Cats (musical)

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Cats
CatsMusicalLogo.jpg
Music Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics T. S. Eliot
Trevor Nunn (additional)
Richard Stilgoe (additional)
Basis Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot
Premiere 11 May 1981 – New London Theatre, London
Productions 1980 Concert
1981 West End
1982 Broadway
1998 video version
2001–2002 US tour
2001 UK tour
2013 Stagecoach 25th Anniversary Concert
2014 West End Revival
Awards 1981 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical
1983 Tony Award for Best Musical

Cats is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, and produced by Cameron Mackintosh. The musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as "the Jellicle choice" and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life. Cats also introduced the song standard "Memory".

Directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Gillian Lynne, Cats first opened in the West End in 1981 and then with the same creative team on Broadway in 1982. It won numerous awards, including Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards. The London production ran for twenty-one years and the Broadway production ran for eighteen years, both setting new records. Actresses Elaine Paige and Betty Buckley became particularly associated with the musical. One actress, Marlene Danielle, performed in the Broadway production for its entire run (from 1982 until 2000).

As of 2014, Cats is the second longest-running show in Broadway history, and was the longest running Broadway show in history from 1997-2006, surpassed by The Phantom of the Opera. Cats is the fourth longest-running West End musical. It has been performed around the world many times and has been translated into more than 20 languages. In 1998, Cats was turned into a made-for-television film.

Production history[edit]

Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the production of Cats is based on T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), which the composer recalled as having been a childhood favourite. The songs of the musical comprise Eliot's verse set to music by the composer, the principal exception being the most famous song from the musical, "Memory", for which the lyrics were written by Trevor Nunn after an Eliot poem entitled "Rhapsody on a Windy Night". Also, a brief song entitled "The Moments of Happiness" was taken from a passage in Eliot's Four Quartets. Andrew Lloyd Webber began composing the songs in late 1977 and premiered the compositions at the Sydmonton Festival in 1980. The concert was attended by T.S. Eliot's wife, Valerie Eliot and she loved the songs that Webber had composed. She gave her blessing for the songs to be adapted into a musical stage play. Rehearsals for the musical began in early 1981 at the New London Theatre. Due to the Eliot estate asserting that they write no script and only use the original poems as the text, the musical had no identified plot during the rehearsal process, causing many actors to be confused about what they were actually doing. An unusual musical in terms of its construction, the overture incorporates a fugue and there are occasions when the music accompanies spoken verse. The show is completely told through music with virtually no spoken dialogue in between the songs. Dance is also a key element in the musical especially during the 10-minute Jellicle Ball dance sequence. The set, consisting of an oversized junk yard, remains the same throughout the show without any scene changes. Lloyd Webber's eclecticism is very strong here; musical genres range from classical to pop, music hall, jazz, rock and electro-acoustic music as well as hymn-like songs such as "The Addressing of Cats".

Cats premiered in the West End at the New London Theatre on 11 May 1981. There was trouble initially as Judi Dench, cast in the role of Grizabella, snapped her Achilles tendon during rehearsals prior to the London opening. She was replaced by Elaine Paige. The musical was produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, directed by Trevor Nun, with associate director and choreographer Gillian Lynne, design by John Napier, and lighting by David Hersey. It played a total of 8,949 performances in London. Its final performance in London's West End was on its 21st birthday, 11 May 2002, and broadcast on a large screen in Covent Garden to the delight of fans who could not acquire a ticket for the final performance. It held the record as London's longest running musical until 8 October 2006, when it was surpassed by Les Misérables.

The original 1981 London cast of Cats

The show made its debut on Broadway on 7 October 1982, at the Winter Garden Theatre with the same production team. On 19 June 1997, Cats became the longest-running musical in Broadway history with 6,138 performances. It closed on 10 September 2000, after a total of 7,485 performances. Its Broadway record was surpassed on 9 January 2006 by The Phantom of the Opera. It remains Broadway's second longest-running show in history. Lloyd Webber stated that when the original show was produced, it cost £900,000, but on Broadway, it cost $5,000,000.[1]

In 1998, Lloyd Webber produced a video version of Cats, based upon the stage version, starring Elaine Paige, who originated the role of Grizabella in London; Ken Page, who originated Old Deuteronomy on Broadway; Sir John Mills as Gus; Michael Gruber as Munkustrap; John Partridge as The Rum Tum Tugger; Jo Gibb as Rumpelteazer with many of the dancers and singers drawn largely from various stage productions of the show.[2] It was directed by David Mallet, with choreography and musical staging by the show's respected original creator Gillian Lynne in London's Adelphi Theatre, and was released on VHS and DVD, as well as broadcast on television worldwide. Andrew Lloyd Webber and others on the production team for the film wanted to keep the feeling that viewers watching the film could still get the sense of seeing the show live, by having all views be facing the stage, therefore, getting multiple views of the set, with several close-ups. Beyond the productions in England, the US, Canada, and Australia, the musical has been produced professionally in Hungary, Austria, and Japan, 1983; Sydney and Toronto, 1985; Germany, 1986; France, 1989; Mexico, 1991; Netherlands, 1992; Argentina, 1993; Hong Kong, 1994; Spain, 2003; Poland and Czech Republic, 2004; Russia and Estonia, 2005; Israel, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, China and Finland, 2007; Singapore, Hong Kong, Dominican Republic, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, China, Italy, Bulgaria and Japan, 2009; and Brazil and the Philippines, 2010. Cats has been translated into over 20 languages.[3]

It was announced on 3 August 2012 that a UK tour of the show will open on 9 February 2013, at the Edinburgh Playhouse.[4]

Stagecoach Theatre Arts schools celebrated their 25th anniversary by performing Cats in the Birmingham National Indoor Arena on 24 March 2013.[5] In association with 'The Really Useful Group', 3500 children from across Europe joined together with a virtual choir of many international Stagecoach students, and produced the largest production of the musical yet. 35 Stagecoach franchises across the UK performed the show on 7 'stages' around the arena, with each school taking it in turns to portray a small section of the musical. In addition to this, 52 selected elite dancers, including 14 solo dancers who took the named parts, performed the whole musical on a raised stage in the centre of the arena. The Really Useful Group, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Veronica Bennetts, Stephanie Manuel and Paul Leddington Wright all contributed and collaborated to bring this production together.

From August 21 through September 11, 2013, the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival (Auburn, N.Y.) staged a production of the show with three-time Grammy nominated pop diva Taylor Dayne playing the role of Grizabella, KC Fredericks as Mr. Mistoffelees, Patrick Mellen as Old Deuteronomy, and Adam Ryan Tackett as Rum Tum Tugger.[6] The production was directed and choreographed by Jacob Brent.

Australian Harvest Rain Theatre Company announced in late 2013 that the biggest production of Cats in the Southern Hemisphere, starring Marina Prior as Grizabella and choreographed by Callum Mansfield, will be played at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre in July 2014.[7]

Royal Caribbean International announced in April 2014 that a fully licensed production of Cats will be performed regularly for guests aboard the cruise ship Oasis of the Seas beginning in fall 2014.[8]

It was announced on 27 June 2014 that "Cats" will be returning to London from December 2014 for a 12-week run at the London Palladium following the UK national tour with the original creative team featuring direction from Trevor Nunn, choreography by Gillian Lynne and design by John Napier.[9] Along with this Andrew Lloyd Webber would be rewriting a number of songs from the musical. Speaking on the revival, Lloyd Webber himself said, "we wanted to do Cats again ourselves, then the Palladium came up and Trevor fell in love with it. We’re taking the Cats show that’s touring and working on it afresh."

Detailed synopsis[edit]

Act I — When Cats Are Maddened by the Midnight Dance[edit]

The Jellicle cats gather every year to make the "Jellicle choice", and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.

After the overture, the Cats gather on stage and explain the Jellicle tribe and their purpose (Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats). The Cats (who constantly break the fourth wall) spot the human audience and explain how the different Cats of the tribe are named (The Naming of Cats). This is followed by a dance from Victoria the White Cat that signals the beginning of the Jellicle Ball (The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball) and Munkustrap tells us that tonight is the night when Old Deuteronomy will choose a cat to be reborn into a new life on the Heaviside Layer.

Munkustrap appears and introduces Jennyanydots (The Old Gumbie Cat), a large tabby cat. She "sits and sits and sits and sits" all day, while at night she rules over the mice and cockroaches, teaching various activities to them. Jennyanydots finishes, greets the other cats, but is interrupted. The music instantly changes, and The Rum Tum Tugger makes an extravagant entrance (The Rum Tum Tugger). The Tugger is a Tom with a wild mane and leopard spots on his chest. He is very fickle and unappeasable, "for he will do as he do do and there's no doing anything about it".

A shabby old grey cat stumbles out and looks around. It is Grizabella. All the cats back away. The cats sing of her saddened, unfortunate state (Grizabella: The Glamour Cat). Grizabella leaves and the music changes to a cheerful upbeat. Bustopher Jones, a fat cat in "a coat of fastidious black", appears (Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town). Bustopher Jones is among the elite of the cats, and visits prestigious gentlemen's clubs. A loud crash startles the tribe. Could this be Macavity? The cats run off the stage in fright. Hushed giggling signals the entrance of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, a pair of near-identical cats. They are petty burglars, very mischievous, and they enjoy causing trouble for human families (Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer).

Finally, the Jellicle patriarch, Old Deuteronomy, shows up (Old Deuteronomy). He is a large old Cat that "has lived many lives" and "buried nine wives (And more, I am tempted to say – ninety-nine)". He is the one who will choose which Jellicle cat will go to the Heaviside Layer. In most productions, at this point, the cats perform a song (The Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles) for Old Deuteronomy. It is a story about two dog tribes clashing in the street and subsequently being scared away by the Great Rumpus Cat, a cat with flashing red eyes. After a few words from Old Deuteronomy on the destiny of Jellicle Cats and Pollicle Dogs, a second loud crash, presumably from Macavity, sends the alarmed cats scurrying. But Old Deuteronomy calls them back and the main celebration begins (The Jellicle Ball), in which the cats sing and display their "Terpsichorean powers".

After the Ball, Grizabella reappears and tries to dance, but her age and decrepit condition prevent her from doing so. Once again, she is shunned by the other cats, but that does not stop her from singing a short version of Memory.

Act II — Why Will the Summer Day Delay — When Will Time Flow Away?[edit]

After addressing the gathering by singing "Memory", Grizabella is chosen to be reborn into a new Jellicle life.

After the Jellicle Ball, Old Deuteronomy sings of "what happiness is", referring to Grizabella. This message naturally goes over everyone's heads, so he sends the message again and Jemima (or Sillabub, depending on the production) sings it for everyone to hear (The Moments of Happiness). Gus — short for Asparagus — shuffles forward (Gus: The Theatre Cat). He is the cat that was once a famous actor but is now old and "suffers from palsy which makes his paws shake." He is accompanied by Jellylorum, who tells of his exploits. Gus then remembers how he once played the infamous Growltiger, Terror of the Thames (Growltiger's Last Stand). He tells the story about the pirate's romance with Griddlebone and how he was overtaken by the Siamese and forced to walk the plank.

Back in the present, after Gus exits, Skimbleshanks is sleeping in the corner (Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat), a cat who is unofficially in charge of the night train to Glasgow. He is very clever and very important because if he is gone "the train can't start". Within his song, a whole locomotive train engine is assembled out of objects in the junkyard, with various cats spinning wheels, holding up the structure and lighting the headlights.

With a third crash and an evil laugh, the "most wanted" cat, Macavity appears. He is a "master criminal" and is never found at the scene of the crime. He is a horrifying looking cat and a "villain" of the Jellicle Tribe. Macavity's minions throw a net over Old Deuteronomy and capture him. As the other cats try to follow him, Demeter and Bombalurina sing what they know about Macavity, as they have had some sort of past with him (Macavity: The Mystery Cat). When they are finished, Macavity returns disguised as Old Deuteronomy. When revealed by Demeter, he fights with Munkustrap and Alonzo. Though he holds his own for a time, Macavity is overwhelmed by the two younger tomcats; as the rest of the tribe begin to gang up and surround him, he shorts out the stage lights and escapes in the confusion.

Rum Tum Tugger suggests that the cats find Mr. Mistoffelees (Magical Mr. Mistoffelees). Mr. Mistoffelees is black and small and can perform many feats of magic that no other cat can do. Mr. Mistoffelees performs his dance, which is often one of the most intricate and challenging dance solos in the show. The magical cat restores the lights and brings back Old Deuteronomy, earning praise from all the cats. The Jellicle choice can now be made.

After Old Deuteronomy sits down, Grizabella returns to the junkyard and he allows her to address the gathering. Her faded appearance and lonely disposition have little effect on her song (Memory). With acceptance and encouragement from Jemima and Victoria, her appeal succeeds and she is chosen to be the one to go to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn to a new Jellicle Life (Journey to the Heaviside Layer). A large tire rises from the junk piles, carrying Grizabella and Old Deuteronomy partway toward the sky; he then steps off so she can finish the journey on her own. Old Deuteronomy gives his closing speech to the human audience (The Ad-dressing of Cats) and the show comes to a close.

Music[edit]

Musical numbers[edit]

Orchestra[edit]

  • Reed I: Flute, Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax
  • Reed II: B-flat Clarinet, Bari Sax, Flute
  • Reed III: Oboe, English Horn
  • String Bass
  • Cello
  • Horn I
  • Horn II
  • Trumpet I
  • Trumpet II
  • Trombone
  • Percussion
  • Keyboard I
  • Keyboard II
  • Keyboard III
  • Drum Set
  • Electric Guitar

London Cast album[edit]

A 1981 recording of the Original London Cast was released first as a cassette tape and later as a two CD set.[10] It contains the following tracks:

Chart positions[edit]

Original Broadway[edit]

Year(s) Chart Peak
position
1982 New Zealand Albums (Recorded Music NZ)[11] 17
1983–1984 Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[12] 5
1984 US Billboard 200[13] 145

Dutch version[edit]

Chart (1987) Peak
position
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[14] 72

German version[edit]

Year Chart Peak
position
1983 German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[15] 24
1984 Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[12] 1

German version at the Operettenhaus[edit]

Chart (1985) Peak
position
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[12] 12

London version[edit]

Chart (1983–1989) Peak
position
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[12] 1

Characters[edit]

Principal characters[edit]

Jennyanydots (Left) and Skimbleshanks in the Polish production of Cats, December 2007.

These descriptions, in alphabetical order, are based on more recent versions of the show, although there are minor variations from production to production.

  • Asparagus / Gus – The theatre cat. One of the oldest tribe members. He was once an actor, and is one of two cats who is only seen during his song.
  • Bombalurina – A red female. She is not the subject of a song herself, but plays a leading part in introducing several of the cats, and also sings of Macavity.
  • Bustopher Jones – A fat cat, a "twenty-five pounder." Dresses in a snappy tuxedo and spats. Respected by all, as the upper class "St. James's Street Cat". In most productions, the actor playing Gus also plays Bustopher, perhaps because both are only seen during their song, though in early productions the part was handled by the actor playing Old Deuteronomy.
  • Demeter – A very skittish female cat. She is not the subject of a song, but plays a lead role in several.
  • Grizabella – The former Glamour Cat who has lost her sparkle and now only wants to be accepted. Grizabella left the tribe when she was younger to see the world for herself; she has experienced the harshness of the world and is a pariah in the cats' society.
  • Griddlebone – A fluffy white Persian female cat. Growltiger's lover in Growltiger's Last Stand, where she sings The Ballad of Billy M'Caw or the mock Italian aria In Una Tepida Notte (depending on production) with Growltiger. Almost always played by the actress playing Jellylorum. In some productions the role is played by the actress playing Jennyanydots. "Growltiger's Last Stand" was a play in which Gus, the Theatre Cat, acted, and a scene from it is used as a dream sequence, but it is omitted from some productions. Whether she is the same Griddlebone who is one of MacAvity's agents is not known.
  • Growltiger – A theatrical character Gus recalls playing in his youth, and who appears in Gus' memory of the production of Growltiger's Last Stand. In some productions he is portrayed as a vicious pirate; in others, he is more comical.
  • Jellylorum – A female who watches out for the kittens, along with Jennyanydots. She is Gus' mate. Named after T. S. Eliot's own cat. The actress who plays Jellylorum usually also plays Griddlebone in Growltiger's Last Stand.
  • Jemima – A kitten interchangeable with Sillabub, though Jemima is used in most international productions. She is the kitten who sings the Memory refrain in The Moments of Happiness for Old Deuteronomy. Jemima sings the happier parts of Memory, while Grizabella sings the sadder parts. She is the first cat/kitten to accept Grizabella by singing with her and not judge her.
  • Jennyanydots – The old Gumbie cat. She sits all day and rules the mice and cockroaches at night, forcing them to undertake helpful functions and creative projects, to curb their naturally destructive habits.
  • Macavity – the show's only real villain, who only appears briefly and has no dialogue. The character is a literary allusion to the Sherlock Holmes character Professor Moriarty. Usually played by the same actor as Plato or Admetus.
  • Mr. Mistoffelees – A young black tom (with some white) who has magical powers which he doesn't fully control. His signature dance move is "The Conjuring Turn", twenty-four fouettés en tournant. In the UK production, Mistoffelees has an alter-ego named Quaxo, who appears as a general chorus cat throughout the show, and is dressed slightly differently.
  • Mungojerrie – Male half of a pair of notorious cat-burglars, with Rumpleteazer. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are most commonly remembered for their featured dance number where at the end, they do a "double windmill" across the stage.
  • Munkustrap – The show's main narrator. A tabby tomcat who is storyteller and protector of the Jellicle tribe. He is Old Deuteronomy's second-in-command.
  • Old Deuteronomy – The lovable patriarch of the Jellicle Tribe. He is very old and dignified.
  • Rumpleteazer – Female half of a pair of notorious cat-burglars, with Mungojerrie.
  • The Rum Tum Tugger – A flashy tomcat. His temperament ranges from clownish to serious. He is Munkustrap's brother, though they differ in temperament.
  • Skimbleshanks – The railway cat. An active orange tabby cat, who lives on the trains and acts as an unofficial chaperone to such an extent he is considered rather indispensable to the train and station employees.
  • Victoria – A pure white kitten gifted in dancing. The "official" Jellicle Ball begins with her solo dance. She also does a Pas de Deux with Plato during the Jellicle Ball. She is also the first to touch Grizzabella.
  • Alonzo – A black and white tom cat in most productions; in the Broadway and early European productions, he was depicted as being a black and gold tabby. Sometimes considered the third in command after Munkustrap as he also fights Macavity. However, he is not the subject of any song, and has no dialogue.

Other characters[edit]

Etcetera (front) and Alonzo in the Polish production, December 2007.

The more notable minor characters are as follows:

  • Admetus – a shy, ginger and white tom. The actor usually also plays the Rumpus Cat or Macavity.
  • Bill Bailey – Bill Bailey is a london chorus kitten interchangeable with Tumblebrutus. He is a playful young kitten, often performing acrobatics as well as being a strong dancer. His costume is patchy browns on a white base, suggesting he is a Bi-colour tabby and white.
  • Carbucketty – The name was one of T. S. Eliot's ideas for cat names for a "knockabout cat." Sometimes interchangeable with the character of Pouncival.
  • Cassandra – A mysterious brown and cream Egyptian sphinx who is a talented, flexible dancer. She is mysterious and a very elegant queen. She is portrayed as a kitten but has very mature looks.
  • Coricopat – Male twin to Tantomile. Coricopat and Tantomile are often portrayed as psychic cats, as they sense the presence of danger before it becomes apparent to the other characters.
  • Electra and Etcetera – Tabby kittens who are fans of Rum Tum Tugger. Electra is dark and quieter, Etcetera is paler and hyperactive.
  • Exotica – Chorus cat created for the 1998 filmed version. Appears in few scenes and dance numbers.
  • Ghengis or Gilbert – The leader of the crew of Siamese cats who contribute to Growltiger's demise. Usually played by the actor who portrays Mungojerrie, Tumblebrutus or Coricopat.
  • George – A male chorus cat. In London productions George played the Rumpus Cat in the junkyard performance of "Pekes and Pollicles". George was also featured as part of Growltiger's "Raffish Crew".
  • Plato – Teenage male cat; the actor usually doubles as Macavity. He does a pas de deux with Victoria during the Jellicle Ball. Plato is somewhat interchangeable with Admetus.
  • Pouncival – a playful, tom kitten sometimes interchangeable with Carbucketty and often first understudy to Mr. Mistoffelees
  • Rumpus Cat – A spiky-haired cat with glowing red eyes, as mentioned in The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles, seen as a sort of superhero figure among the Jellicles. Does not appear in productions which omit the song The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles. Usually played by Alonzo or Admetus.
  • Sillabub, the Broadway version of Jemima. Sillabub was a name created for the American productions. The Japanese, Australian (in particular the Brisbane cast, who have Jemima as just a dancer) and Swedish casts include both Sillabub and Jemima as different characters.
  • Tumblebrutus – A playful young adult cat. Tumblebrutus is a brown and white tabby, characterised by a large, flame-like brown patch over his left eye. This energetic young tom is featured in many dance numbers and has many featured solos throughout the show. He is the Broadway version of Bill Bailey.
  • Tantomile – Female twin of Coricopat. The name was created by T.S. Eliot for a "Witch's Cat".[16]
  • Victor – Victor is a chorus cat with cream and brown human markings and few distinguishing features. He featured as one of Growltiger's crew. The actor playing Victor was usually an understudy for Rum Tum Tugger and Munkustrap.

Notable casts[edit]