Saturday, March 4, 2023


Based on ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ by T.S. Eliot

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Directed by Jordan Kelly

Canberra Philharmonic Society

Erindale Theatre to 18 March


Reviewed by Len Power 3 March 2023


These days a global phenomenon, ‘Cats’ was first performed in London in 1981 and it played on the stage there for 21 continuous years and 18 on Broadway.  Investors had initially shied away from backing the production when told of its unpromising storyline.  A tribe of cats called the Jellicles come together one night to make the ‘Jellicle Choice’, deciding on one cat who will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.

Now, in 2023, local director, Jordan Kelly, was under pressure to come up with a show that worked for an audience, many of whom knew the music by heart and would have pre-conceived ideas from earlier productions and films and video of the show.  The result is an excellent production that works on all levels.

The huge cast sing and dance very well and the principal ‘cats’ are impressive with their attention to character.  Particularly outstanding amongst this powerful group of performers are Garrett Kelly as the Rum Tum Tugger, Philip Marlan as Asparagus, David Cannell as Bustopher Jones, David Santolin as Skimbleshanks and Kirrily Cornwell as Grizabella.

David Santolin as Skimbleshanks with the company of 'Cats'

 Music direction by Alexander Unilowski was superb and his large orchestra played the score brilliantly.  This show relies heavily on the choreography throughout and Caitlin Shilg has given the cast movement that suits the moment and character it and pleases the eye throughout.

Set designer, Ian Croker, costume manager, Pip Muller, and makeup designer, India Cornwell, have produced a spectacular look to the show that gives it atmosphere.  Lights by Alex Clifford and sound by James McPherson add extra magic to the show.  Jordan Kelly and his whole production team as well as the cast should be feeling very proud of what they have achieved.

Anyone seeing this for the first time will be enchanted.  In the past, I’ve struggled to enjoy this show, but the magic worked for me with this production.

Photo by Ben Appleton 

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at