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Grizabella a.k.a. the "Glamour Cat" is a main character in the musical Cats. Lonely and decrepit, 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 original West End production in 1981, and by Betty Buckley in the original Broadway production 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 seeking re-acceptance, but her fellow Jellicles are initially repulsed by her and repeatedly shun her.
At the end of the musical, Grizabella sings the ballad "Memory", in which she reminisces about her better days. After this, she is finally accepted by the other cats and chosen to go the Heaviside Layer to be reborn. "Memory" is the most well-known song from the musical, and has been recorded by over 150 different artists, including Barry Manilow, Michael Crawford, Barbra Streisand and Kikki Danielsson.
The role of Grizabella was originated by Elaine Paige in the West End production in 1981. 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. 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 source material. Instead, it appears that she is the feline version of the woman mentioned in Eliot's poem Rhapsody on a Windy Night.
"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."
The character of Grizabella featured in an unpublished poem that Eliot wrote for his godchildren, intending to include it in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. However, as his wife, Valerie pointed out, he thought it was too "sad for children" and so did not include it in the finished work. Valerie Eliot came to the 1980 Sydmonton Festival concert where Andrew Lloyd Webber premiered some of his settings of the Old Possum poems, and gave him the paper with the fragment of Grizabella written on it. From there Lloyd Webber and director Trevor Nunn incorporated the Grizabella poem as a main strand of the plot of the show.
Two weeks before the opening of Cats in May 1981, Webber wrote the melody for "Memory" and then Trevor Nunn wrote the lyrics, based on T. S. Eliot's "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" and "Preludes." The name Grizabella was from the title of another poem "Grizabella the Glamour Cat" by Eliot.
|phrases T. S. Eliot wrote in
Rhapsody on a Windy Night
|adaptation by Trevor Nunn for Cats|
|The moon has lost her memory||Has the moon lost her memory?|
|She is alone||She is smiling alone|
|Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum
|Every street lamp seems to |
beat a fatalistic warning
|The street lamp sputtered
The street lamp muttered
|Someone mutters and |
a street lamp gutters
|With all the old nocturnal smells||The stale cold smell of morning|
|Memory!||All alone with the memory|
|Sleep, prepare for life||Look, a new day has begun|
- Elaine Paige (Original London cast; 1998 film)
- Betty Buckley (Original Broadway cast)
- Angela Richards (London)
- Marti Webb (London, UK National Tour)
- Anita Harris (London)
- Ute Lemper (Vienna, 1983)
- Lea Salonga (The Philippines)
- Stephanie Lawrence (London)
- Rosemarie Ford (London)
- Linda Balgord (Broadway)
- Sally Ann Triplett (London)
- Loni Ackerman (Broadway)
- Chrissie Hammond (London, UK National Tour)
- Laurie Beechman* (Broadway)
- Louise Dearman* (Cyprus)
- Dianne Pilkington (UK National Tour)
- Debra Byrne (Original Australian Cast)
- Kim Criswell (Los Angeles)
- Diane Langton (London)
- Lillias White (Broadway)
- Liz Callaway (Broadway)
- Natalie Toro (US National Tour)
- Ruthie Henshall (London)
- Stephanie J. Block (US Regional)
- Maarja-Liis Ilus
- Di Botcher
- Pia Douwes (Vienna and The Netherlands)
- Ruth Jacott (Original Netherlands cast)
- Anita Meyer (The Netherlands, 2006)
- Paula Lima (Brazil)
- María del Sol (México)
- Pernilla Wahlgren (Scandinavian Tour, 2003) 
- Silvie Paladino (Malaysia)
- Joanna Ampil (UK/European Tour 2013, 2016–17)
- Taylor Dayne (Auburn, New York 2013)
- Nicole Scherzinger (London revival, 2014–2015)
- Susan McFadden
- Filippa Giordano (México, 2013)
- Kerry Ellis (London revival, 2015)
- Jane McDonald (UK Tour, 2015)
- Beverley Knight (2015–16 London revival)
- Delta Goodrem (Australia, 2015–2016)
- Anita Louise Combe (UK and European Tour, 2016–2017)
- Chimene Badi (Paris revival replacement cast, 2016)
- Leona Lewis (Broadway revival, 2016)
- Yuri (México, 2018)
- Jenna Lee-James (UK and European Tour, 2017–2019)
- Jennifer Hudson (2019 film)
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- T. S. Eliot, "Rhapsody on a Windy Night", Academy of American Poets. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.
- T. S. Eliot, "Preludes", Academy of American Poets. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.
- "A collection of short stories about popular culture - its history, its people, and its power". Pophistorydig.com. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
- "Ute Lemper to Bring Songs from the Broken Heart to Feinstein's/54 Below This Weekend". BroadwayWorld. 6 January 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
- "Watch Taylor Dayne Glam It Up as Grizabella in Cats | Broadway Buzz". Broadway.com. 22 August 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
- Hill, Patrick (21 March 2015). "Jane McDonald lands Nicole Scherzinger's sexy Cats role after wowing composer Andrew Lloyd Webber - 3am & Mirror Online". Mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
- Rhapsody on a Windy Night by T.S. Eliot