12 December 2014
Last updated at 10:31
Nicole Scherzinger (Grizabella) in Cats at the London Palladium
Singer Nicole Scherzinger has made her West End debut as Grizabella in Cats – watched by the theatre star who created the role more than 30 years ago.
Elaine Paige, who was in the original Cats cast in 1981, was in the audience for the musical’s return at the London Palladium.
“It brings back wonderful memories for me,” Paige told the BBC, at Thursday’s opening night.
She described Andrew Lloyd Webber’s show as “way ahead of its time”.
Former Pussycat Doll Scherzinger received loud cheers when she performed Memory – the show’s most famous song.
The West End cast of Cats at the London Palladium
“Without a blemish on her face, she struggles to convince as a has-been (she’s only 36),” wrote the Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish, in his four-star review.
“In the second half reprise though, she finds something deep inside and truly makes your hairs stand on end.”
Neil Norman, in the Express, described Scherzinger’s delivery of Memory as “spine-tingling”.
“As the over-the-hill glamourpuss in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s groundbreaking musical, she totters on like a feline Miss Havisham, delivering his best song, Memory, with an internalised regret,” he wrote. “Fab,” he concluded.
The Daily Mirror’s Rod McPhee deemed her performance “outstanding”, adding “the only flaw is the show itself which… is more than a little thin on plot”.
Critic Quentin Letts praised the star’s “feline charms”: “In X Factor jargon, Miss Scherzinger nailed it,” he wrote in the Daily Mail.
“The combination of Lloyd Webber airs and TS Eliot verses is an enduring artistic achievement.”
Cats, which has not been seen in London for 12 years, is based on TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
The musical ran for 21 years in London and 18 years on Broadway.
Laurie Scarth as Jennyanydots
Antoine Murray-Straughan (Rum Tum Tugger) at the London Palladium
Alongside Elaine Paige in the original cast were Wayne Sleep, Bonnie Langford, Brian Blessed, Paul Nicholas and Sarah Brightman.
The new Cats show reunites Lord Lloyd-Webber with members of the original creative team – director Trevor Nunn, choreographer Gillian Lynne and designer John Napier.
Some aspects of the show have been updated, including a rap song from street cat Rum Tum Tugger (Antoine Murray-Straughan).
Paige said Thursday’s opening night was the first time she had seen Cats as an audience member.
“It’s always interesting to see a new incarnation of something when you’ve been involved in it first time round. It’s amazing to see how innovative and ahead of its time it was.
“It seems a lifetime ago,” she added. “Nine lives ago.”
Cats is at the London Palladium until 28 February.