Amid the hullabaloo surrounding the release of Cats (the movie), one might wonder, is CATS the musical still worth watching? Yes, and this is why: You can snuggle up to the “cats” onstage, but not the cats on the silver screen.

It has been almost 40 years since Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Nunn adapted T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats for the theatre, but audiences worldwide are still captivated by a stageful of costumed actors mimicking the appearance and mannerisms of furry felines.

At the opening night of CATS the musical at MasterCard Theatres last Thursday (December 19), members of the audience were delighted to be able to go up onstage during the intermission and take pictures with Old Deuteronomy, the cuddly leader of the Jellicle cats. We can attest that the experience is even better than sitting on Santa’s lap!

If you check social media, you might have seen that other friends who attended the musical also have posted pictures of themselves with Old Deuteronomy. It does seem that the photo opportunity during intermission is a special feature of this run.

One lucky girl sitting in the front row might also get to dance with Rum Tum Tugger, that rockstar-like kitty whose signature dance move is the hip thrust.

We last caught CATS in 2015, when the director choreographer was Miss Jo-Anne Robinson, who also directed the 2009 show. We didn’t receive a press release for this 2019 production, so I’m not sure who the director and choreographer is this time, but Miss Robinson’s touch did seem to be missing as the overall dancing and timing did seem to be a little less on point than what we remember. The makeup was less elaborate and the Jellicle Moon which hung over the stage looked flat and lacked dimension. The stage of the MasterCard Theatres does seem a lot smaller (less wide, less deep) than the one at Esplanade Theatre, so it did seem a little cramped. However, the actors did make the best of it, and did not bump into each other onstage.

This season’s show is called “Cats the Musical Singapore – Mr Mistoffelees Magical Gala”. If you’re an ardent fan of CATS, you may have noticed that Mr Mistoffelees used to have a non-singing role. That is not the case this time. Mr Mistoffelees sings, dances and performs a full range of acrobatic stunts and of course, magic tricks.

Another difference that we discerned from the previous season’s CATS is that Gus the Theatre Cat reminisces about performing “The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles” instead of “Growltiger’s Last Stand“. Additionally, there are a few changes to musical arrangement, but nothing so major as to make a CATS fan throw his or her paws up in the air in protest.

Overall, we feel that the physical interactivity with the audience more than makes up for the shortcomings of this production. So, if you’re looking to bring the family out for some quality entertainment this festive period, CATS the Musical is a no-brainer.

CATS the musical is in Singapore for only a very limited season, only until Jan 5. Get your tickets here.