Cats, Pick Me Up Theatre Company, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 7.30pm, tomorrow, 2.30pm and 7.30pm; box office: 0844 871 3024 or at A Christmas Carol, NE Musicals, York, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tonight, 7.30pm, tomorrow, 2.30pm and 7.30pm; 01904 501935 or

CATCHING up after time away on holiday, there were two of York’s biggest shows of the year to see before this week was out.

“Biggest” in terms of cast size, that is, and when it comes to big casts, Ali Kirkham and Steve Tearle respectively are not fazed by large numbers.

The hugely experienced Kirkham is directing Pick Me Up Theatre for the first time at the invitation of Pick Me Up artistic director Robert Readman, after her Ryedale Youth Theatre rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webster’s musical interpretation of T S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats stuck in his memory.

Cats en masse can be a pretty weird sight, but there is a suitably strange magic crackling through Kirkham’s production, which plays to her choreographic strengths, her cast of cats constantly on the move.

At the same, there are superb principal performances from Tracey Rea’s Grizabella, Rory Mulvihill’s veteran Old Deuteronomy, Finn East’s scene-stealing Rum Tum Tugger and especially Joe Wawrzyniak’s Asparagus.

Steve Tearle has been doing sterling work gradually improving NE Musicals, York, and he is being rewarded this week with full houses for Alan Menken’s musical version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Yes, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be and co have arrived rather early, at the outset of the advert season not Advent season, but there is great joy in his production, with a stage crammed to the gills with highly energetic performers of all ages.

Tearle himself plays host and ghost, Jacob Marley, looming large on the film projections so crucial to his show, from thunderclaps to a Christmas message from Marley and fellow ghosts (the spectacularly soprano-voiced Emma Louise Dickinson, circus-style showman James O’Neill and gothic-horror rock frontman Mark Simmonds).

Kevin Bowes’ long-haired Ebenezer Scrooge is grouchy but eager to learn; the ensemble are keenly involved and Sam Johnson’s musical forces handle every contrasting song with elan.