Brown & Black
Original London Actress
Original Broadway Actress
Grizabella is a main character in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats.
Grizabella has a ragged and worn out coat, covering the remains of a black sequinned dress. She wears gold kitten-heel 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 not yak hair.
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.
At the beginning of the show, the actress playing Grizabella is in the chorus, 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.
Grizabella's personality is dominated by regret, rejection, and loneliness. She 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 - indeed Old Deuteronomy is from the back of the stage - 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.
- 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 Tribe, for reasons unknown; while "Grizabella the Glamour Cat" implies she was a prostitute, it is unknown if this is the reason for her exclusion or if it is only part of her story (One theory is she left the Jellicle Tribe and became a famous actress or mascot during World War II.) She is a sad, lonely cat, dreaming of the days where she was young, beautiful and adored, realizing her mistakes and begging for forgiveness. She now comes back to the Jellicle cats all old and worn out. Most of the older cats scratch and claw at Grizabella. The kittens try to touch her and know her but the elders pull them away.
During her song, "Memory", she is trying to earn help and acceptance from the tribe. Old Deuteronomy hears her and tries to reach out, but she does not notice.
Later, during the reprise of "Memory", she collapses with grief. Jemima picks up where she left off and helps Grizabella finish her song. Victoria listens and is first to touch her. and then finally all of the Jellicle cats turn around and came to her and they all finally touch her and smile at her accepting her back in to the tribe and showing how sorry they were for rejecting and turning they're backs on her and they all finally trust her and no longer consider her a threat to them and she was finally loved and they all wave goodbye to her when she was going to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn. Grizabella is chosen by Old Deuteronomy to be reborn,"come back to a different Jellicle life", and gets raised up to the Heaviside Layer.
In the Original London Production, Dame Judi Dench was cast to play Grizabella and Jennyanydots, doubling characters much as 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.
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.
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.
Well-known performers Edit
- Elaine Paige - Original London Cast (1981-1982), Video (1997)
- Betty Buckley - Original Broadway Cast (1982-1984)
- Angelika Milster - Original Vienna Cast (1983-1987), East Berlin (1987)
- Laurie Beechman - US Tour (1983-1984), Broadway (1984, 1992, 1997)
- Cornelia Drese - Hamburg (1990-1993, 1998), Berlin (2002-2004), Düsseldorf (2004-2005)
- Chrissie Hammond - London (1999-2002), UK Tour III (2003-2009)
- Nicole Scherzinger- London revival (2014)
- Kerry Ellis - London revival (2015)
- Jane McDonald - Blackpool (2015)
For fandom headcanons and theories, CLICK HERE.