Cats: Ultimate Edition

Cats: Ultimate Edition (2001)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Elaine Page
Extras: Cast & Crew Interviews, Featurette, Make-up Demonstration

Universal expands their ’Ultimate Edition’ line beyond feature films with ’Cats: Ultimate Edition’. This two-disc set captures the beauty and excitement of the longest running musical in Broadway history. The first disc features the performance of the show itself, and is the same as the ’Cats: Commemorative Edition’ which was released in March of this year. Devotees of the show should be very pleased with this recording, as director David Mallet has opted to forego any excessive camera movements and he simply focuses on the action. This allows the viewer to feel as if they are in the front row of the theater, enjoying this timeless show. This particular purrformance features Elaine Page as Grizabella, along with a very competent cast, backed by an eighty-piece orchestra.

The presentation of ’Cats’ certainly does justice to the show. The image has been letterboxed at 1.78:1, but is strangely not enhanced for 16×9 TVs. The picture (which was shot on film) is very sharp and clear, showing only the slightest bit of grain at times. There is no distortion on the image nor are there any defects from the source print. The colors come across especially well, which is very important to this show, given the lavish nature of the costumes. The audio on this DVD is a Dolby Digital 5.0 channel surround track. This audio track is without defects and sounds wonderful. The wide dynamic range and impressive sound field immerse the viewer into the music, helping to heighten the illusion that one is actually seeing the play live. The absence of a low frequency extension channel doesn’t diminish from the audio, and the highlights, such as the reprise of ’Memory’, still contain a great deal of power.

Disc Two of the ’Cats: Ultimate Edition’ set contains several extras. First, we have in-depth interviews with the creative team responsible for the musical, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh, and Trevor Nunn. These interviews are available as separate chapters, but can be watched simultaneously with the ’Play All’ option. The featurette, ’The Making of Cats’, gives one a thorough look at how the show came into being. This extra explores the origins of the show, and then goes on to examine the stage design, the choreography, the music, and the make-up. Speaking of make-up, the final extra is a featurette with make-up artist Karen Dawson Harding exploring how the make-up for several characters is created. Through time-lapse photography we see how each actor is transformed into their feline alter-ego. Those who already own the first ’Cats’ DVD release may not want to invest in a second copy of the musical, but ’Cats’ fans who are newcomers to DVD will find the ’Ultimate Edition’ very satisfying.