Jellicle cats, or simply the Jellicles, are a type of feline mentioned in T.S. Elliot's book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, and in Cats, a stage musical written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on the book.
Introduced in Eliot's poem The Song of the Jellicles, they were originally depicted as commonly nocturnal black-and-white cats, which means that they sleep all day and move at night. Specifically, Eliot mentions that they like to gather at an event called the "Jellicle Ball".
In the musical, a sub-plot surrounds the disappearance of the Jellicle patriarch Old Deuteronomy. The names are taken from Eliot's poem "The Naming of Cats", and are used for many of the ensemble characters in the musical. In contrast with the poem, Lloyd Webber's Jellicles possess many kinds of coat-patterns, diverse personalities and individual talents. Also detailed on this page are Chorus characters from the musical Cats whose names are from other works by T. S. Eliot, or not directly derived from the poems.
The name jellicle comes from a previously unpublished poem by Eliot entitled "Pollicle Dogs and Jellicle Cats", where jellicle cats is a corruption of dear little cats and pollicle dogs of poor little dogs.
Characters in the musical
The ensemble characters in Cats are very fluid, non-specific roles. None are named in performance specifically, although the performer may choose to react to their name if mentioned in reciting "The Naming of Cats". The original London production in 1981 chose to not name the ensemble kittens, however these roles soon developed into distinct characters with their own personality and costume design. The Broadway production in 1982 made many different choices with assigning names to roles. This has led to several roles which are essentially the same Cat being given different names, subtly different costume designs and character traits. Most productions will therefore include one or the other option, but larger productions have expanded their cast by including all the variations. Smaller productions often omit some of these ensemble roles.
Cats is becoming increasingly popular in regional and amateur performance. Due to the very flexible nature of these characters' roles, each director makes his or her own choices as to what the ensemble will do, and it seems often these names and appearance are assigned to roles arbitrarily.
"Admetus" is used primarily in the London production, replaced by "Plato" in Broadway and subsequent productions. His costume is ginger and white, and specifically includes a simple make-up design that the actor transforms into the elaborate Macavity makeup, and then re-applies after the featured scene. He is also often recognisable as being one of the tallest cast members, as the fight scene between Macavity and Munkustrap requires him to be able to lift other male dancers. The actor who plays Plato will also play Macavity
Bill Bailey is a London-based character, replaced by Tumblebrutus in Broadway-based productions. 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.
Bombalurina is a sassy red queen. She is very flirtatious with the other toms especially Rum Tum Tugger. She is very close to another queen, Demeter, with whom she sings "Grizabella, The Glamour Cat" and "Macavity: the Mystery Cat".
Carbucketty was one of T. S. Eliot's ideas for cat names, for a "knockabout cat". His role is primarily that of a dancer and acrobat, or what was known in the Broadway cast as one of the "acro-cats".
Carbucketty appeared in both the original London and Broadway shows. In London, the name was spelled 'Carbucketty', and originally played by David Baxter. On Broadway, it was spelled 'Carbuckety', and originally played by Steven Gelfer. In the Broadway production, the actor playing Carbuckety also played "Genghis", the leader of the Siamese who swarm the ship during "Growltiger's Last Stand".
In 1984, when the first national US touring company was formed, the role of Carbuckety was replaced in that cast by Mungojerrie, a role that only appeared in the original Broadway cast during the "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" song (which was sung by Mr. Mistoffelees). Ray Roderick, the actor who had played Mungojerrie in the national tour, joined the Broadway company as Carbuckety when Steven Gelfer left the show, and in 1987, the Broadway show was reworked, the song was given back to the actors playing Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, and the character of Carbuckety was renamed Mungojerrie.
Carbucketty's costume suggests a Bi-colour tabby and white kitten. He has defined stripes as well as spots on a white base. A short fluffy wig and chunky warmers give the impression of a young, fluffy kitten.
For the filmed version of the show the costume and role of Carbucketty was named Pouncival, as it was deemed more sensible for an international market to use the names used internationally. For the entire record breaking 21-year run of Cats in London the part was named Carbucketty.
In the Japanese production of CATS, Carbucketty appears alongside Mungojerrie as a separate character.
A brown and cream queen, with a short wig and braided tail. She is aloof and somewhat mysterious, a very elegant and dignified queen. She is also the most beautiful female cat of all. She is often assumed to be Abyssinian, given her unusual markings and exotic short-haired appearance. Her costume is very smooth and sleek, without warmers or fluff on her shoulders. In the film version, when not actually participating in a group performance she would strike poses reminiscent of ancient Egyptian paintings (perhaps a reference to her line "Were you there when the Pharaohs commissioned the Sphinx?" in the first Jellicle song), and she was Mr. Mistoffelees' assistant in his magic trick to rescue Old Deuteronomy.
In the Japanese production of CATS, the character matching this description was named Tantomile. The name of Cassandra was given to the female half of the twins, alongside Tumblebrutus. This Cassandra has black and grey stripes along her legs and arms, and a distinct white belly. She also has down-played orange markings along her body.
Coricopat and Tantomile
The psychic twins. Coricopat and Tantomile are inseparable, identical twins, who move with choreographed, perfect unity. Their costumes are striped and hatched to suggest tabby markings, but they also echo the clouded moon featured on the set. They are the first to notice any changes to their world, the arrival of a new cat.
In the Japanese production of CATS, Tantomile is the name given to the character of Cassandra, leaving Coricopat a solo act. The twin act in this version was given to Cassandra and Tumblebrutus.
Electra is one of the youngest female kittens in the tribe. She is striped and dark, perhaps a dark tabby or tortoiseshell. She may be a big fan of the Rum Tum Tugger like Etcetera, but unlike Etcetera, she is not as excitable. She is a solemn, quiet kitten, often fading into the background and only featuring in group dances. She looks quite similar to Etcetera, but tends to be darker coloured. Unlike Victoria and Jemima, she does not have a signature song or dance, but she is in the group dances and in a few tours she has been in 'Macavity the Mystery cat' as a dancer.
As a chorus kitten, she is often omitted from smaller productions such as tours.
Etcetera, along with the other kittens, is a huge fan of The Rum Tum Tugger, though she is much too young to be romantically linked with him. She is good friends with the other female kittens, Victoria, Electra, and Jemima. Of all of the kittens, she looks most similar to Electra, although Electra tends to be quieter and less excitable.
Her role developed from an unnamed chorus kitten in the original production, soon given a name and definite character. However as a minor character, unnecessary to the plot, she is often cut from smaller productions. When Etcetera is cut, her parts are usually given to Rumpleteazer instead. In the original Broadway production, Etcetera was included and she played the role of Rumpleteazer in a puppet show put on to entertain Bustopher Jones. However when the production was brought into line with other productions worldwide, Etcetera became Rumpleteazer full-time, and the role of Etcetera was cut.
Etcetera is mainly a dark white, with black, grey and gold stripes on her sides. She is usually the one who swings on the trapeze during the prologue.
A female character who first appeared in the filmed version, and was a role initially created specially for Femi Taylor. The character also appears in the South African and World Tour. She appears similar to Cassandra but in a darker palette, blending into the background so well she is often hard to see.
She has no singing parts, and does not appear in the end of 'Macavity the Mystery Cat' song like most of the other kittens. She is said to be the least important cat of all of them.
George is a male chorus cat specific to the London production. He is a patchy, hatched kitten, with a distinctive makeup design of patches over both eyes. George played the Rumpus Cat in the junkyard performance of "Pekes and Pollicles". George was also featured as part of Growltiger's "Raffish Crew".
George was played by Steven Wayne for most of the entire 21-year run of the Original London production of Cats. He left the cast in 2001, and the character of George was retired with his departure. Alonzo took over as Rumpus Cat, and the Raffish crew was reduced in number from six to five. However on occasion George's distinctive makeup design was used by a swing covering the role of Bill Bailey, leading to the fan nickname "George Bailey" for this blend of characters.
In the Broadway cast, the role of George was eliminated, but designer John Napier assigned the George costume and make-up design to actor Steven Hack, one of the original swings, who wore the costume when he would appear as Carbuckety, Pouncival or Tumblebrutus. George also visibly appeared in the 2005 Russian production of Cats.
Plato replaced "Admetus" in Broadway and subsequent productions. His costume is ginger and white, and specifically includes a simple make-up design that the actor transforms into the elaborate Macavity makeup, and then re-applies after the featured scene. He is also often recognisable as being one of the tallest cast members, as the fight scene between Macavity and Munkustrap requires him to able to lift other male dancers. The actor often has a background in ballet as Plato does a pas de deux with Victoria during the Jellicle Ball. Plato is also thought to be Victoria's mate as he dances the mate dance with her at the Jellicle Ball. He is one of the handsomest cats in the whole tribe, even though he doesn't have any lines in the whole play.
Pouncival is the Broadway equivalent of "Carbucketty", a playful, bouncy young tom kitten. Pouncival uses the trapeze frequently during the show, and often joins Tumblebrutus in most dance routines. He is a brown, white and grey tabby colour with a triangular brown mark around his left eye.
Sillabub is the Broadway equivalent of Jemima, and the name is also used for Australian and Japanese productions. Sillabub seems to be good friends with Victoria, Etcetera, Electra and Jemima. Her costume tends to be black, brown and red with a mainly white wig. Sillabub means "silly devil", and the character tends to be more jumpy and excitable than her counterpart, Jemima. The actress usually doubles for Victoria or Rumpleteazer, and is comfortable in a soprano voice.
Tumblebrutus is the Broadway equivalent of Bill Bailey, similar to Pouncival in being a mischievous, energetic kitten. The name however is from "Growltiger's Last Stand", the Bosun of the Pirate crew. However the ensemble character was not part of the pirate crew. Originated on Broadway by Bob Hoshour, he was known as one of the "acro-cats", and specifically "the cat on the flying trapeze", who swung above the heads of the cast during the opening number.
In the Japanese version of CATS, Tumblebrutus was paired with Cassandra as the twin cats rather than Coricopat and Tantomile.
Victor is another specific London cat. He is an adult tom, in cream and brown tabby markings and few distinguishing features. He featured as one of Growltiger's crew. The actor playing Victor was usually an understudy for Tugger and Munkustrap.
Victoria is the most graceful and elegant cat in the tribe. She also is the most flexible. She does not speak, but she has a beautiful solo. She is the official opening to the Jellicle Ball with her unique solo dance. She is referred to as The Pure White Kitten; however, her costume often has pale hatch markings to give a sense of depth and fur. Victoria seems to be very close to Mr. Mistoffelees, Plato, and Jemima.
He is a magical tuxedo cat who has the most difficult choreography in the entire movie. He wears black and white striped legwarmers on only 3 limbs, and a black velvet unitard. For his feature song, he wears a black jacket covered with rhinestones, white and black gloves, and black loafers. He is also referred to as Quaxo during the rest of his show until his song.
- Now Lloyd Webber puts Eliot's dogs to music – Telegraph Milner, Catherine. Now Lloyd Webber puts Eliot's dogs to music. The Sunday Telegraph (London, UK). 20 January 2002: 6.