Cats (musical)

Cats
CatsMusicalLogo.jpg
MusicAndrew Lloyd Webber
BasisOld Possum's Book of Practical Cats
by T. S. Eliot
Premiere11 May 1981; 38 years ago (1981-05-11): New London Theatre, London, England, U.K.
ProductionsMultiple productions worldwide
Awards

Cats is a sung-through musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on the 1939 poetry collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. It tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make the "Jellicle choice", deciding which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life. The musical includes the well-known song "Memory" as sung by Grizabella.

Lloyd Webber began setting Eliot's poems to music in 1977 and the compositions were first presented as a song cycle in 1980. Producer Cameron Mackintosh then recruited director Trevor Nunn and choreographer Gillian Lynne to turn the songs into a complete musical. Cats opened to positive reviews at the New London Theatre in the West End in 1981 and then to mixed reviews at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway in 1982. It won numerous awards including Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier and Tony Awards. Despite its unusual premise which deterred investors initially, the musical turned out to be an unprecedented commercial success, with a worldwide gross of $3.5 billion by 2012.

The London production ran for 21 years and 8,949 performances, while the Broadway production ran for 18 years and 7,485 performances, making Cats the longest-running musical in both theatre districts for a number of years. As of 2019, it remains the sixth-longest-running West End show and the fourth-longest-running Broadway show. Cats has since been revived in the West End twice and on Broadway once. It has also been translated into multiple languages and performed around the world many times. Long-running foreign productions include a 15-year run at the Operettenhaus in Hamburg that played over 6,100 performances, as well as an ongoing run in a purpose-built theatre in Japan that has played over 10,000 performances since it opened in 1983.

Cats started the megamusical phenomenon, establishing Broadway as a global industry and directing its focus to big-budget blockbusters, as well as family- and tourist-friendly shows. The musical's profound but polarizing influence also reshaped the aesthetic, technology, and marketing of the medium. Cats was adapted into a direct-to-video film in 1998, with a feature film adaptation by Tom Hooper set to follow in 2019.

Background

Cats is based on T. S. Eliot's 1939 poetry book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, with the songs in the musical consisting of Eliot's verse set to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.[1] The musical is unusual in terms of its construction; along with Eliot's poems, music and dance are the main focus of the show at the expense of a traditional narrative structure.[2] Musicologists William Everett and Paul Laird described Cats as "combining elements of the revue and concept musical".[3] The plot centres on a tribe of cats called the Jellicles, as they come together at the annual Jellicle Ball to decide which one of them will ascend to the Heaviside Layer (their version of heaven) and be reborn into a new life.[4] The bulk of the musical consists of the different contenders being introduced, either by themselves or by other cats.[5]

Poems

T. S. Eliot's poetry provided most of the lyrics for Cats

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is a collection of light poetry about cats that Eliot had originally written for his godchildren in the 1930s. Due to the rhythmic nature of Eliot's work, there had been previous attempts before Cats at setting his poems to music, though none of these attempts had been met with much critical or commercial success.[6] Musicologist John Snelson wrote of the poems:

[They] provided excellent material for musicalization, as Eliot's style in this collection is reminiscent of a popular lyricist. The poet uses repeated catch phrases, strong hooks, steady rhythm and outrageous, attention-grabbing, witty rhymes, which are the ingredients of every well-crafted popular lyric.[7]

Most of the lyrics in Cats were taken from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats with very minor alterations. Supplementary verses from unpublished poems by Eliot were adapted for "Grizabella: The Glamour Cat" and "The Journey to the Heaviside Layer", while the song "The Moments of Happiness" was taken from a passage in Eliot's The Dry Salvages. Cats director Trevor Nunn and lyricist Richard Stilgoe provided the remaining lyrics, namely for the opening number "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" and the most famous song from the musical "Memory". The former was written by Nunn and Stilgoe and was modelled after an unpublished poem by Eliot titled "Pollicle Dogs and Jellicle Cats", while the latter was written by Nunn based on another Eliot poem titled "Rhapsody on a Windy Night".[1]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Cats
azərbaycanca: Pişiklər (müzikl)
čeština: Cats
dansk: Cats
Deutsch: Cats
eesti: Kassid
español: Cats
hrvatski: Cats
Bahasa Indonesia: Cats
italiano: Cats (musical)
Bahasa Melayu: Cats
Nederlands: Cats (musical)
norsk: Cats
português: Cats (musical)
română: Cats (muzical)
Simple English: Cats (musical)
suomi: Cats
svenska: Cats
ไทย: แคตส์
Türkçe: Cats
українська: Коти (мюзикл)
Tiếng Việt: Cats (nhạc kịch)