Opera House, Wellington

22/05/2008 - 14/06/2008

Production Details

"..among the most exhilarating and innovative musicals ever staged…"

From 22 May 2008, Wellington’s Opera House will transform into a magical world of lushly orchestrated music, gasp-inducing dance, songs that draw excited laughter one moment, and soaring wonder the next. Only one show brings all of the facets of musical theatre together so completely and produces an experience that stays with you forever; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats.

It’s a show that barely needs an introduction. Since Cats first opened on the West End stage in 1981, it has become one of the world’s best known and best loved musicals. The producers of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and High School Musical bring the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic to the Wellington stage, featuring the Vector Wellington Orchestra.

Cats has been presented in over twenty countries and in about two hundred and fifty cities, including such diverse destinations as Buenos Aires, Seoul, Helsinki and Singapore. Within two and half years of the London opening there were productions in New York, Tokyo, Budapest and Vienna, and the first of four US touring productions had hit the road.

With all new production sets and costumes direct from the recent Melbourne season, Wellington is set relive the memory of one of the world’s most popular musicals, one more time. It’s been over a decade since Cats played to full houses in Wellington each night for an extended season.

Bookings are open now for a very limited run of this iconic musical.

More information at

CAST (in alphabetical order)
Ruth Armishaw: Backing Vocalist
Hannah Bain: Demeter
Jennifer Bateman: Backing Vocalist
Sam Benton: Victor
David Bond: Backing Vocalist
Martin Brown: Alonzo
Jamie Burgess: Munkustrap
Caroline Chu: Cassandra
Julie Cullen: Jennyanydots - The Old Gumbie Cat
Waylon Edwards: The Rum Tum Tugger
Pipi-Ayehsa Evans: Circus performer
Mariano Goldman: Johnny
Chris Green: Old Deuteronomy
Skye Hay: Victoria The White Cat
Joel Hewlett: Mungojerrie
Christina Hitchcock: Isis
Catherine Hobbs: Griddlebone
Joanne Hodgson: Grizabella
Jason Jowett: Plato
Hollie King: Savanah
Katty Lau: Sillabub
Jody McCartney: Backing Vocalist
Sam McLeod: Admetus
Emily Middleton: Jemima
Andrew Miller: Macavity/Rocket
Raef Mitchell: Backing Vocalist
Jade Neale: Quaxo
Stacey Neale: Exotica
Ana Serena Orrego: Electra
Jared Pallesen: Asparagus
Alicia Pierson: Rumpleteazer
Mikhael Plain: Mr Mistoffelees
Benjamin Priest: Skimbleshanks
Tara Randell: Tintomara
Claire Robinson: Bombalurina
Kent Robinson: Carbucketty/Growltiger
Rochelle Rose: Anoushka
Alice Russell: Backing Vocalist
Lloyd Scott: Gus/Bustopher Jones
Anna Sheffield: Jellylorum
Emma Sutherland: Garbo
Cade Taylor: Pouncival
Nikita Tu-Bryant: Tantomile
Morgan Wisheart: Backing Vocalist

Lighting Design J. Howard Anderson - Accent on Production
Sound Design Adrian Watts - Oceania Audio
Pyrotechnic Design & Operation Aaron King - Fused-fx
Make-up Design & Wig preparation Edyta Koscielecki

Wardrobe Manager Terry Guillemot
Stage Manager Keri Mills
Assistant Choreographer Rebecca Sutherland
Assistant Musical Director Tim Solly
Lighting Operator Mark Hakaraia - Fused-fx
Follow-spot Operator Gary Kendall
Sound Operator James Woods
Radio Microphones Matt Bentley, Paul Miller, Vernon Prime
Audio Visual Support Peter Stobbart - AVS Wellington
Make-up Artists Hayley Ness, Fiona Sole
assisted by Amelia Allen, Donna Bolton, Amy Deed, Leanne Hoare, Rebecca Woolhouse 

Reed 1 Alex Nyman
Reed 2 Nils Olsen / Andre Paris
Reed 3 Louise Cox
Horns Abbey Edlin, Shadley van Wyk
Trumpets Alexis French, Barrett Hocking
Trombone Richard Shirley
Guitar Tyson Smith
Keyboards Tim Solly, Catherine Norton, Dayle Jellyman
Cello Paul Mitchell
Bass Rowan Clark
Drums Stephen Bremner
Percussion Jeremy Fitzsimons

This production premiered at the Opera House, Wellington, New Zealand on Thursday 22 May, 2008.

Visually pleasing, musically assured, meaningless opiate for the masses

Review by Lyne Pringle 28th May 2008

This is a stylish and joyous production from the Wellington Musical Theatre who have been presenting shows in Wellington for over 100 years with largely voluntary and passionate casts and crews under the direction of professionals.

I’ll come clean right from the outset: never seen CATS before; I know, I know, how could I have missed one of the iconic theatre productions of the last century? Sorry but it has never been on my radar – more of that later.

It opened in the West End of London in 1981 (27 years ago!) and has been to Broadway, Budapest, Vienna, Tokoyo, Sydney, Toronto, Hamburg, Mexico City, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Warsaw, Prague, Moscow, Dutch National Theatre, Brisbane, Hobart, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Hobart, Macu, Guangshou, Beijing, Wuhan, Chengdu, Dongguan, Shenzhen, Israel, Lahti, Quebec City, British Columbia, Melbourne and Wellington. WHEW! Talk about a big global phenomenon/miaou!

With costumes and set (this is a franchise we are talking about here) direct from a season in Melbourne, the Wellington show fills the stage of the Opera House to bursting point. The Vector Orchestra sounds great and throughout the show I really enjoy the balance and tone of this group of musicians under the assured musical direction of Michael Nicholas Williams.

Having nothing to compare it to I am assuming that the director (Grant Meese) and choreographer (Leigh Evans) have free rein in terms of staging.

With a cast of all shapes and sizes and various talents they do a brilliant job honouring the mega demands of the show both choreographically and in terms of the singing and staging. There are moments when the chorus really soars in full voice although at times it is difficult to catch the lyrics. (They are largely nonsensical anyway!)

There is a grand melding of text, image and dance/movement in this anthropomorphic ode to the pussycat by a passionate and dedicated company who dance and sing their hearts out. It is a treat to see performers really enjoying themselves onstage; the audience responds accordingly.

There is a LOT of choreography in this show and Evans has done a damn fine job – she has such a musical sympathy in her movement and a really developed sense of space and dynamic; hours and hours of work involved. Throughout, the performers must convince us of their cattiness with their choice of gesture and movement – some are more successful that others. 

Special mention must go to the lighting design by J. Howard Anderson – some of the effects are magical.

It seems unfair to pick out particular performers in such a strong ensemble piece – but some of my favourite moments were: Victoria the White Cat’s solo in Act 1 (Skye Hay); the Rum Tum Tugger rock star tomcat character and song (Waylon Edwards); Grizabella, the aging Glamour Cat, poignantly played by Joanne Hodgson, and of course that famous song ‘Memory’ where I almost had goose-bumps as the dry ice swirled in purple light; the whole Jellicle Ball sequence which is an extraordinary dance number. In Act II Lloyd Scott really stole my heart as Gus the Theatre Cat and he established a warm, tender and funny relationship with the audience. The whole Growltiger’s Last Stand sequence (Kent Robinson) was visually stunning, Mr Mistoffelees (Mikhael Plain) was particularly nimble and the entrance of Macavity (Andrew Miller) really surprising.

As Grizabella blasts off into the fly-tower in a kind of smoking jet, I lean across to my companion and whisper, "What were they on when they wrote this?" Without detracting from the efforts of this company, this is opiate for the masses; meaningless, visually pleasing with some gorgeous melodies that tug at the emotion strings for no apparent reason other than that’s what melodies can do.

I know now why it has been off my radar: I don’t quite understand why it has had such a protracted life; definitely not Lloyd Webbers best work. As one commentator said "The more you’ve seen Jesus Christ Superstar the more you feel a kind of admiration, the more you’ve seen CATS, the less you feel this admiration".

Perhaps CATS needs to stay in the last century?


Hamilton love June 4th, 2008

your all wonderful Wellington performers. I've been to see Priscilla saturday, and I enjoyed your opening night better than priscilla. From Hamilton to your city much thanks Marty

Greg Wikstrom June 2nd, 2008

What is worse is that they bring in professionals and pay them, (very hush-hush) alongside an ensemble of very talented performers (often pros too) that they don't pay. Cat food for thought no doubt. This unfair system reeks like a smelly kitty litter.

Brianne Kerr May 30th, 2008

A great production - I agree. If only the stunning cast were paid a wage for all their hard work and talent. That would be cool too. Cat food for thought. Bri

Positive Congrats May 29th, 2008

Hi I'm very surprised about the review that has been given as I have seen the show and think it is absolutely amazing. I would like to commend Wellington Musical Theatre on a fantastic rendition of this timely number. Cats was groundbreaking back in 1981, and societies are continuing to breathe new life into a show which would be considered groundbreaking today if it were released. The creative team have managed to put a professional edge onto this production that is parallel if not better than a professional cast, which I can comment on because I have seen the production in London, New York and even most recently in Melbourne. As well as spectacular vocals from all solo vocalists and ensemble the cast need to take a third bow in regards to the beautiful movement throughout the choreographical pieces. I tend to think this piece is one of Andrew Lloyd Weber's most clever pieces of work, as the audience is delighted to all facets of musical theatre possible. All the people who have been part of this collaboration need to step into the limelight and truly enjoy every positive comment. You have all blown new life back into the musical theatre, if not the theatre scene in the Wellington. It is truly beautiful to see.

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And still Cats keeps falling on its feet

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 24th May 2008

In 1981 Sheridan Morley reviewing the first Cats prophesied that it would doubtless have more than nine lives in more than nine cities. As we know this anthropomorphic dance-through mega-revusical, which has earned in excess of three billion dollars world-wide at the box-office, has had hundreds of lives in hundreds of cities and will have many many more.

But why? There’s no plot, it has only one hit song (recorded by more than 150 singers), and it has a climax in which the bedraggled Grizabella, who doesn’t even rate a poem in T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, ascends into a moggy heaven called Heaviside Layer, which we are not meant to laugh at, though for me the scene severely rattles my faith in musical theatre.

The secret to its success is surely what Wellington Musical Theatre and director Michael Meese and choreographer Leigh Evans and musical director Michael Nicholas Williams have created: a superb team of singers and dancers whose sleek professionalism cannot be faulted.

Apart from some strange moments such as a weirdly dressed chorus line brandishing yellow loo brushes and a lot of the spandex dressed cats wearing wigs that seemed more in tune with the 18th century or Carnaby Street than any feline head, and Grizabella heading off somewhere beyond the Russell Hotel on a platform that turns into a rocket, the staging of the songs and dances is thrilling.

Benjamin Priest’s nimble Skimbleshanks is a spirited creation as he and the cast travel on the railway. Chris Green’s Old Deuteronomy, suitably dressed as a hairy Old Testament prophet, is in fine voice particularly in the finale, while Waylon Edwards has an arresting, dynamic stage presence as the rock star The Rum Tum Tugger.

The old trouper Lloyd Scott plays with delicacy, pathos and gentle humour the old trouper Gus the theatre cat for whom the theatre is not what it was when he appeared with Irving and Tree. He also plays the would-be man about town, Mr. Bustopher Jones without overdoing the toff. And Joanne Hodgson powers her way through Memory with aplomb and taking the house with her.

I thought that this newfangled production of Cats, which has been set on London rooftops rather than a rubbish dump because of some ridiculous contractual reason, would be like taking New York out of Guys and Dolls, but I was wrong.

It works because in the end it is the exuberance, skill, athleticism, and singing of the entire cast, the control of the Vector Wellington Orchestra, the inventiveness of the choreographer, and the spectacular lighting (J. Howard Anderson) that matter, not the individual moment. There were cheers, or as Gus would say, cat calls at the end. They were deserved.


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