It was said by the ancient Greeks that ‘fortune favours the bold’. This is a helpful proverb: it can be used to motivate people to take risks, or to encourage others not to judge before they have experienced something for themselves. Where this particularly comes in handy is in facing one of the most terrifying aspects of the end of this decade: the release of the musical fantasy film, Cats.
Most people will understand what you’re saying if you ask them about Cats. The only slight confusion can be on whether they think you’re referring to the furry mammals, or if you’re talking about another kind of mammal dressing up as their feline friends and prancing around onstage. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s surreal musical, based on the work of T. S. Eliot, has always been something that people have feared to discover. Its original production did well in the West End, but received very mixed reviews on Broadway. Still, it ran in both locations for a number of years (21 in London, 18 in New York). It has been referenced and mocked repeatedly in popular culture, so a question that seems to be circling the adaptation is simply: why? The answer: why not?
The creative team behind Cats would have anticipated this uncertain response, especially with the reveal of the CGI technology that blends cat and human, so have enlisted a string of experts in order help audiences navigate the question mark that is the musical’s story. The director is none other than Tom Hooper, who was able to craft a fantastic recreation of Les Misérables and won the Oscar for The King’s Speech. The film’s choreography is in good hands, too, with duties falling to Andy Blankenbuehler – yes, THAT Andy Blankenbuehler, the choreographer for Hamilton! Expect rhythmic perfection, as he has won three Tony awards for Best Choreography.
The film’s cast is also full of amazing talent. Our protagonist Victoria, the White Cat, is played by Francesca Hayward, a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet. This will not just be another simple retelling of an old withered classic, as it features an entirely new song, ‘Beautiful Ghosts’, written by Taylor Swift and Lloyd Webber. This will be belted out by Hayward, followed by a reprise by Dame Judi Dench. Dench’s character demonstrates another interesting change, with Old Deuteronomy being gender-flipped for this adaptation. How will this affect the social order of the cinematic feline world? Who knows! But it’s even more reason to be excited as they are trying something new, something daring.
The fact remains that the trailer left much to be desired. Despite explosions of colour and extravagant backgrounds, the CGI on display gives us little more than hairy humans with tails – where are the paws, Tom, where are the paws? Still, there’s lots of other things to look forward to with Cats, and the effects may work better over the course of two hours. The vocals from the varied cast are going to be untouchable; if you can just close your eyes and ignore the scary cat people, it promises to be a whole lot of feline fun. Let’s be bold and hope fortune favours cinemagoers on this one.
Cats, directed by Tom Hooper, will be released in the UK via Universal Pictures on the 20th December. Watch the trailer below: