Now and Forever
||Andrew Lloyd Webber
||Trevor Nunn, Gillian Lynne
Cats is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber (ALW) in 1978/1979 based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and other poems by T. S. Eliot.
The show's popularity comes despite never being critically acclaimed. Many argue it has a mainstream, family appeal that many other more "prestigious" musicals are lacking. It is and has been one of the most-loved musicals of all time, being translated into over 20 languages.
At the time CATS was running, several other Broadway productions were promoted with a series of television commercials in which audience members gave bland endorsements; one of these included the phrase "I laughed, I cried... It was better than CATS!" which entered common parlance, usually being used mockingly.
The cast of the 2002 South African CATS
Cats was first shown in London's West End, at the New London Theatre, on May 11, 1981. It was originally produced onstage by Cameron Mackintosh and ALW's The Really Useful Theatre Company. It was directed by Trevor Nunn, associate director and choreographer Gillian Lynne, designed by John Napier with lighting by David Hersey.The show then made its debut on Broadway on October 7, 1982 at the Winter Garden Theatre with the same production team. On June 19, 1997 Cats became the longest running musical in Broadway history with 6,138 performances. It played a total of 8,949 performances in London and 7,485 in New York. Its New York record was surpassed on January 9, 2006 by The Phantom of the Opera, which was also composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Cats' final performance on Broadway was on September 10, 2000. Its final performance in London's West End was on its 21st birthday, May 11, 2002 and broadcast on a large screen in Covent Garden to the delight of fans who could not acquire a ticket for the final performance.
In 1998, ALW produced a video version of Cats, based upon the stage performance (augmented for the media of film), starring Elaine Paige, who originated the role of Grizabella in London, Ken Page, who originated Old Deuteronomy on Broadway, Sir John Mills, Michael Gruber, and John Partridge, among other dancers and singers drawn largely from stage productions of the show. It was directed for film by David Mallet with choreography and musical staging by the show's respected original creator Gillian Lynne in London's Adelphi Theatre, and was released on VHS and DVD, as well as broadcast on Television worldwide.
While Cats is often criticized for its lack of plot, it does have a minimal story used to string its musical numbers together. CATS tells of a particular group of felines who inhabit a junkyard, who have come together for their annual Jellicle Ball at a junkyard to choose and announce the cat who can be reborn.
Each cat "auditions" with a different song and/or dance number. Some minor complications involving the abduction of the Jellicle patriarch, Old Deuteronomy occur before a cat is chosen.
It turns out to be Grizabella, "the Glamour Cat," whose now-faded charms do not prevent her from singing "Memory," the show's best-known song. It has been recorded by over 150 artists, and is considered by some to be Webber's signature tune. The lyrics are based on Eliot's poems "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" and "Preludes."
The following are the characters in the show:
- Admetus (chorus), a young cat, who in many productions, also doubles as Macavity. Omitted from some productions.
- Alonzo (baritone), a black and white tom in most productions; in the US and the first German productions, he is depicted as being black and gold. Often considered the 'second-hand-man' to Munkustrap.
- Asparagus (nicknamed Gus) (baritone), the theatre cat. In the filmed version, Gus and Asparagus are two separate characters; whereas on stage the same actor usually plays Asparagus as a general chorus cat, and a younger version of Gus, up to the song "Gus the Theatre Cat", in which he portrays an older Gus, and Growltiger, then afterwards continues to play younger Gus, "Asparagus." In most productions, the actor playing Gus also plays Bustopher Jones.
- Bill Bailey (chorus), a young black, white, and brown male. Sometimes interchangeable with the character of Tumblebrutus. Omitted from some productions.
- Bombalurina (mezzo-soprano), a saucy red female, often believed to be the leader of the female "queen" cats. She is close friends with Demeter.
- Bustopher Jones (baritone), a fat cat, a '25 pounder.' Dresses in a snappy tuxedo and spats. Respected by all, as the upper class "St James' Street Cat".
- Carbucketty (tenor) The name was one of T.S. Eliot's ideas for cat names for a "knockabout cat". Sometimes interchangeable with the character of Pouncival. Omitted from some productions.
- Cassandra (soprano), a brown and cream Burmese female, with a braided tail and rolled wig. Unique and somewhat mysterious. In some Japanese productions, Cassandra is known as Tantomile.
- Coricopat (chorus), male twin to Tantomile. Both of them are intuitive or even psychic. Omitted from some productions.
- Demeter (alto) is very skittish; many of the CATS fan community believe this is due to a bad relationship in her past, perhaps a run-in with Macavity. She is close friends with Bombalurina.
- Electra (mezzo-soprano), an orange and black tabby kitten who seems to be friends with Etcetera as well as a fan of Rum Tum Tugger.
- Etcetera (mezzo-soprano), a happy, energetic kitten who is a big Rum Tum Tugger fan. Omitted from some productions.
- Exotica (chorus), a female character who only appears in the filmed version, and was a role created specially for Femi Taylor.
- George (chorus), a young male kitten, omitted from most productions.
- Ghengis or Gilbert (sopranist), the leader of the crew of Siamese cats who lead to Growltiger's demise. Usually played by the actor who portrays Mungojerrie, Tumblebrutus, or Coricopat.
- Grizabella (soprano), the former Glamour Cat who has lost her sparkle and now only wants to be accepted. Ultimately, she is the one chosen to ascend to the "Heaviside Layer" and be reborn.
- Lady Griddlebone (contralto), A fluffy white persian cat, and Growltiger's lover in "Growltiger's Last Stand", where she sings "The Ballad of Billy McCaw" or the mock Italian aria "In una tepida notte", (depending on production) with Growltiger. Almost always played by the actress playing Jellylorum. Does not appear in productions which omit "Growltiger's Last Stand".
- Growltiger (baritone), A theatrical character Gus recalls playing in his youth, and who appears in Gus' memory of the production of "Growltiger's Last Stand". In some productions he is portrayed as a vicious pirate; in others he's more of a parody of a pirate. Does not appear in productions which omit "Growltiger's Last Stand"
- Jellylorum (soprano), The Lillie Cat, named after T.S. Eliot's cat. A female who watches out for the kittens, along with Jennyanydots. She has a close relationship with Gus.
- Jemima (mezzo-soprano or soprano) can be used interchangeably with Sillabub. Jemima is used in most international productions including the video. Sillabub was a name created for the American productions. However, Japanese casts include both Sillabub and Jemima as different characters. The first actress to play Jemima was Sarah Brightman. She is portrayed as a calico kitten.
- Jennyanydots (mezzo-soprano), the old Gumbie cat. She sits all day and rules the mice and cockroaches at night.
- Macavity (non-singing) is the show's only real villain. The character is a literary allusion to the Sherlock Holmes character Professor Moriarty. He executes the kidnapping of Old Deuteronomy in the second act and also attempts to abduct Demeter.
- The Magical Mr. Mistoffelees (tenor), a young tom who has magical powers including the ability to create flash explosions (or bolt lightening in the filmed version, thanks to computer technology). His signature dance move is "The Conjuring Turn", which is approximately twenty-five spins on one foot. In most productions, Mistoffelees has an alter-ego named Quaxo, who appears as a general chorus cat throughout the show, and is dressed slightly differently.
- Mungojerrie (baritone), half of a pair of notorious "cat-burglars", Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer. Usually plays Ghengis/Gilbert.
- Munkustrap (tenor), A black and silver tom who is leader and protector of the Jellicle tribe. He also narrates "The Pekes and the Pollicles." Considered the storyteller of the tribe.
- Old Deuteronomy (baritone), the lovable patriarch of the Jellicle Tribe.
- Plato (chorus), sometimes used interchangeably with George or Admetus. He does a pas de deux with Victoria during the Jellicle Ball. Omitted from some productions.
- Pouncival (tenor), a playful tom kitten, generally interchangeable with Carbucketty.
- Rumpleteazer (alto), female half of a pair of notorious "cat-burglars", Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer. Her name can also be spelled 'Rumpelteazer,' the spelling originally used by T.S. Eliot; this is the spelling used by most productions.
- The Rum Tum Tugger (baritone), the ladies' tom. His temperament ranges from clownish to serious, and often sexual depending on the production; however, he is always flirtatious, and usually portrayed as a feline equivalent of Mick Jagger, and noticeable by his wild mane.
- Rumpus Cat (tenor), the great spiky haired brave cat with glowing red eyes, as mentioned in 'The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles', seen as a heroic figure amongst the Jellicles. Does not appear in productions which omit the song "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles". Usually played by Alonzo or Admetus.
- Sillabub (see Jemima), The Broadway version's Jemima, although the Japanese version contains both.
- Skimbleshanks (baritone), the railway cat. An active orange tabby cat who lives on the trains and acts as an unofficial chaperone.
- Tantomile (alto), the "Witch's Cat," female twin of Coricopat. Both of them are perceived as intuitive or even psychic.
- Tumblebrutus (baritone), US counterpart for Bill Bailey.
- Victor (baritone), a young male. Sometimes known as part of the "Cats chorus". Omitted from some productions.
- Victoria The White Cat (chorus), a white kitten extremely gifted in dancing. The "official" Jellicle Ball begins with her solo dance.
Original London Cast Recording
The following is a complete list of songs from the production. The DVD and VHS versions do not include "Growltiger's Last Stand" or "The Ballad of Billy McCaw." In some productions, "The Old Gumbie Cat," "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer," and "The Jellicle Ball" are slimmed down or even removed due to time restrictions, as is often the case for "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles" in US productions. Another song, "The Ballad of Billy McCaw", was originally sung by Growltiger and Lady Griddlebone, and appeared during "Growltiger's Last Stand". This song disappeared from the show in the mid-1990s, only to be re-instated in the UK and US tours, to the approval of both the public and Andrew Lloyd Webber himself. The filmed performance is the only version with a short part of "Rule Britannia" during "The Old Gumbie Cat".
ACT ONE: When Cats are Maddened by the Midnight Dance
- Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats
- The Naming of Cats
- Invitation to the Jellicle Ball
- The Old Gumbie Cat
- The Rum Tum Tugger
- Grizabella - The Glamour Cat
- Bustopher Jones
- Mungojerrie And Rumpelteazer
- Old Deuteronomy
- The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles
- The Jellicle Ball
ACT TWO: Why will the Summer Day delay? When will time flow away?
- The Moments of Happiness
- Gus - The Theatre Cat
- Growltiger's Last Stand (including either "The Ballad of Billy McCaw" or "Una Tiepida Notte" depending on production)
- Skimbleshanks - The Railway Cat
- Macavity - The Mystery Cat
- Mr. Mistoffelees
- The Journey to The Heaviside Layer
- The Ad-Dressing of Cats
Cats was nominated for, and WON the following Tony Awards in 1983:
- Tony Award for Best Musical WINNER
- Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical WINNER
- Tony Award for Best Original Score WINNER
- Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Harry Groener)
- Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Stephen Hanan)
- Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Betty Buckley) WINNER
- Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical
- Tony Award for Best Costume Design of a Musical WINNER
- Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Musical WINNER
- Tony Award for Best Choreography
- Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical WINNER
- ^ The name "Jellicle cat" is derived from an attempt by T.S. Eliot's infant niece to say "dear little cat". The name "Pollicle dog" is derived from an attempt by that same child to say "poor little dog".