The new Cats trailer tries to stir a memory, but does it succeed?

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 30: Cast members perform during a media call for CATS at Capitol Theatre on October 30, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 30: Cast members perform during a media call for CATS at Capitol Theatre on October 30, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) /

The trailer for the celebrity-filled Cats movie-musical is out, but the first look at the adaptation leaves many questioning whether it’s all just a spectacle.

Many theater fans have been yearning to see the first images of Cats, the 2019 movie adaptation of the successful Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. While the musical might have been controversial when it initially debuted in London’s West End, it has become one of the longest-running, most commercially success musicals of all time. But, does this new movie capture even a glimmer of the stage magic of the original?

Watch the new Cats trailer here:

The two-minute-plus trailer introduces audiences to a handful of the many Jellicle Cats. Of course, people were curious to see some of the famous celebrities transformed into their feline counterparts. But even with the melodic notes of “Memory” playing from the screen, the overall vision seemed to be blurred.

For those unfamiliar with it, the musical is based on a collection of T.S. Elliot poems. Created by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical debuted in London in 1981 and on Broadway in 1982. For the period, this musical was innovative in storytelling, dance, and music.

Cats is a story about the Jellicle tribe. Each cat vies to be chosen to for the new life in the Heaviside Layer. While all the characters interact with each other, each song demonstrates even more character-driven narrative.

Looking at the new trailer, many people might be confused by the visuals. Although the Royal Ballet’s Francesca Hayward is an amazing choice for Victoria the White Cat, the trailer gives no explanation of this character. Unless you are familiar with the musical, you wouldn’t know that Victoria never sings, she only dances.

Granted, using a principle ballerina in this role is a wonderful choice. It expands the conversation on dance in the modern world. Just like the New York City Ballet blends ballet and modern dance to capture a wider audience, this movie can, and should, open people’s eyes to the beauty and power of the classical dance.

Still, many people just want to see the faces and voices that they know. From Taylor Swift to Jennifer Hudson to James Corden, the big names draw people to the movie theater. Unfortunately, these big names have big paws and expectations to fill.

While the cast has a well-rounded group of Broadway veterans and superstars, viewers need to see the characters, not the person playing the character. I don’t want to hear Swift singing “Macavity: The Mystery Cat” and have my mind wander to “Look What You Made Me Do.” I want to see an actor transformed into Bombalurina.

In the role of Grizabella, Jennifer Hudson is competing with the Broadway legend, Betty Buckley. Broadway’s original Grizabella is the standard for this role. Although every performer should bring a bit of herself to the role, there will always be comparisons.

Where Buckley had vulnerability and even remorse, the clip with Hudson seems almost too strong. The yearning for acceptance is overshadowed by the too-powerful voice. Yes, Grizabella had sparkle, but that luster is now quite tarnished.

That scenario could make this version of Cats almost too superficial. Sure, this musical should be a whimsical exploration of the Jellicle tribe, but the relatable, genuine emotions made it resonate with audiences. It isn’t a vanity project.

The best hope for this movie is that the trailer is like the shiny new ball that catches everyone’s attention. Hopefully, that sheen is doesn’t lose its luster 10 minutes into the film.

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What did you think of the Cats trailer? Will you want to see the movie when it arrives in theaters?