I’ll just go ahead and say it. Does the world really need another production of Cats? Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1981 mega-musical about a group of hair-metal rejects vaguely disguised as feral felines is the second-most produced of its genre in history (just behind his other gem Phantom of the Opera). Elaborate makeup and hard-bodied dancers in spandex can consistently sell tickets. But is there contemporary relevance beyond quick cash for producers?
“We had a long discussion on the first day about why we were doing it,” says director Dave Campbell. “The actors need a bigger task than making people happy and getting a paycheque on Thursday. Trying to figure out what the show has to offer today was a big part of this process.”
Trained as a dancer, Campbell treats the show as a sort of ballet; most of the story is told through movement. His edged-out goth-influenced production (designed by long-time partner Tim Webb) looks for deeper meaning in a piece usually presented as pure spectacle.
“The mega-musical was such an overwhelming experience when it first emerged,” he says. “Earlier productions were often victims of technology. People were looking for sensory overload and throwing money at effects. But at the heart of the story you find a poor, desperate outsider who’s trying to be accepted back into society. For a gay audience especially, I think it’s extremely relevant and accessible.”