CATS Fever Finally in Manila :)

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.

30 thoughts on “CATS Fever Finally in Manila :)

  1. Great Cast. But no matter how hard I try, I really not fond of the story. Left after the intermission. Perhpas we should have waited but couldn’t take it. I learned MORE from your blog than the play haha.

  2. I am sure our local production is fantastic. I found this to be the most boring production in Broadway. I still cannot understand how this became the longest running musical in Broadway. Except for the song “Memories”, there is nothing that held my attention. I am sure the local version cannot be any better.

  3. hi anton! sorry off topic…just want to ask what’s the best restaurant/eatery that is along Macapagal like Dampa style? my father is coming home from abroad and we want to him treat him to the best restaurant we can find there..he likes fresh seafoods. thanks!

  4. the play was dead boring…… slept thru most…… only the song memory stood out for me….. what a waste of $$$$$

  5. On the contrary to prior comments, I liked Cats a lot. Maybe, because I was seated at the 2nd row, center and there’s not much distraction. What’s impressive is the choreography. Imagine, they sing and dance at the same time! Hirap kaya noon! Hehe. Perhaps a tip for those who still plan to watch: read the lyrics and listen to the soundtrack so they get familiar with the songs. Mr. Mistoffelees, Old Deuteronomy and The Old Gumbie Cat are my favorite songs. While Lea sang well (I’m a diehard fan of Lea), I think her “sweet” voice is not apt for the character of old Grizabella, a once glamor cat. But to me, this is very minor. Overall, I give the show 5 stars. 🙂

  6. my friends did not appreciate cats also because they found it ‘boring’… but i loved it and would gladly watch it again. i think the reason why it did not appeal that much to others is because there is not much of a concrete storyline or plot, it is basically just a spectacle of continuous song and dance. however, if you’re into theater arts, terpsichore, etc. you will really be mezmerized by the awesome talent of the performers. when i got home from ccp, i watched the dvd version all over again and relished the ‘memories’ from the play. =) p.s. for those who are just about to watch, it would probably help to read up on the synopsis and characters first, because the songs tend to be sung too fast, one would easily miss some of the lyrics =)
    my only complaint is that i feel the tickets were way overpriced. for the price we paid (P2000), i was expecting at least a decent view but to my surprise, we were seated so high — five stories high, to be exact! our section was also a very scary one to be in because the angle of the rows is so steep, you have this feeling that you could slide off the balcony any minute. plus, the wall separating the seats and the ‘abyss’ below is no more than three feet high, ang bilis mahulog. sobra nakakatakot talaga. i seriously feel it is very unsafe, especially if you bring kids.
    and oh yeah, rum tum tugger was really an electrifying performer… galing =) and mr. mistofelees too =) i was actually quite impressed with lea. her performance was flawless. you’re right, her voice may have lacked the intensity and emotions of elaine paige’s, but i think she did pretty well.

  7. There is a Dampa along Macapagal, but most of them are the same. We like to go to the restaurant all the way at the back of Dampa.

  8. hello i was just wondering if the upper box of ccp tanghalang nicanor is ok. is it too high up that we have to crane our necks to watch the musical? im very hesitant to buy the 4k plus lower box ticket but if the view of lower box and upper box will make a big difference then i can shell out the extra money.

  9. @cat, are you referring to balcony 2? that was where we were seated. (our tickets cost P2000 ea.) you can opt to sit there if a) you don’t have a fear of heights — it’s almost 5 stories high from the stage and very steep; and b) you don’t mind not seeing the expressions, emotions and nuances on the actors’ faces. i was still able to appreciate the musical albeit from a bird’s eye view. in many parts, like during lea’s solo numbers, i just relied on my binoculars (sold at ccp for P50 each) to better appreciate them. the sound system was excellent, the voices and music were clear all the way to our section.
    having said that, though, you will definitely feel ‘detached’ from the performers since you’re so far away. you won’t feel that ‘connection’ between performer and audience. i don’t know if there is a big difference between balcony 1 and 2 though.

  10. ^oh so upper box is the same height as balcony 2? coz based on the seat map it looks like the parterre boxes are in line with lower box while the upper box is in line with balcony 1. i hope someone can clarify this for me.

  11. you’re right. the upper boxes are in almost the same level as balcony 1 but closer to the stage, on the side nga lang. i think it’s good enough, for viewing and for the price. if you are a theater afficionado, spending some more to be seated at the ground floor will be worth the price since the play is a visual display of costume, lights and dance. buy a binocular still. if not a theater fan, ok na yan!

  12. your post will set my expectation right. I was kinda expecting an “awesome” production like moving backdrops like other broadway shows. Hopefully it will be fabulous just the same.

  13. Oh great! Can’t wait to watch Cats next weekend. But re: fixed set, that’s what I like about Philippine theater shows. I can’t help but compare the performances here and abroad (not that I get to really watch it abroad–yet… i watch it online). The choreography is much different and even more creative (I think) even though props or the set is limited/fixed. Anyway, I think knowing more about it will really help me in enjoying the show. Can’t wait! 🙂

  14. Hi Anton! I’m watching Cats next week and I was wondering if you could suggest restaurants near CCP that my mom and I can have dinner in before the show? Thanks!

  15. As with any musical, it’s best to look up the story and even listen to some of the songs beforehand. Otherwise, you will be at a loss and end up getting bored. Buy the souvenir program and go through the plot synopsis. It should help you follow the storyline.
    Otherwise, as with so many people I saw in the audience, the only song they recognized was “Memory” and the experience of sitting through the show was tortuous. Yet 29 years and millions of viewers can’t be all that wrong, can they?
    I enjoyed Cats immensely. I’ve been wanting to watch it but have yet to go back to NY. I couldn’t believe my ears when someone told me it would be brought here. Perhaps someday we can look forward to Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera being staged in Manila. If I had any regret about Cats, it was that my group bought the seats on Balcony 2. It really helps to be up close to the performers. Will I watch it again? If I could scrape up funds for the more expensive tickets, I would. In a minute.

  16. It was a great show. I agree that in hindsight we should have shelled out more for closer seats (although our tickets were already in the P2k range!). Having to take an elevator to the fourth floor emphasized how far away we were from the stage, and in addition to this our seats were in one of the back rows. I in my shortness had to crane my neck to see over fellow balcony-watchers. =D
    Lea was wonderful, I actually prefer her version to Ellen Paige’s, no offense to the purists out there. If there is anything one can nitpick about her performance, it’s that her voice really is too crystal-clear, and sweet, and, despite her age, wonderfully young, to fit an old cat like Grizabella. I’m no musician, and I don’t know how to describe it, that someone with a more ‘paos’ or throatier voice would have fit the bill, but I really liked Lea’s version, and it lifted the somewhat dated musical and gave new life to the production.

  17. we regret not buying the souvenir program for better appreciation of the cast and character…notwithstanding the distance , we were seated at the P2k section, and the fact that only lea’s voice was clear, we still enjoyed the production and choreography very much..we didnt have high expectations on the plot anymore…no expectations of realism from a play based on poems about’s tongue-in-cheek appreciation…
    we appreciate the audience participation of the cats even for the balcony 2 audience
    i admire the clarity and brilliance of lea’s voice and her enunciation is always perfect and flawless…
    my main beef really is how uncomfortable and vertigo-inducing balcony 2 is…it was so steep and if you were rushing in, there’s a chance you’d fall off the ..that’s no fault of CATS though

  18. hello there! nice website here Anton! kudos to your broadway review here and
    im sooo excited and lookin forward to seeing the show on Aug 21 Sat. no
    other choice date due to my call center schedule.
    im a great fan and good friend of Lea S way back Menudo days! and i also
    try to catch her shows here whenever possible.and now we have CATS and thank
    God the show is extended!
    wanted to ask, are the ticket prices sold in the different Ticketworld
    outlets the same price being sold at CCP box office? which one would sell the
    cheaper rates?
    hope to hear from you asap!
    thanks a bunch!

  19. The first part of CATS was dragging. I thought I made a mistake wanting to watch it. The second part picks up and is great!
    My favorite cat is Rum Tug Tugger, without him, the play would be boring because Lea’s parts are so short. Waiting for her performance is worth it though.
    Lea brought the people to watch CATS but Rum Tum Tugger carried the entire show from start to end. I loved the song about Mr. Mistofelees.
    I was frightened when the cats started minggling with the crowd because we stayed in the balcony area. You never knew when they would pop out behind you.

  20. Hello! I was wondering if you can wait for the actors after the show to take pictures and take their autographs?! I’ve seen some fan pictures from their China/HK stint…I would really love to have my program signed! :3

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