Old Deuteronomy

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Old Deuteronomy as he is typically depicted; from a promotional event in Germany in 2011.

Old Deuteronomy is a character in T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and its musical adaptation, Cats. He is a wise and beloved elderly cat, further serving as the Jellicle patriarch in the musical.[1] The role of Old Deuteronomy was originated by Brian Blessed in the West End in 1981, and by Ken Page on Broadway in 1982.

Poem[edit]

In Eliot's original poem, Old Deuteronomy is described as an ancient, wise cat who has "lived many lives in succession" and is respected by the other cats and humans (and perhaps even dogs) around him. His name derives from Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Old Testament of the Bible, which shares the central element of law with the character (who is a magistrate).

Musical[edit]

Zbigniew Macias as Old Deuteronomy (left) and Izabela Zając as Grizabella in the non-replica Polish production of Cats, 2007.

Cats expands on the theme of wisdom by depicting Old Deuteronomy as the leader of the show's Jellicle tribe, providing comfort and guidance to the other characters.[1] He also has the task of making the "Jellicle Choice" and choosing the cat who will ascend to the Heaviside Layer. Much of the plot of Cats is fueled by this premise; several characters perform and try to convince Old Deuteronomy to choose them. Towards the end of the show, Old Deuteronomy is kidnapped by Macavity and eventually rescued by Mr. Mistoffelees. He then persuades the other cats to listen to Grizabella, selects her to be reborn, and escorts her to the Heaviside Layer.[2]

More has been revealed about Old Deuteronomy's past than most of the other Jellicle cats, although how much of it is true is debatable. He is alleged to have been alive long before Queen Victoria was crowned and has been mated numerous times (supposedly, anywhere between nine and ninety-nine). Though Old Deuteronomy has outlived his partners, he has had numerous progeny.

Old Deuteronomy has three songs in Cats, including the final number, "The Ad-dressing of Cats." He is traditionally played by a high baritone or tenor who can hit G♯.[3][4][5]

Appearance[edit]

Old Deuteronomy has a full beard and, unlike the unitard that the other characters don, his costume consists of a loose-fitting shaggy coat.[6]

Notable casting[edit]

The role of Old Deuteronomy was originated by Brian Blessed in the West End in 1981,[7] and by Ken Page on Broadway in 1982.[8] Quentin Earl Darrington played the character in the 2016 Broadway revival.[9]

On screen, Page reprised the role for the 1998 filmed version,[10] and Judi Dench will portray Old Deuteronomy in the 2019 film adaptation, the first time the character has been represented as female.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Old Deuteronomy". Cats the Musical (official website). Archived from the original on 25 March 2019. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  2. ^ "The Story of Cats". Cats the Musical (official website). Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Cast / Vocal Requirements: Cats". The Musical Company. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Cats". Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Cats Audition" (PDF). Vereinigte Bühnen Wien. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  6. ^ Sternfeld 2006, p. 132
  7. ^ "Original London Cast List". Really Useful Group. Archived from the original on 15 August 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Original Broadway Cast List". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  9. ^ "Inside the Playbill: Cats – Opening Night at the Neil Simon Theatre: Cast". Playbill. Archived from the original on 24 March 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  10. ^ "1998 Video Cast List". Really Useful Group. Archived from the original on 7 April 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2019.

Print sources[edit]

General references[edit]

  • 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