..among the most exhilarating and innovative musicals ever staged..."
Cats has been translated into ten languages: Japanese, German, (three versions for Germany , Austria and Switzerland), Hungarian, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, French, Spanish (two versions for Mexico and Argentina) and Italian. The Swiss production required a bilingual cast who performed in German and English on alternate nights. The title of the show has rarely been translated, The Mexican producers did a survey as to whether the Mexican audience would like their production to be called Gatos - the response in favour of keeping the English original was unanimous.
The show has not only been presented in theatres, but also in tents in Japan and Korea , an engine shed in Switzerland , and school gymnasiums across the USA .
While most productions replicate the original show as closely as possible, there have been exceptions to this rule, most notably, the Norwegian production which placed the action in an attic, the Swedish production which placed it on the rooftops and the Finnish production whose setting is best described as "futuristic".
The awards that Cats has won include: the 1981 Laurence Olivier award for Musical of the Year, the Evening Standard award for Best Musical and seven 1982/83 Tony awards including Best Musical, the much-coveted Molière Prize for Best Musical in France, seven out of ten Dora Mavor Moore awards including Best Musical in Canada and seven awards in Japan.
Cats facts and figures
- The original production opened at the New London Theatre, in the West End on 11 May 1981 . Eight years later it celebrated it's first important milestone: after 3,358 performances, Cats became the longest running musical in the history of the British theatre.
- Cats closed in London in 2002, the same year it celebrated it's 21 st birthday.
- On 29 January 1996 the London production of Cats celebrated its 6,141st performance and became the longest running musical in the history of West End theatre.
- In April 1999 the gross box office for the London production was over £115,363,000.00
- CATS opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on October 7, 1982, and continued to live up to its motto of playing "Now and Forever' until September 10 2000. On 19 June 1997 the show became the longest running musical on Broadway until January 9th 2006 when it was overtaken by The Phantom of the Opera.
- Since its opening, Cats has been presented in twenty-six countries and over three hundred cities, including such diverse destinations as Buenos Aires , Seoul , Helsinki and Singapore . Within two and half years of the London opening there were productions in New York, Tokyo, Budapest and Vienna, and the first of tour US touring productions had hit the road.
- Cats has been translated into ten languages: Japanese, German, (three versions for Germany , Austria and Switzerland ), Hungarian, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, French, Spanish (two versions for Mexico and Argentina ) and Italian. The Swiss production required a bilingual cast who performed in German and English on alternate nights.
- Despite its international appeal, the title of the show has rarely been translated - the Mexican producers did a survey as to whether the Mexican audience would like their production to be called Gatos - the response in favour of keeping the English original was unanimous.
- On October 1, 1991, CATS became the longest, continuously touring show in American theatre history. The CATS four US tours have thus far played a combined total of sixteen years and two months.
- "Memory" has been recorded by a variety of over 150 artists ranging from Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis to Liberace. Barry Manilow's rendition was a top-40 hit in the U.S.
- A techno/dance version by European singer Natalie Grant topped the European dance charts in 1999.
- The Original London Cast Recording of CATS won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Cast Album . The next year the Original Broadway Cast Recording won the same award.
- In its 21 years at the New London Theatre Cats notched up a staggering 8,950 performances.
- A specially filmed production of Cats was released by Really Useful Films in 1998 which is available on video and DVD. It features a "dream cast" including Sir John Mills and Elaine Paige,
'...up up up to the Heaviside Layer'
I began setting Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats to music late in 1977, partly because it is a book I remember with affection from my childhood and partly because I wanted to set existing verse to music. In my associations with lyricists it has tended to be the case that once a dramatic story line had been agreed, the lyrics are written to music I compose. I was very curious to see whether I could work the other way round.
Very luckily Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats contains verses that are extraordinarily musical; the have rhythms that are very much their own, like the ¢¥Rum Tum Tugger' or Old Deuteronomy' and although clearly they dictate to some degree the music that will accompany them they are frequently of irregular and exciting metre and are very challenging to a composer.
I wrote some settings in late 1977 which I began performing at the piano for friends, but I never progressed the idea seriously until after I had composed Tell Me On A Sunday. This was performed on BBC TV in the early part of 1980 and I began to think of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats as a possible concert anthology that could also be performed on television. With this in mind, some of my settings were performed in the summer of 1980 at the Sydmonton Festival. Valerie Eliot fortunately came to the concert and with her brought various unpublished pieces of verse by her husband; one of these was ¢¥Grizabella the Glamour Cat'. The musical and dramatic images that this created for me made me feel that there was very much more to the project than I needed the support of another to encourage me to re-work my settings and to see if a dramatic whole could be woven from the delightful verse that I was now to be allowed to develop.
Thus in the late summer I had my first meeting with Trevor Nunn. Soon after Valerie Eliot produced various other uncollected poems, three of which we have incorporated into Cats in their entirety. She also gave us a fascinating rough draft of an opening poem for what appears to have been conceived as a longer book about cats and dogs. This poem was not appropriate for the stage but it inspired us to write a lyric with the same intention of celebrating the supremacy of Jellicle cats. We have been able to include lines from the end of Eliot's draft poem which now introduce The Naming of Cats. But what was most thrilling was to find a reference in one of Eliot's letters to coherent, albeit incomplete structure for an evening; he proposed that eventually the cats were to go "Up up up past the Russell Hotel, up up up to the Heaviside Layer".
Trevor Nunn, who I discovered has a taste for tackling theatrical problems that most people consider insoluble, set to work immediately with me combing Eliot's works and we were reminded of the many references to cats in the main body of his writing.
I have enjoyed working on Cats as much as on any show on which I have worked. My gratitude with be undying to Valerie Eliot without whose encouragement the musical could never have taken its present form.
Midnight. Not a sound from the pavement.
Tonight is a particularly special night of the year when the tribe of Jellicle CATS unite to celebrate who they are. They emerge from the darkened landscape into a larger-than-life junkyard, singing of their unique abilities and special qualities.
The cats are at first suspicious and proud, reluctant to allow an audience into their domain. In The Naming of Cats, however, they begin to reveal who they are and that cats have three different names: the one the family uses daily, a more dignified name and a secret name. It is the contemplation of these secret names that keeps felines deep in thought:
When you notice a cat in profound
The reason I tell you is always the same;
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.....
V ictoria , a young white cat, dances to signal The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball. Munkustrap, a large grey tabby, explains that the Jellicle Cats meet once a year to rejoice. They are waiting for their leader, the wise Old Deuteronomy, who will choose which of the Jellicle Cats will journey tonight to the Heavyside layer to be ñrebornî; into a new life.
Jellicle Cats come out to-night,
Jellicle Cats come one come all:
The Jellicle Moon is shining bright -
Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball.....
And so begins our introduction to the cats. One by one they step forward to audition for the role, to be chosen to make the special journey to be reborn.
Jennyanydots, The Old Gumbie Cat, sleeps and lounges all day long:
She sits beside the hearth or in the
sun or on my hat:
She sits and sits and sits and sits - and that what's make a Gumbie Cat!
Exploding on the set comes Rum Tum Tugger, a playful prankster that the female cats find extremely attractive, and who enjoys being the centre of attention:
Yes, the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious
And there isn't any need for me to spout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there's no doing anything about it!
Grizabella, The Glamour Cat, is shunned by the rest of the tribe despite being a Jellicle Cat. She left the tribe years ago to explore the outside world and now wants to return.
Bustopher Jones is a large "twenty five pounder", always clad in signature white spats. "The Cat about town", he spends his time eating, eating and eating in one the many English pubs and clubs that he frequents:
He's the Cat we all greet as he walks
down the street
In his coat of fastidious black:
No commonplace mousers have such well-cut trousers
Or such an impeccable back.....
Suddenly a thunderous crash, followed by the sound of police sirens and flashing red lights signals that the villainous Macavity is on the loose! The cats scatter, leaving an empty space.
Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He's always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place -
MACA V ITY WASN'T THERE!
Distant giggles signal the entrance of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, a fun-loving, frolicking team of pranksters who are always in trouble with the family with whom they live:
And when you heard a dining-room smash
Or up from the pantry there came a loud crash
Or down from the library came a loud ping
From a vase which was commonly said to be Ming -
Then the family would say: "Now which was which cat?
It was Mungojerrie! AND Runpleteazer!" - And there's
Nothing at all to be done about that!
The entire tribe returns as their benevolent and wise old leader Old Deuteronomy arrives. The cats adore and respect him, indeed he is father to some of them:
Old Deuteronomy's lived a long time;
He's a Cat who has lived many times in succession.
He was famous in proverb and famous in rhyme
A long while before Queen Victoria's accession.....
They entertain him with a special show narrated by Munkustrap, The Aweful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles together with the The Marching Song of the Pollicle Dogs:
Now when these bold heroes together
The traffic all stopped and the Underground trembled,
And some of the neighbours were so much afraid
That they started to ring up the Fire Brigade.....
The cats dress up as the two rival dog factions who bark ceaselessly at each other until they are frightened away by the Great Rumpus Cat, a sleek and powerful feline.
Another crash from the villainous Macavity is heard, which sends the cats scurrying. Old Deuteronomy soothes them as they come back one by one. It is time for The Jellicle Ball, the great annual dance in which all the cats celebrate.
Grizabella appears once more, wanting to rejoin her family and be a part of the celebration. She is left to contemplate her Memory of the time before she left the tribe. She stretches out her hand behind her, hoping another cat will touch her. She is still not accepted and, disappointed, slinks off into the night.
After the Jellicle Ball, the cats rest and contemplate The Moments of Happiness before introducing more cats. Gus the Theatre Cat is an aged stage actor who worked with the greatest actors of his day. Gus tells of his greatest theatrical triumphs and yearns to perform again.
He once played a Tiger - could do it
Which an Indian Colonel pursued down a drain.
And he thinks that he still can, much better than most,
Produce blood-curdling noises to bring on the Ghost.
And he once crossed the stage on a telegraph wire,
To rescue a child when a house was on fire.....
Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat introduces himself. A friendly uncle to all the cats, Skimbleshanks attends the trains he rides, and makes sure every detail is perfect:
In the watches of the night he is
always fresh and bright;
Every now and then he has a cup of tea
With perhaps a drop of Scotch while he's keeping on the watch,
Only stopping here and there to catch a flea.....
A third crash interrupts the celebration, and this time the villainous Macavity appears. Two of his henchmen invade the proceedings and kidnap Old Deuteronomy. Demeter and Bombalurina sing what they know of Macavity, whose evil deeds have resulted in his being dubbed the Napoleon of crime.
Macavity returns, disguised as Old Deuteronomy, but he is exposed and battles with Munkustrap and the other male cats. Tired and almost defeated, Macavity rigs an electrical explosion that puts out all the lights, leaving the Jellicles in the dark. But they still have to find Old Deuteronomy. The Rum Tum Tugger calls upon Mr Mistoffelees, the conjuring cat, to use his magical powers to bring back their leader. Mistoffelees succeeds in reinstating the lights, locating Old Deuteronomy and showing off his spectacular magic tricks, including his infamous conjuring turn:
And not so long ago this phenomenal Cat
Produced seven kittens right out of a hat!
And we all said: OH!
Well I never!
Did you ever
Know a Cat so clever
As magical Mr Mistoffelees!
At last the time has come for Old Deuteronomy to make the Jellicle Choice and decide which cat will be reborn into a new Jellicle life. At that moment, Grizabella reappears. Again she recalls her Memory of how things used to be. This time the cats accept her back into the tribe and it is she who is chosen to Journey to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn.
The Jellicle Ball has come to a conclusion, but first Old Deuteronomy instructs the human spectators in The Addressing of Cats:
So first, your memory I'll jog,
And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.
A Cat's entitled to expect
These evidences of respect.
And so in time you reach your aim,
And finally call him by his NAME.....
For all of their unique qualities and differences, he says, cats are very much like you
The Musical Numbers
» Play this clip
Prologue: Jellicle Songs
The Naming of Cats
» Play this clip
The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball
Victoria, Quaxo, Munkustrap
The Old Gumbie Cat
Jennyanydots, Jellylorum, Bombalurina, Demeter
The Rum Rum Tugger
Rum Tum Tugger
» Play this clip
Grizabella, The Glamour Cat
Grizabella, Demeter, Bombalurina
» Play this clip
Bustopher, Jennyanydots, Jellylorum, Bombalurina
Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer
Munkustrap, Rum Tum Tugger, Old Deuteronomy
The Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles
Munkustrap, Peke Leader, Pollicle Leader, The Rumpus Cat
The Jellicle Ball
» Play this clip
The Moments of Happiness
Old Deuteronomy, Jemima
Gus: The Theatre Cat
Growltigers Last Stand
Growltiger, Griddlebone, The Crew, Ghengis
Skimbleshanks, Tantomile, Cassandra, Electra, Rumpelteazer, Carbucketty, Victoria, Jemima, Mungojerrie, Coricopat, George, Bill Bailey, Etcetera, Alonzo
Demeter, Bombalurina, Macavity, Munkustrap, Alonzo
Quaxo, otherwise known as Mr Mistoffelees, Rum Tum Tugger
» Play this clip
Journey to the Heaviside Layer
The Ad-dressing of Cats
1981 LAURENCE OLIVIER Awards
Musical of the Year
Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Musicals (Gillian Lynne)
1981 EVENING STANDARD AWARD
1983 DRAMA DESK Awards
Outer CriticsCircle Award; Best Musical
Moliere Award for Best Musical
7 Dora Mavor Moore Awards including Best Musical
London opening night pressGo on... purr with pleasure..
This brilliantly imaginative show..
We rejoice with Paul Nicholas playing a 'Hip' cat..
Ingenious and acrobatic production numbers... I really started to purr with pleasure...
Wayne Sleep spins around the stage like a runaway top..
The setting is a miracle of design.. Magical..
Director Trevor Nunn and Choreographer Gillian Lynne have conceived an exciting and colourful show. Quite unique among musicals.
It should do for cats what Disney's Mickey and Minnie did for mice
Daily Mirror, 13.5.81
A triumphant opening..
John Kenny's revolutionary theatre at last realises it's potential..
John Napier's stunning costumes..
The evening's centre is a 15 minute ballet of sustained ingenuity and marvellous switched rhythms..
Director Trevor Nunn injects warmth and detail of characterisation into the evening
Real plaudits must be reserved for choreographer Gillian Lynne. For years it seemed impossible that the British could produce their own original dance musical. But here it is. A Company of outstanding singers and dancers.
Explosive narrative invention..
David Hersey's colourful lighting..
The effect is overwhelming..
Wayne Sleep pirouetting irresistibly... magical Kenn Wells stops the show..
Lloyd Webber's scope is thoughtfully accommodating towards Eliot's rhythms, continuously inventive.
All children from about 10 years upwards should hurry along
Michael Coveney, Financial Times
The cat's whiskers..
A triumphant piece of musical theatre..
The sheer volume of impeccable high talent which has been so generously poured into the show..
Cats is a magnificent marriage of words, music, dancing, design and direction..
A production of riveting intensity..
Andrew Lloyd Webber... this supremely theatrical composer has created another marvellously sonorous score in the tradition of Superstar and Evita as the foundation of the show's magic.
Lloyd Webber's most remarkable gift burns constant as ever. evocative melodies and fine orchestrations
Riches in profusion, always inspiring the performers.. Wayne Sleep erupts in breath-stopping balletic somersaults..
Stephen Tate ... in a splendid music hall song, pathos and humour perfectly balanced
Stunning.. The show moves in an ascending curve of music..
The composer's most dazzling pre-interval coup is an astonishing explosion of dance springing from Latin and disco rhythms..
The music is magnificent and is excellently played. It's quality is matched by Nunn's spectacular direction, by the inspired choreography of Gillian Lynne, by John Napier's imaginative rubbish dump set; by the flat our efforts of an all-singing, all dancing cast who show convincingly that London can match Broadway.
Cats is among the most exhilarating and innovative musicals ever staged
Derek Jewell, Sunday Times
Many thrilling moments..
Superb solos by that tiny, dynamic dancer; Wayne Sleep..
The work of the Company is both enthusiastic and skilled..
Sunday Telegraph - Francis King
A squad of quite splendid singer-dancers..
A great miaow of a hit..
John duPre, Sunday People
The cats whiskers..
A driving ecstatic ballet that must be the most exciting number ever seen in a British musical
A firework display by Paul Nicholas
The show's technical excellence... David Hersey's lighting, Abe Jacob's sound, both superb
As a dance musical Cats knocks spots off Mr Fosse's Dancin'
Don't miss it
One of the few hot tickets in town
The whole company dances at the audience in a way, which demands one's enthusiasm
Andrew Lloyd Webber's brilliant new musical....
Hs melodies are both apt and tuneful Imaginatively staged by Trevor Nunn
Choreographer Gillian Lynne has created some entrancing dances for the versatile cast
A brilliantly conceived song and dance spectacular
A high pressure theatrical experience that explodes with British talent
Sensational dancing Paul Nicholas.... devastating
The majestic direction of Trevor Nunn