But the centerpiece of "Cats," as always, is its Grizabella, no matter now brief her time on stage.
And in this latest incarnation, the producers have unearthed a true gem in Melissa Grohowski. As the tattered and worn "glamour cat," Grohowski presents a brutally fragile image before bursting into a superior rendering of the show's signature number "Memory."
Another memorable performance, in a dizzying dance number, is turned in by Chaz Wolcott as the mystical feline Mistoffelees, who reaps applause long before his segment is finished.
Christopher E. Sidoli shines in three characters, his highlight being the melodrama star Growltiger in a swashbuckling presentation.
The dynamic duo of Mungojerrie (Daniel Switzer) and Rumpelteazer (Hillary Porter) get the show off to an energetic start once Jennyanydots (Erica Leigh Hansen) warms the audience up comically. Chris Stevens' Rum Tum Tugger is another visual treat, as is Louie Napoleon as the nimble railroad cat Skimbleshanks.
Nathan Morgan presides over the annual congregation of "Jellicle cats" as Old Deuteronomy, who will select one of their number for a trip to the "heavyside layer" and a glorious rebirth. This process is just one of the soaring technical achievements of Raymond Huessy, reproducing John Napier's original set design.
Musical director J. Michael Duff commands a powerful, unseen orchestra that emits a perpetual stream of Webber melodies, while Rick Belzer's adaptation of David Hersey's original lighting effects is dazzling, except when aimed directly at playgoers' eyes.
It's not difficult to imagine why "Cats" was the longest running musical ever in both New York ( 7,485 performances) and London (3,358). It's been labeled the largest single generator of jobs in Broadway history. And it continues to enrapture new audiences around the world.
Local theatergoers have just this weekend to visit, or revisit, this overwhelming musical treat at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
TOM TITUS covers local theater for the Daily Pilot.
If You Go
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Closing performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday
Tickets: Start at $20
Call: (714) 556-2787 or go to http://www.SCFTA.org