancement. My best evidence for this is the film done of `The Fantasticks' with a cast including such high powered talent as Joel Gray and others. As someone how has seen the play done on the live stage three times with three different interpretations, including a performance by the New York City cast, I can say that the movie failed to breath any life into the classic minimalist staging it gets in intimate little theaters. The movie was simply not as good as the live performance. This is clearly not the case with this DVD record. It gives us the stage fantasy that needs practically no embellishment with a real ally or cinematic whiz-bang.
Like `The Fantasticks', I have seen `Cats' on the New York stage sitting in a mezzanine seat about 4 rows from the back of the Winter Garden theatre. And, while there is something about a live performance that simply cannot be recorded, I will say that this DVD (and VCR) recording is quite as good a record as you can get.
My most important criteria for evaluating a movie on DVD or VCR is whether or not the work wears well after the second or third or fourth viewing. For example, `Chicago' was fun to watch once, but I have no burning desire to watch it again. On the other hand, `Singin' in the Rain' I can watch about once a year and still find the time well spent. I will say with great conviction that I can watch this recording of `Cats' once a year and enjoy every minute spend with the experience, because I have done so over the last few years. The performance and its record are so durable that my second most important criteria for a DVD, a good commentary track, becomes unnecessary. And, the commentary track is basically a waste of time for a musical anyway, especially a musical based on famous poems written 65 years ago by the most notable poet, T. S. Eliot in `Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'.
The play has the thinnest of plots based on a once a year selection of one Jellicle cat to ascend into some state of grace, presumably at the conclusion of their legendary nine (9) lives. The only other plot twist involves the kidnapping of the head cat, Old Deuteronomy, thereby preventing this feline apotheosis from being carried out.
This accounts for four or five out of the nineteen numbers. All the rest are based directly on fourteen out of the fifteen poems in Eliot's little book.
One may think that this work has but a single hit song and, therefore, the remaining musical numbers are second rate. This is certainly not the case. I find myself tapping my toe to all numbers, with especial pleasure coming from `Jellicle Cats', `Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser', and `The Pekes and the Pollicles'. These are much more like stories in song than a simple ballad with easily remembered refrain.
Very highly recommended for anyone with a taste for musicals and worth a try for anyone who likes fantasy. "
We have seen "Cats" live twice, This is by far the very best
J. Levin | Las Vegas, NV | 07/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am 77 years old.My beloved late wife and I were avid live theater patrons, both in GB and the USA. My wife and I were lucky to have seen our first "Cats" performance in London the first month it opened.Several years later we again revisited London and saw "Cats" again.Both times it was a remarkable theatrical experience.I just received my "Cats (Ultimate Edition)" DVD and it is the very best version of "Cats" I have ever seen. The extra bonus DVD that comes with the "Unlimited Edition," explaining in minute detail, how the play "Cats" was conceived and its production, is truly worth the price of DVD alone.Joe Levin, Las Vegas NV"
Life to the Everlasting Cat!!
J. Levin | 07/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All I can say is...wow...I loved the VHS version of Cats. As one of those people who saw it on Broadway first, the video is a great way to bring back memories. It also gives you the chance to see facial expressions up close, and rewind great parts :-)Cast members who stick out (at least for me): John Partridge as Rum Tum Tugger (yummy! Good looking AND a great singer/dancer!); The fantastic Michael Gruber as Munkustrap (can't believe I missed him on Broadway..); Jacob Brent as The Magical Mr. Mistoffelees (this guy can DANCE!!), Rosemarie Ford as Bombalurina; Aeva Mae as Demeter; Elaine Paige as Grizabella; Drew Varley and Jo Gibb as Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (and they WERE NOT DUBBED!! Those beautiful, amazing voices are their own!!); ok, the WHOLE CAST was great!!One or two notes tho.. there are some PG-13 moments. Some er...interesting closeups (butt shots during Macavity.. and er.. crotch shots during Rum Tum Tugger), a little blooper where Tugger curses Griz (thankfully only mouthed!), and risque scene during the Jellicle Ball. If you have kids under say, 7 or 8, please watch it with them.All in all, a great buy! I highly recommend it!!"
This is ART in EVERY sense!
T. Young | 03/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I absolutely loved CATS! I first saw it on this video, then I saw the live show and I fell in love! I bought the soundtrack that day that I was on my way home from the theatre! I'm not the biggest fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber (although he has done some good work), but I must say that this is a stroke of genius! No, there isn't a storyline or plot to this at all, but that is what I love about it! You can truly sit back, relax, and let your mind wonder in the beautiful music! CATS is a musical where every part of art comes together! Stunning music, great lyrics, beautiful costumes, an interesting set design, and gorgeous choreography! Every song in this show is 5 stars +! The Overture makes you so excited to see what is coming, the Prologue: Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats is great; hinting about the mysterious 'Jellicle Cats.' The Naming of Cats is brilliant and very interesting, The Rum Tum Tugger is fast and very fun, Mungojerrie and Rumplteazer adds some mystery to the show, as does Macavity, and Memory is truly wonderful; easily one of the best songs sung on Broadway! So if you don't plan to see the show on stage (or have and want to see it again and again!), buy this video NOW! Also, get the soundtrack! E-Mail me at Cepheus9@aol.com if you have any questions! Enjoy!"
When good videos go bad on DVD
Kitty | Tacoma, WA USA | 11/03/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I own both the Cats video(best play in da world!) as well as the Ultimate Edition DVD of Cats due to my obsession with the beauty of this great play however there were quite a few things that kind of irked me when I made comparisions to both. One I couldn't help but notice the Ultimate Edition(in my opinion's) totally butchering of the music compared to the video. What the heck is up with the whole adding of dog sounds on the Pekes and the Pollicles, I for one love the cats doing the barking themselves! That and I didn't feel the whole intensity in the music on the Rum Tum Tugger song that gets me dancin to it, I mean I could barely hear the awesome guitar solo. All the tempos to me and a lot of the great sound effects from the video were cut or changed. Anybody know why the heck was that? Anyway I personally think the Cats video edition is the better buy."