Cats is a sung-through British musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, and produced by Cameron Mackintosh. The musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as "the Jellicle choice" and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life. Cats introduced the song standard "Memory". The first performance of Cats was in 1981.
Directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Gillian Lynne, Cats first opened in the West End in 1981 and then with the same creative team on Broadway in 1982. It won numerous awards, including Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards. The London production ran for 21 years and the Broadway production ran for 18 years, both setting new records. Actresses Elaine Paige and Betty Buckley became particularly associated with the musical. One actress, Marlene Danielle, performed in the Broadway production for its entire run (from 1982 until 2000).
As of 2018, Cats is the fourth-longest-running show in Broadway history, and was the longest running Broadway show in history from 1997 until 2006 when it was surpassed by The Phantom of the Opera. Cats is the sixth-longest-running West End show. It has been performed around the world many times and has been translated into more than 20 languages. In 1998, Cats was turned into a made-for-television film. The musical has grossed approximately $342.2 million.
Act I — When Cats Are Maddened by the Midnight Dance
After the overture, the Cats gather on stage and explain the Jellicle tribe and its purpose ("Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats"). The Cats (who break the fourth wall throughout the production) then notice that they are being watched by a man, and proceed to explain how the different Cats of the tribe are named ("The Naming of Cats"). This is followed by a dance from Victoria the White Cat, who performs a ballet which signals the beginning of the Jellicle Ball ("The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball"). Meanwhile, Munkustrap, the executive chief of the tribe, explains that tonight, the Jellicle leader, Old Deuteronomy, will choose a cat to be reborn into a new life on the Heaviside Layer.
Munkustrap introduces Jennyanydots ("The Old Gumbie Cat"), a large tabby cat, who "sits and sits and sits and sits" every day, while (every night) she teaches the mice and cockroaches various activities. However, when Jennyanydots finishes her song, the number is interrupted, with the music changing suddenly, when the Rum Tum Tugger makes an extravagant entrance ("The Rum Tum Tugger"). He is very fickle and unappeasable, "for he will do as he do do, and there's no doing anything about it".
As Rum Tum Tugger's song fades, a shabby old grey cat stumbles out and looks around (begging forgiveness of her sin she made before she was exiled from the tribe years ago); it is Grizabella. All the Cats back away from her in fear and disgust and explain of her unfortunate state ("Grizabella: The Glamour Cat"). Grizabella leaves and the music changes to a cheerful upbeat number as Bustopher Jones, a fat cat in "a coat of fastidious black", appears ("Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town"). Bustopher Jones is among the elite of the cats, and visits prestigious gentlemen's clubs. Suddenly, a loud crash then startles the tribe and the Cats run off the stage in fright. All of a sudden, hushed giggling sounds signal the entrance of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, a pair of near-identical Cats. They are petty burglars, very mischievous, and they enjoy causing trouble for human families ("Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer").
Finally, the Jellicle patriarch, Old Deuteronomy, appears ("Old Deuteronomy"). He is a large old Cat that "has lived many lives" and "buried nine wives (And more, I am tempted to say—ninety-nine)". He is the Cat who chooses which Jellicle Cat will go to the Heaviside Layer every year. After rejoicing to their leader's arrival, the Cats put on a play for Old Deuteronomy, called The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles. It is a story about two dog tribes clashing in the street and subsequently being scared away by the Great Rumpus Cat, a cat with flashing red eyes. After a moral from Old Deuteronomy about the destiny of Jellicle Cats and Pollicle Dogs, a second loud crash, presumably from Macavity, sends the alarmed Cats scurrying. Old Deuteronomy calls the Cats back and the main celebration begins ("The Jellicle Ball"), in which the cats sing and display their "Terpsichorean powers".
During the Ball, Grizabella reappears and tries to dance along, but her age and decrepit condition prevent her from doing so. Once again, she is shunned by the other Cats, but that does not stop her from singing a short version of "Memory" while a guilty Old Deuteronomy looks on.
Act II — Why Will the Summer Day Delay — When Will Time Flow Away?
After the Jellicle Ball, Old Deuteronomy complains about "what happiness is", referring to Grizabella, but the Cats do not believe him, so he sends the message to Jemima (or Sillabub, depending on the production), the youngest of all Jellicles, who sings it in simpler terms ("The Moments of Happiness"). Gus — short for Asparagus — shuffles forward ("Gus: The Theatre Cat"). He was once a famous actor but is now old and "suffers from palsy which makes his paws shake." He is accompanied by Jellylorum, who tells of his exploits. Gus then remembers how he once played the infamous Growltiger, the Terror of the Thames ("Growltiger's Last Stand"). He tells the story about the pirate's romance with his girlfriend, Lady Griddlebone, and how he was overtaken by the Siamese and forced to walk the plank to his death.
Back in the present, after Gus exits, Skimbleshanks is seen sleeping in the corner ("Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat"). He is the Cat who is unofficially in charge of the night train to Glasgow. Skimbleshanks is considered vital to the train, as without him "the train can't start". Within his song, a whole steam train engine is assembled out of objects in the junkyard: Various Cats spin wheels, hold up the structure, and light the headlights.
With a third crash and an evil laugh, the "most wanted" cat Macavity appears. He is a "master criminal" and is never found at the scene of the crime. Macavity's minions throw a net over Old Deuteronomy and capture him. As Munkustrap and his troops give chase to rescue Old Deuteronomy, Demeter and Bombalurina explain what they know about Macavity ("Macavity: The Mystery Cat"). When they are finished, Macavity returns disguised as Old Deuteronomy, but when Demeter blows his cover, Macavity ends up fighting with Munkustrap and Alonzo. Though the confused Macavity holds his own for a time, the rest of the tribe begin to gang up and surround him, but he shorts out the stage lights as an attempt to escape in the confusion.
After the fight, an honest Rum Tum Tugger suggests that the Cats should find a local magician named Mr. Mistoffelees (also known as "the original conjuring cat") for help ("Magical Mr. Mistoffelees"). According to Tugger, Mr. Mistoffelees is small and black and can perform feats of magic that no other Cat can do. Mr. Mistoffelees can also perform his own dance, which is often one of the most intricate and challenging dance solos in the show. As soon as he arrives just in time, the magical Cat restores the lights and brings back Old Deuteronomy, and all the Cats hail him as their emancipator. Now, the Jellicle Choice can be made.
After Old Deuteronomy sits down, Grizabella returns to the junkyard and he allows her to address the gathering. Her faded appearance and lonely disposition have little effect on her song ("Memory"). With acceptance and encouragement from Jemima and Victoria, her appeal succeeds and she is chosen to be the one to go to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn to a new Jellicle life ("Journey to the Heaviside Layer"). A large tire rises from the piles of junk, carrying Grizabella and Old Deuteronomy partway toward the sky; he then steps off so she can finish the journey on her own. Finally, Old Deuteronomy gives his closing speech to the human audience ("The Ad-dressing of Cats") and the show comes to a close.
London Cast album
A 1981 recording of the Original London Cast was released first on LP and cassette tape and later as a two-CD set. It contains the following tracks:
Asparagus / Gus – An elderly actor, known as "the Theatre cat".
Bombalurina – A red queen with an interest in the Rum Tum Tugger. She sings "Macavity" alongside Demeter and is 1 third of the "Gumbie trio" with Jellylorum and Demeter.
Bustopher Jones – A fat cat respected by all, as the upper-class "St. James's Street Cat." He is described as "the Brummell of cats" due to his immaculate pelt, which resembles a tuxedo and spats. In most productions, the actor playing Gus also plays Bustopher, though in early productions the part was handled by the actor playing Old Deuteronomy.
Demeter – A skittish queen. She sings "Macavity" alongside Bombalurina and is 1 third of the "Gumbie trio" with Jellylorum and Bombalurina.
Griddlebone – Growltiger's lover in Growltiger's Last Stand, in which she sings The Ballad of Billy M'Caw or the mock Italian aria In Una Tepida Notte (depending on production).
Grizabella – A former "glamour cat", ostracised by the Jellicles, who has lost her sparkle and now only wants to be accepted.
Growltiger – 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 is more comical.
Jellylorum – A queen who watches out for the kittens, along with Jennyanydots. She sings "Gus: The Theatre Cat". Named after T. S. Eliot's own cat.
Jemima – A kitten. She becomes the first cat to accept Grizabella when she sings alongside her in Memory (reprise) and sings a solo during The Moments of Happiness.
Jennyanydots – The old Gumbie cat. She sits all day and rules the mice and cockroaches at night, forcing them to undertake helpful functions and creative projects, to curb their naturally destructive habits.
Macavity – A notorious criminal known as The Napoleon of Crime. The character is a literary allusion to the Sherlock Holmes character Professor Moriarty.
Mr. Mistoffelees – A young tuxedo tom learning to control his magical powers. He is a featured dancer, performing a minimum of twenty-four turns in à la seconde during his number. Mistoffelees' chorus identity is sometimes known as Quaxo.
Mungojerrie – One-half of a notorious duo of cat-burglars, with Rumpleteazer.
Munkustrap – The show's main narrator. A tabby tomcat who is storyteller and protector of the Jellicle tribe. He is Old Deuteronomy's second-in-command.
Old Deuteronomy – The elderly Jellicle Leader.
Rumpleteazer – One half of a notorious duo of cat-burglars, with Mungojerrie.
The Rum Tum Tugger – A flashy cat. His temperament ranges from clownish to serious.
Skimbleshanks – The railway cat. An active orange tabby cat, who lives on the trains and acts as an unofficial chaperone to such an extent he is considered rather indispensable to the train and station employees.
Victoria – A white kitten. She is a featured dancer, opening with a solo in "Invitation to the Jellicle Ball" and is the first character to touch Grizabella.
Admetus/Plato – The chorus identity of Macavity. Typically paired with Victoria in a pas de deux during the Jellicle Ball.
Alonzo – A black and white/black and gold tom. Sometimes considered the third in seniority after Munkustrap as he also fights Macavity.
Bill Bailey/Tumblebrutus – A brown and white tom kitten. He is a playful young kitten, often performing acrobatics as well as being a strong dancer. His costume is patchy browns on a white base, suggesting he is a Bi-colour tabby and white.
Carbucketty/Pouncival – A brown and white tom kitten. The name "Carbucketty" was created by T.S. Eliot for a "knockabout cat".
Cassandra – A brown pointed queen.
Coricopat – Male twin to Tantomile.
Electra and Etcetera – Tabby kittens who are fans of Rum Tum Tugger. Etcetera was the chorus identity of Rumpleteazer early in the Broadway production and has since evolved into a separate character.
Exotica – Chorus queen. Exclusive to the 1998 movie.
George – A male chorus cat who often doubles as the Rumpus Cat.
Ghengis – The leader of the crew of Siamese cats who contribute to Growltiger's demise. Usually played by Mungogerrie or Alonzo.
Rumpus Cat – A spiky-haired cat with glowing red eyes, as mentioned in The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles, seen as a sort of superhero figure among the Jellicles, usually played by Alonzo or Admetus.
Tantomile – Female twin of Coricopat. The name was created by T.S. Eliot for a "Witch's Cat".
Victor – A cream/brown/grey chorus tom.
Other notable performers
Demeter: Ruthie Henshall, Lena Hall, Anita Louise Combe
Electra: Veerle Casteleyn
Griddlebone: Ruthie Henshall
Grizabella: Anita Harris, Carol Nielsson, Laurie Beechman, Liz Callaway, Dee Roscioli, Lea Salonga, Paula Lima, Stephanie J. Block, Loni Ackerman, Linda Balgord, Lillias White, Joanna Ampil, Kerry Ellis, Jane McDonald, Beverley Knight, Debra Byrne, Delta Goodrem, Anita Louise Combe, Leona Lewis
Jellyorum: Ruthie Henshall
Mistoffelees: Louie Spence, John Partridge, Chaz Wolcott
Munkustrap: Gary Martin, Steven Houghton, John Partridge
Old Deuteronomy: Bill Nolte
Rum Tum Tugger: Stephen Bienskie
Rumpus Cat/Admetus: Jason Gardiner
Rumpelteazer: Veerle Casteleyn, Jo Gibb, Anita Louise Combe
Jemima/Sillabub: Anita Louise Combe, Ruthie Henshall, Helen Anker
Tumblebrutus: Jason Wise Kolton Krouse
Victoria: Veerle Casteleyn, Helen Anker, Anita Louise Combe
Other notable professional casts
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the production of Cats is based on T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), which the composer recalled as having been a childhood favorite. The songs of the musical comprise Eliot's verse set to music by the composer, the principal exception being the most famous song from the musical, "Memory", for which the lyrics were written by Trevor Nunn after an Eliot poem entitled "Rhapsody on a Windy Night". Also, a brief song entitled "The Moments of Happiness" was taken from a passage in Eliot's Four Quartets. Lloyd Webber began composing the songs in late 1977 and premiered the compositions at the Sydmonton Festival in 1980. The concert was attended by T.S. Eliot's wife, Valerie Eliot and she loved the songs that Lloyd Webber had composed. She gave her blessing for the songs to be adapted into a musical stage play. Rehearsals for the musical began in early 1981 at the New London Theatre. Due to the Eliot estate asserting that they write no script and only use the original poems as the text, the musical had no identified plot during the rehearsal process, causing many actors to be confused about what they were actually doing. An unusual musical in terms of its construction, the overture incorporates a fugue and there are occasions when the music accompanies spoken verse. The show is completely told through music with virtually no spoken dialogue in between the songs. Dance is also a key element in the musical especially during the 10-minute Jellicle Ball dance sequence. The set, consisting of an oversized junk yard, remains the same throughout the show without any scene changes. Lloyd Webber's eclecticism is very strong here; musical genres range from classical to pop, music hall, jazz, rock and electro-acoustic music as well as hymn-like songs such as "The Addressing of Cats".
Cats premiered in the West End at the New London Theatre on 11 May 1981. There was trouble initially as Judi Dench, cast in the role of Grizabella, snapped her Achilles tendon during rehearsals prior to the London opening. She was replaced by Elaine Paige. The musical was produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, directed by Trevor Nunn, with associate director and choreographer Gillian Lynne, design by John Napier, and lighting by David Hersey. The conductor was Harry Rabinowicz. It played a total of 8,949 performances in London. Its final performance in London's West End was on its 21st birthday, 11 May 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. It held the record as London's longest running musical until 8 October 2006, when it was surpassed by Les Misérables.
The show made its debut on Broadway on 7 October 1982, at the Winter Garden Theater with the same production team. On 19 June 1997, Cats became the longest-running musical in Broadway history with 6,138 performances. It closed on 10 September 2000, after a total of 7,485 performances. Its Broadway record was surpassed on 9 January 2006 by The Phantom of the Opera. It remains Broadway's fourth-longest-running show in history. Lloyd Webber stated that when the original show was produced, it cost £900,000, but on Broadway, it cost $5 million.
In 1998, Lloyd Webber produced a video version of Cats, based upon the stage version, starring Elaine Paige, who originated the role of Grizabella in London; Ken Page, who originated Old Deuteronomy on Broadway; Sir John Mills as Gus; Michael Gruber as Munkustrap; John Partridge as The Rum Tum Tugger; Jo Gibb as Rumpelteazer with many of the dancers and singers drawn largely from various stage productions of the show. It was directed 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. Lloyd Webber and others on the production team for the film wanted to keep the feeling that viewers watching the film could still get the sense of seeing the show live, by having all views be facing the stage, therefore, getting multiple views of the set, with several close-ups. Beyond the productions in England, the US, Canada, and Australia, the musical has been produced professionally in Hungary, Austria, and Japan, 1983; Sydney and Toronto, 1985; Germany, 1986; France, 1989; Mexico, 1991; Netherlands, 1992; Argentina, 1993; Hong Kong, 1994; Spain, 2003; Poland and Czech Republic, 2004; Russia and Estonia, 2005; Israel, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, China and Finland, 2007; Singapore, Hong Kong, Dominican Republic, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, China, Italy, Bulgaria and Japan, 2009; and Brazil and the Philippines, 2010. Cats has been translated into over 20 languages.
It was announced on 3 August 2012 that a UK tour of the show would open on 9 February 2013, at the Edinburgh Playhouse.
Stagecoach Theatre Arts schools celebrated their 25th anniversary by performing Cats in the Birmingham National Indoor Arena on 24 March 2013. In association with the Really Useful Group, 3500 children from across Europe joined together with a virtual choir of many international Stagecoach students, and produced the largest production of the musical yet. 35 Stagecoach franchises across the UK performed the show on 7 'stages' around the arena, with each school taking it in turns to portray a small section of the musical. In addition to this, 52 selected elite dancers, including 14 solo dancers who took the named parts, performed the whole musical on a raised stage in the center of the arena. The Really Useful Group, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Veronica Bennetts, Stephanie Manuel and Paul Leddington Wright all contributed and collaborated to bring this production together.
From 21 August through 11 September 2013, the Finger Lakes Musical Theater Festival in Auburn, New York, staged a production of the show with Taylor Dayne as Grizabella, KC Fredericks as Mr. Mistoffelees, Patrick Mellen as Old Deuteronomy, and Adam Ryan Tackett as Rum Tum Tugger. Jacob Brent directed and choreographed the production.
In July 2014, Australia's Harvest Rain Theatre Company staged the biggest production of Cats in the Southern Hemisphere with over 700 performers. Produced by Tim O'Connor, the production was performed at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. Callum Mansfield directed and choreographed it, and its record-breaking cast included Marina Prior as Grizabella.
Royal Caribbean International announced in April 2014 that a fully licensed production of Cats will be performed regularly for guests aboard the cruise ship Oasis of the Seas beginning in fall 2014.
It was announced on 27 June 2014 that "Cats" will be returning to London from December 2014 for a 12-week run at the London Palladium following the UK national tour with the original creative team featuring direction from Trevor Nunn, choreography by Gillian Lynne and design by John Napier. The run was later extended through April 2015. Along with this Andrew Lloyd Webber would be rewriting a number of songs from the musical. Speaking on the revival, Lloyd Webber himself said, "we wanted to do Cats again ourselves, then the Palladium came up and Trevor fell in love with it. We're taking the Cats show that's touring and working on it afresh." The musical returned to the London Palladium for a run lasting from 23 October 2015 to 2 January 2016 starring Beverley Knight as Grizabella.
From October 2015 to May 2016, a revival toured Australia, visiting Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth. The revival featured singer-songwriter Delta Goodrem as Grizabella, before Delia Hannah took over the role during the Adelaide and Perth seasons.
A Broadway revival opened on 31 July 2016. Nicole Scherzinger, who played Grizabella in the 2014 West End revival, had originally agreed to reprise the role on Broadway, but her desire to return as a judge on The X Factor led her to withdraw. Leona Lewis was cast to replace her and was ultimately succeeded by Mamie Parris in October 2016. The Broadway revival closed on December 30, 2017.
Awards and honors
Original London production
Original Broadway production
2014 London revival
2016 Broadway revival
Planned film adaptation
Amblimation planned to adapt the musical into an animated film, but was abandoned with the studio's closure.
In May 2016, it was announced that Tom Hooper would direct a film adaptation of the musical for Universal Pictures and Working Title Films with Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Debra Hayward serving as producers. Production is planned for 2017 or 2018. In January 2018, after the Broadway revival was closed, Lloyd Webber has written a new song for the film version of Cats (yet no title has been announced for the song, which will be sung by the kitten Victoria); he said that although the film has not been officially greenlit by Working Title, casting is underway.
Revisions to the show
Cats has undergone several revisions since its London and subsequent Broadway openings. The most current version, licensed by The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, is based on the recent UK tour. This score contains several small cuts, transpositions, additions, reassignment of vocal lines, and a reduced orchestration.
The original London production's version of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer is slower (in 12/8 time) and has a more jazzy sound, while the more common, newer version is faster and more upbeat (4/4 time, with the middle verse in 7/8 time). In the original London production, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer were characters in their own right and sang their own song; this was later changed in the Broadway production, where Mr. Mistoffelees sang Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer in the third person, with Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer as puppets being magically controlled by Mr. Mistoffelees. Eventually, the Broadway version of the song was rewritten to allow Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer to once again sing their own song as full characters. In the 1998 film, the first stanza of the song was cut. In the current licensed version, based on the recent UK tour, the 7/8 section is reworked into 4/4 with triplet quavers that simulate the original 12/8 version.
The "Growltiger's Last Stand" sequence has also been changed multiple times over the course of the show's history. In the original London production, the "last duet" for Growltiger and Griddlebone was a setting of an unpublished T.S. Eliot poem, "The Ballad of Billy M'Caw". For the original Broadway production, the Ballad was replaced with a pastiche of Italian opera (reminiscent of Puccini's Madama Butterfly). This new version was subsequently incorporated into most productions of Cats worldwide. The Ballad remained in the London production until some time in the early 1990s when it was replaced with the Italian aria pastiche. "Billy M'Caw" was re-instated for the UK tours following the show's closure in London. Lloyd Webber has said that he is pleased with the reinstatement of "The Ballad of Billy M'Caw" as he didn't care for the "Italian aria" version. The licensed version of Cats includes both songs, giving individual companies a choice as to which to include. The 2015 London revival and UK tour reinstates the Italian Aria, as well as rewriting the initial verses of Growltiger's Last Stand into a more jazz/blues sounding piece. In the 1998 video version, the entire scene featuring Growltiger was cut due to John Mills' (Gus) old age.
In recent productions, a lyric in "Growltiger's Last Stand" was changed to remove any racially insensitive language. "With a frightful burst of fireworks the Chinks they swarmed aboard!" became "with a frightful burst of fireworks, the Siamese they swarmed aboard!", although the lyric "Heathen Chinese" remains in the tale of the Pekes and the Pollicles.
The original London cast recording utilised longer versions of "The Old Gumbie Cat", "Old Deuteronomy" and "The Ad-Dressing of Cats" with verses and lines that were cut from later productions.
The US tour continues to use the original Broadway version of the score, including the Italian aria and material cut from newer versions. Only "Pekes and Pollicles" and one verse of "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" are cut from performance.
The 2015 London revival and UK tour introduced numerous 'modernizations' to the show, such as a rapped version of "The Rum Tum Tugger," whose character and costume is also completely reworked, changing him from a ladies-man "rock star" style character, to a "young urban" style cat, changing him also from one of the adult toms, to one of the kittens. The 2015 Australian tour and 2015 Paris productions also used the new Tugger; however, the 2016 Broadway revival does not. The 2015 London revival and UK tour also has a completely new piece of music used for the Beetles Tattoo segment of "The Old Gumbie Cat", a reworked jazz version of "Growltiger's Last Stand", and the reinstating of "Una Tepida Notte", replacing "The Ballad of Billy M'Caw".
In the 2016 Broadway revival, the "Growltiger's Last Stand" number was replaced by "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles". With Gus remembering that he had played the part of the Great Rumpus Cat instead of Growltiger.
Official Cats London Palladium Website
The Really Useful Group
The Official Andrew Lloyd Webber site
Cats at the Internet Broadway Database
The origin and creation of Cats