Gus: The Theatre Cat

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"Gus: The Theatre Cat" is a poem by T. S. Eliot included in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Known as "The Theatre Cat" due to his career as an actor, Gus is an old and frail, yet revered, cat, who "suffers from palsy, which makes his paws shake." His coat is described as "shabby" and he is "no longer a terror to mice or to rats."

Gus, whose full name is Asparagus, is also a character in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical adaption of the book, Cats. In the musical, the poem is used almost verbatim in the song "Gus: The Theatre Cat."

Gus in Cats, the musical[edit]

Wojciech Paszkowski as Gus (left) and Marta Smuk as Jellylorum in the Polish production of Cats, 2007.

Gus appears shortly after the start of Act II of Cats where he and Jellylorum provide highlights of his career, contrasting his present state with his acting heyday: "He has acted with Irving, he's acted with Tree." He and Jellylorum stress in particular his creation of the role of Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.

In its only major deviation from the poem, the song modifies the line "He once played a Tiger — could do it again — Which an Indian Colonel pursued down a drain." to "I once played Growltiger - could do it again" and uses this to segue into the song "Growltiger's Last Stand", wherein Gus recreates his role of Growltiger, a pirate cat. At the end of "Growltiger's Last Stand", Gus returns in a short reprise.

"Growltiger's Last Stand" does not appear in the 1998 filmed version of the musical – Gus only sings his initial song. This was primarily due to the age of Sir John Mills, who played Gus in the filmed version at age of 90, as well as time constraints.[citation needed]

Cultural references[edit]

The description in the original poem about Gus playing a "Tiger... which an Indian Colonel pursued down a drain" is a reference to the short story "The Adventure of the Empty House" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the story Colonel Sebastian Moran, chief underling of the infamous Professor Moriarty, is said to have pursued a man-eating tiger down a drain during his military service in India, before his criminal career.

In the film Logan's Run, Logan and Jessica meet an old man in the Senate Chamber during their search for Sanctuary. The old man has many cats and references The Naming of Cats, explaining that each cat has three names: one common, one unique, and one that only the cat knows. He refers to one cat in particular: Gus, short for Asparagus.