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Mr. Mistoffelees is a character in T. S. Eliot's poetry book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and its stage adaptation, Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular musical Cats. He is an important primary character, and one of the most popular of the show. He is also sometimes named Quaxo.
Mistoffelees' name derives from the demon Mephistopheles. However, the character is not sinister as the name implies, and instead is described by Eliot as being "the original conjuring cat", who is "always deceiving you into believing that he's only hunting for mice" — a mysterious quiet and small black feline capable of performing feats of magic and sleight of hand. These traits are portrayed as amusing, not fearsome or particularly deadly.
In the musical
In Cats, Mistoffelees is a principal role and maintains most of the same attributes as Eliot's original character, although he is much flashier. He has his own song and an extended dance solo in the second act of the show, and, in most productions, also sings the "Invitation to the Jellicle Ball" in the first act. In the original London Cast, Mistoffelees also sang "The Old Gumbie Cat"; and in the original Broadway production, he sang "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer". However, the song was reworked to allow those two characters to sing it. In some versions of the musical, he is given a second name, 'Quaxo'. Often his "chorus" version is known as Quaxo, and his special song costume is known as Mistoffelees. Mistoffelees performs the most difficult choreography in the show, including 24 fouettés en tournant and dancers cast in the role frequently have extensive ballet and gymnastic experience. Because the role's technical demands necessarily trump the performer's vocal abilities, the show permits multiple vocal tracks for the character—thereby allowing some dancers to sing quite a bit, while others do no singing at all. Unlike most of the other cats, he is not impressed by Rum Tum Tugger, although Tugger sings his song for him. They appear to have some kind of love-hate relationship. He is also the second one to touch and accept Grizabella back into the tribe.
Although the poetry is specific about his appearance being "Black/from the ears to the tip of his tail", the practicalities of stage costume mean he is usually portrayed as a black and white tuxedo cat, as a pure black costume would be completely lost under stage lighting. He wears two costumes, a basic black hatched leotard with white chest and fluffy warmers through the majority of the show. However for his feature song, he has a far more glamorous black velvet and rhinestone costume, with a black jacket fitted with electric flashing fairy lights to make the most spectacular and magical entrance.
Actors who have portrayed Mistoffelees onstage include Wayne Sleep, Louie Spence, Timothy Scott, Gen Horiuchi, Lindsay Chambers, Ryan Patrick Ferrell, Chris Mackenthun, Shane Hall, Joshef Poulton, Brian Barry, Eddie Buffum, George de la Peña, Guy-Paul Ruolt, Michael Barriskill, and Connor Sweeney. In the 1998 DVD production of the show, Mistoffelees is portrayed by Jacob Brent, reprising his Broadway role. Guy-Paul de Ruolt portrayed the role in London and France. Julius Sermonia was the last Mistoffelees on Broadway when Cats closed on 10 September 2000. In 2010, the CCS Thespian production of Cats has Jake Burnham cast in the role of Mistoffelees.
In popular culture
Mistoffelees is referenced in Tim Minchin's free verse poem Perineum Millennium. The track is based on the works of T. S. Eliot.
Mistoffelees is also the name of the cat familiar owned by Penny Dreadful in the Mage: the Ascension universe.
He shares the name of one of three cats in the Tim and Eric episode "Jazz", the other two being Skimbleshanks and Grizabella. Skimbleshanks is another cat from Eliot's book, while Grizabella does not make an appearance in the book. Both cats do however star in the musical Cats alongside Mr. Mistoffelees.
In the webcomic "Roommates", he was originally Sarah's cat, but was given to Erik and Jareth (to his and the latter's horror).
- Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, T. S. Eliot, Harcourt, 1982, ISBN 0-15-168656-4
- A Cat's Diary: How the Broadway Production of Cats was born, Stephen Hanan, Smith & Kraus, 2002, ISBN 1-57525-281-3
- Mr. Mistoffelees and other poems, T. S. Eliot, Errol Le Cain, Faber & Faber, 1990, ISBN 0-571-15347-X