The musical Cats first opened on the West End on May 11th 1981, won numerous awards, gave 8,949 performances, and closed on May 11th 2002 on its 21st birthday. It was the longest running musical on the West End until 8th October 2006, when it was surpassed by Les Miserables.
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, 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 favourite. 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 director 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. Andrew 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 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 hymnal songs such as "The Addressing of Cats".
As the original production, the London production was very much experimental in nature. As can be seen from the original cast list, quite a few tracks were different - such as Mungojerrie playing Macavity, and Bustopher Jones played by the same actor as Old Deuteronomy, not Gus as is conventional now.
After its huge success, the show transferred to Broadway in 1982, where it was considerably overhauled, made brighter, more cheerful and family-friendly than the dark, exotic world created originally. Gradually some of these changes filtered back to the London production, such as innovations in costume construction and edited musical arrangements. The show continued gradually changing until 1996, when it was the main influence on the video production. Further changes were minimal after that point, such as the character "George" being cut in 2001.
Original London Cast (in amphibolical order) Edit
|Kitten (Admetus)||Steven Wayne|
|Alonzo / Rumpus Cat||Roland Alexander|
|Kitten (Bill Bailey)||Peter Barry|
|Asparagus / Growltiger||Stephen Tate|
|Kitten (Electra)||Anita Pashley|
|Kitten (Etcetera)||Julie Edmett|
|Jellylorum/Griddlebone||Susan Jane Tanner|
|Mungojerrie / Macavity||John Thornton|
|Old Deuteronomy / Bustopher Jones||Brian Blessed|
|Quaxo / Mistoffelees||Wayne Sleep|
|Rum Tum Tugger||Paul Nicholas|
|The Cats Chorus (Booth singers)|| Nick Hamilton
For further London Casts see here.
Final Cast, May 2002Edit
Original Team (1981)Edit
Director: Trevor Nunn
Choreographer / Associate Director: Gillian Lynne
Assistant Choreographer and Choreographer for Wayne Sleep's Tap Solo: Lindsay Dolan
Set / Costume / Makeup Designer: John Napier
Lighting Designer: David Hersey
Sound Designer: Abe Jacob
Production Musical Director: Harry Rabinowitz
Dance Captain: Jo-Anne Robinson
Artistic Coordinator / Gillian Lynnes Assistant: Chrissie Cartwright (1986-2002)
Makeup Designer: Karen Dawson (1989-2002)
Awards and NominationsEdit
- Laurence Oliver Award - Best New Musical - Won
- Laurence Olivier Award - Outstanding Achievement in a Musical - Gillian Lynne - Won