I'm not babbling hyperbolically here: on this, my fourth visit to the venerable Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, I found that I liked Cats more than ever. What I marveled at most was the brilliance and seamlessness of its construction: How the theatre has been so imaginatively reconfigured into a cat's eye view of a junkyard, wittily rendered in oversized soup cans and car tires by designer John Napier. How the show states its purpose and sets its ground rules so effectively and efficiently in its opening moments, as first a panoply of bright eyes and then the cats themselves dart all over the auditorium. How the 26 performers, clad in the Mr. Napier's ingenious, impressionistic cat costumes, convey the essence of cat-ness as they sing, dance, and play, nuzzling the occasional patron in the audience, here with detachment, there with indulgent good-naturedness.
And then there's the music, perhaps too familiar now, but beautiful just the same: "Memory," of course, but also the haunting "Jellicle Cats" theme song, the bouncy "Old Gumbie Cat," the joyous "Skimbleshanks" number, even the semi-operatic "Growltiger's Last Stand"--all sounding great under musical director Ben Whiteley's baton.