[REVIEW] Cats: It’s Cats Singing and Dancing

Adaptations of Broadway musicals are a tough nut to crack. Due to fears of box office losses typically the movies come many years after the initial hype of the shows. Then to make matters worse, film directors often seem to have  a difficult time translating the energy of a musical show into a film. It’s a really strange phenomenon and it makes me wonder if the best is movie to Broadway (Mean Girls, Heathers, Beetlejuice, etc) rather than musical to movie.

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The latest attempt is one of the longest running shows in the history of Broadway: the strange Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats. In the musical, ALW takes an epic poem by T.S. Eliot and adds songs. The problem is the poem is not very cinematic. It’s all introductions of various cats all leading to the jellicle ball. While there, the ‘jellicle choice’ is made. So literally we spend time getting to know cat A and then cat B until the cat Old Deuteronomy  (Judi Dench) decides which cat deserves to ‘ascend to the heavens for a new life’.

Fortunately where the narrative in Cats isn’t the best, the singing and dancing is enjoyable. I actually got used to the unique visual style very quickly and found songs like ”Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’ to be catchy. I also liked ‘Mr Mistoffelees’ and ‘Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat’.  They even have trained ballet dancers Francesca Hayward as Victoria and Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks.

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Of course. the highlight of Cats is ‘Memory’ sung by Jennifer Hudson. She is such a powerful singer, and I thought she knocked it out of the park.

I also appreciated with Cats seeing something different. Everything is to scale so the cats look like the size of a normal cat. I personally have never seen a movie like that so it was a neat experience at the theater.

Taylor Swift as Bombalurina in Cats, co-written and directed by Tom Hooper.

The downsides to Cats is because it has so little narrative the pacing suffers. Especially the middle is slow, and I got sleepy watching it. It almost seems like it would be better as a short or a series of youtube sing-alongs rather than a movie. There is just not enough meat on the bones for a feature film.

I was also not a fan of Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots or her song with mice and cockroaches (a step too far! I hate cockroaches!). James Corden as Bustopher Jones was also pretty annoying but I’m in general not a fan of his.

Sir Ian McKellen as Gus the Theatre Cat is probably the strangest of the group with his method acting song.  Taylor Swift fans will probably be disappointed that her character Bombalurina takes a long time to show up and only has one song in the film and another in the closing credits.

I think people expecting something super bonkers will be a little disappointed in Cats. It’s unusual but not something like Pottersville where you are just completely baffled the entire time.

I wish the choice to make it a stop motion animated film had happened with Cats. That would have been amazing. Alas this version is fun enough for a musical theater junkie. The songs are well done and the dancing is impressive. All the actors are trying their hardest and the visual style is unique. It’s far from perfect but take your other Broadway fan friends and go watch something different with some catchy tunes. You’ll have a good time or at least my friend and I did!

5 out of 10

Smile Worthy Barely

smile worthy

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Frozen Musical Review

I am writing this blog from good old Denver Colorado! My friend Phaedra and I decided to make the drive to see the new Disney Frozen: The Musical. It’s the latest in a long line of Broadway adaptations from Disney that started with Beauty and the Beast and has included The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and more. Frozen will open on Broadway next year so this was just a preview screening but we decided we should check it out!

One cool thing I got to experience was to wear my Elsa cosplay to the play. There were tons of little girls dressed up as Anna and Elsa and they got a real kick out of a grown-up Elsa running around. It really made me feel pretty and special  to have all these girls smiling and waving to me (or Elsa!).

I was also able to go with my friend Phaedra and fellow youtuber Larry from LC Screentalk. We had a great time hanging out and  all 3 of us loved the musical. It was bright and colorful, had great songs and was a faithful recreation of the hit movie. I don’t think it will win over new fans but it was a very good play.

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There were a lot of things that worked in this musical. First of all, the casting was spot on. I loved the women playing Anna and Elsa. They were both tremendous singers. I also thought the man playing Olaf was an uncanny imitation of Josh Gadd from the film. They decided to make Kristoff an African-American character which I thought was cool (and he did a great job). Hans was also a terrific singer and convincing at playing both hero and villain.

The spectacle of Frozen: the Musical was also great. Let it Go is everything you could want it to be with one of the most amazing dress changes I’ve ever seen.  Also Sven and Olaf were a ton of fun using puppets. Both were expressive  and worked seamlessly within the story. I loved the way they showed the ice and Elsa’s magic working it in some cool special effects. The sets and costumes were all outstanding and immersive.

They also gave us some new songs. Elsa sings one called ‘Monster’, and Kristoff has a song called ‘What Do You Know About Love?’ that I liked. The Young Anna and Elsa were excellent and sang 4 songs. There was only one song I did not like called Hygge that went on too long and had elements of comedy I didn’t care for.

Frozen: the Musical is not the kind of broadway musical you go to in order to be provocative or challenged. It takes the film and makes small but meaningful changes that I think most people will really enjoy. It’s a musical you can take the whole family to, both boys and girls will like it, and have a great time at. It’s got spectacle, heart and some great songs.

When Frozen:the Musical comes by you I encourage you to see it. It’s a lot of fun and I think will do very well when it does come to Broadway next year!

Overall Grade- A-

Here is my review for my youtube channel with my friend Larry

Last Five Years: A Review

last five years posterAfter venting my annoyance at yesterday’s Oscars I decided to watch the new film version of one of my favorite Broadway musicals- The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown.  Faith now restored in movies 🙂

The show and movie are about a couple whose relationship lasts 5 years.  Cathy played by the luminous Anna Kendrick dreams of being a Broadway star.  Jamie played by Jeremy Jordan is a young novelist whose first novel is a big hit.

LastFiveYearsAnnaKendrickThe timeline for the movie is very clever.  It starts out with Cathy getting the break up letter and singing. While Jamie begins the movie at the beginning of the relationship and then it flips back and forth. I thought that was neat.  (The play is divided into separate segments on the stage and they get together for a duet at the proposal)

Here’s the trailer

I love, love, love, love, love the music and they translate it to the movies very well.  We know from Pitch Perfect and Into the Woods Anna Kendrick can sing but her voice is at its best here. Jeremy Jordan isn’t quite as good but he still holds his own.

The music in Last Five Years sounds like simple narration but trust me it is very tough to pull off and they do a great job here. See I’m Smiling is my particular favorite. It is such a well written song that goes through every emotion from hope, happiness to anger to despair.

One word of profanity in this but I just love it. (I like every song in this show. They feel so authentic, human and real)

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The show and movie does a great job showing the complete journey of a couple with the highs and lows.  Jordan and Kendrick have wonderful chemistry and it feels like they love and hate each other depending on the moment.  Kind of like Boyhood on the surface it is simple, just the story of a couples ups and downs over 5 years, but it tells us so much about love and life along the way.

It is also not a downer with very funny sequences like ‘In Ohio’ when Cathy is working trying to catch the eye of someone who can give her a part in New York.

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For someone who is a die hard musical fan I don’t find that many new movie musicals I like. Most are either too explicit, vulgar or dopey. Into the Woods was great until the 3rd act and then the tone went all wrong.  However, The Last Five Years is the exception to the rule.  I loved it. You can watch it on demand or in theaters so please check it out! (Wish more movies did that).

As far as content it has a little profanity, sensuality and a character has multiple affairs but it is pretty tame. Certainly appropriate for teens and up.

Content Grade- B, Overall Grade- A