In Eliot's original poem "Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer," Rumpelteazer is suggested to be a male cat. "They were plausible fellows...". However, Rumpleteazer is usually portrayed as female in the musical.
Rumpelteazer and her partner in crime, Mungojerrie, specialize in petty theft and mischief. In Eliot's depiction of this duo, these cats are depicted knocking over Ming vases and stealing items from their human family.
In the original Broadway production, the person cast as Rumpleteazer doubled as another character, Etcetera. In smaller local productions, this double character casting still occurs. In addition, Rumpleteazer and Mungojerrie can be cast to double as another tertiary set of characters: the twins Tantomile and Coricopat.
Three distinct versions of the "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" music exist: the original London production's version has a slower tempo and more jazzlike sound, while the more common original Broadway version is upbeat. The version of the show as licensed by Rodgers and Hammerstein Theatre Library is at first similar to the Broadway version, but then changes the 7/8 time signature to 4/4 time.
Andrew Lloyd Webber rewrote the music for the song "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" for the original Broadway production, and the song was sung by Mr. Mistoffelees, while the actors playing Coricopat (Rene Clemente) and Etcetera Christine Langner danced the song as "dolls" made of junk, brought to life, and appearing out of the trunk (boot) of the car set piece, by the magic of Mr. Mistoffelees. In 1987, the Broadway production was re-worked and the song was given back to the characters of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, then played by Ray Roderick (who had formerly been the character Carbuckety) and Christine Langner, whose role of Etcetera was replaced by Rumpleteazer.
In Eliot's original work, the name is spelled "Rumpelteaser". Within the score, it is spelled "Rumpleteazer".
In the musical version of Eliot's cat poems, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are traditionally depicted as orange, black, and white calico or tabby cats. In the original Broadway production, they wore baggy clown-like costumes seemingly made of various food wrappers as characters performing for Bustopher Jones. Generally, Mungojerrie's costume is a darker, more heavily striped tabby pattern, while Rumpleteazer is paler. However, when they perform their solo song, they have additional costume pieces: a vest and stockings for Mungojerrie and a leotard and stockings for Rumpleteazer (in some shows she also has a pearl necklace on). This has the effect of making them appear almost identically marked.
Rumpleteazer was portrayed by Bonnie Langford in the original London cast, Christine Langner in the original Broadway cast, and Jo Gibb in London and in the filmed video version. Joanna Silvers played by the part in the Worldwide tour from 2007-2008. She is at the moment being played by Kristen Quartarone in the Worldwide Tour and Justine Puy in the Australian Tour (2010).
- Page 22, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, London 1984