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Paige as Grizabella in the 1998 Cats video

Grizabella the Glamour Cat is a main character in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats. A lonely and decrepit outcast, Grizabella seeks acceptance from the other Jellicle cats but is initially ostracised. She sings the most well-known song from the musical, "Memory".

The role was originated by Elaine Paige in the West End in 1981, and by Betty Buckley on Broadway in 1982. Buckley won the 1983 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal.


Grizabella is, at the time of her appearance, a very old and decrepit cat, withered to the point that she no longer resembles the glamorous cat of her youth. Having left the Jellicle tribe a long time ago, she is now all alone and left only with the memories of her happier days. She returns to the tribe seeking re-acceptance, but her fellow Jellicles are initially repulsed by her and repeatedly shun her.[1][2]

Grizabella makes her entrance early on in first act of the musical. She approaches the other cats, but they treat her like a pariah as Demeter and Bombalurina explain who she is ("Grizabella: The Glamour Cat"). She comes back at the end of the first act, watching from afar as the other cats dance at the Jellicle Ball. Grizabella attempts to replicate their dance moves but realises she is too weak; she sings a prelude to "Memory" as she contemplates her plight. Grizabella makes her final appearance towards the end of the musical. This time, she addresses the cats by singing the full version of the ballad "Memory" in which she reminisces about her better days and pleads for acceptance. She falters in the middle of the song but is encouraged to press on by the kitten Jemima/Sillabub. Finally, Grizabella is welcomed back into the tribe and is chosen to be reborn in the Heaviside Layer (the Jellicle version of heaven).[3][2] "Memory" is the most well-known song from the musical,[4][5] and has been recorded by over 150 different artists, including Barry Manilow, Michael Crawford, Barbra Streisand and Kikki Danielsson.[6]

The role of Grizabella requires a wide vocal range and the ability to belt to E♭.[7][8]


The role of Grizabella was originated by Elaine Paige in the West End production in 1981.[9] She later reprised the role for the 1998 film version. Betty Buckley originated the role in the 1982 Broadway production, earning the 1983 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance.[10] Laurie Beechman headed the First National Company of Cats and in 1984 she replaced Buckley. Beechman stayed with the show for more than four years and made occasional return engagements over the next decade. Dianne Pilkington (2006–2007) and Chrissie Hammond (2007–2008) played the role in the 2006–2008 UK National Tour. Lea Salonga starred as Grizabella in the musical's Philippine run on 24 July – 22 August 2010. In 2012, pop singer Nicole Scherzinger was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical for her performance of Grizabella. In the 2016 Broadway revival, Mamie Parris starred as Grizabella after replacing Leona Lewis in October.


Although Cats is based on T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, Grizabella does not appear in the published source material. Instead, the character came from an unpublished poem by Eliot titled "Grizabella the Glamour Cat" that had been given to Lloyd Webber by Eliot's widow and literary executor, Valerie Eliot.[11] Although the poem had been rejected from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats for being "too sad for children",[12] it became the basis for Grizabella's character-defining song in the musical ("Grizabella: The Glamour Cat"). The poem centres on a former glamour cat who has fallen on hard times and now roams the red-light district near Tottenham Court.[13]

Additionally, the introduction for "Grizabella: The Glamour Cat" is taken from a verse in another Eliot poem titled "Rhapsody on a Windy Night", with Grizabella as the feline version of the fallen woman:[14]

Remark the woman
Who hesitates toward you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her coat
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.

— "Rhapsody on a Windy Night", T. S. Eliot[15]

Notable performers[edit]


  1. ^ "Grizabella". Cats the Musical (official website). Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b "The Story of Cats". Cats the musical (official website). Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  3. ^ Sternfeld 2006, p. 159–161, 363–365
  4. ^ "'Memory,' the Most Famous Song from Cats". PBS. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  5. ^ Paulson, Michael (26 May 2016). "All Alone With the Memory: Leona Lewis to Play Grizabella in Broadway 'Cats' Revival". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Minnet | Svensk mediedatabas". Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  7. ^ "Cats". Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Cast / Vocal Requirements: Cats". The Musical Company. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Original London Cast List". Really Useful Group. Archived from the original on 15 August 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  10. ^ "Search Past Winners: Keyword Search – "Cats"". Tony Award. Archived from the original on 25 March 2019. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  11. ^ Eliot et al. 1983, p. 9–10
  12. ^ Lloyd Webber 2018, p. 315–317
  13. ^ Siropoulos 2008, p. 181
  14. ^ Sternfeld 2006, p. 367
  15. ^ T. S. Eliot, "Rhapsody on a Windy Night", Academy of American Poets. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.
  16. ^ "Ute Lemper to Bring Songs from the Broken Heart to Feinstein's/54 Below This Weekend". BroadwayWorld. 6 January 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Watch Taylor Dayne Glam It Up as Grizabella in Cats | Broadway Buzz". 22 August 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  19. ^ Hill, Patrick (21 March 2015). "Jane McDonald lands Nicole Scherzinger's sexy Cats role after wowing composer Andrew Lloyd Webber - 3am & Mirror Online". Retrieved 5 May 2015.

Print sources[edit]

External links[edit]