Grizabella is a principal character in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats.
|“||proud, hurt, indomitable||”|
Grizabella's personality is dominated by regret, rejection, and loneliness. She is portrayed as an older cat, though she may not be as old as her appearance implies. She usually moves slowly and carefully, suggesting stiffness or an injury.
|“||Strong, experienced singer/actress with high belt (to D flat), sings "Memory". The one time star among cats has seen better times. She now lives in the gutter and is despised by the other cats. She is vulnerable, but she is also a survivor.||”|
Grizabella is despised by the Jellicle cats, for reasons unknown. She is a sad, lonely cat, dreaming of the days where she was young, beautiful and adored, realizing her mistakes and begging for forgiveness. Most of the Jellicle cats scratch and claw at Grizabella. The kittens try to touch and accept her but the elders pull them away.
Grizabella desperately wants to be accepted back into the tribe - she hides in the shadows and watches the Jellicle Ball. At the end of the Ball, she takes the empty stage and copies some of the dance moves and sings the first verse of "Memory". She senses someone reaching out to her but she is still too proud and independent, and walks off. It is only when the night is nearly over that she is desperate enough to appeal to the tribe one last time and sings "Memory" in full.
Later, during the reprise of "Memory", she collapses. Jemima picks up where she left off and helps Grizabella finish her song. Victoria then reaches out to touch her. The remaining Jellicle cats finally touch her and accept her back into the tribe.
Grizabella is then chosen by Old Deuteronomy to be reborn, and "come back to a different Jellicle life", and ascends up to the Heaviside Layer.
Judi Dench Edit
In the Original London Production, Dame Judi Dench was cast to play Grizabella and Jennyanydots, doubling characters much as the actor who plays Asparagus also plays Bustopher Jones, without an implied link between the roles. However she was injured in rehearsal, and at the last minute Elaine Paige was cast as her replacement.
Grizabella wears a ragged and worn out coat, covering the remains of a black sequinned dress. She wears high-heeled shoes and stockings over her unitard, but one stocking has fallen around her ankle. Her wig is long and curly, the only wig in the show to be made of human hair rather than yak hair.
At the beginning of the show, the actress playing Grizabella is usually in the ensemble, sometimes referred to as "Baby/Young Grizabella". She has an unremarkable costume of greys and browns, sometimes with a black velvet ribbon around her neck. The unitard and simple makeup form the base of her featured costume, with heavy black lines added to the makeup, and dress and coat over the unitard.
During the first scenes of the show, Grizabella usually appears in the ensemble in an understated grey and brown costume. She is designed specifically to not stand out from the other cats. In an interview, Prisca Demarez describes her feelings about her chorus identity:
Marie Berson: I'll be personally very curious to learn a little more about this cat that is you in a first time with the jellicle before the arrival of I've already got them! Did she have a name? A role?
Prisca: " what happiness to play the opening track with the whole company! This is a very important moment for me. Of course she has a name! Her name is baby griz but I call her grizzy baby. She has the same colors that I've already got them at the level of the face. She's as pure as Victoria and doesn't know yet the pains of life. It's a kitten. To me, she loops the loop. She represents the beginning of life, within a family, before the choice and the difficulties...
People often ask me why I've already got them is not young and beautiful at the end. In fact for me we see her at the outset, in grizzy baby, like a new life, a blank page to write. This is what I've already got them was small. It's in this form she gets back from the jellicosphère: in kitten. She allows me to have a history with the group, a sensation of having danced with them before I was no longer able to do so. And she's so happy and light before the weight of the pain of I've already got them."
Grizabella is described in a song named after her, sung by Bombalurina and Demeter ("Grizabella the Glamour Cat") but also sings a song ("Memory", "Memory (Reprise)"), lamenting her age, living in the memories of a better time.
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