The first Cats set used in the original London production, designed by John Napier, became the template for most future productions, being subsequently modified and replicated (usually by either Raymond Huessy or Alan Walker) for many different productions all over the world. This article serves as a listing of all known replica sets and their distinctive characteristics; each set, despite being replicas of the original, has minute differences from the original to suit the individual requirements of each production.
Below is a description of the basic characteristics present on the basic Cats set design seen on major contemporary productions today. The exact characteristics of each set differ by production (see below section on individual sets). In general, all the identifiable objects in the set are scaled 1:4, to give us a "Cats' Eye View".
The stage floor is usually painted to resemble torn magazine and/or newspaper pages, with snippets of text and adverts here and there. The stage itself is often a thrust stage (dependent on the venue), with the stage itself being surrounded on three sides by seats, allowing for increased audience visibility of the actors onstage from all angles. The edges of the stage bordering the audience were covered with stylized piles of 'trash' blending into the floor of the auditorium (see 'The Trash Piles' below). On some sets, the stage floor contains pyrotechnics used during Mistoffelees's dance number.
The oven, located on stage right of the large upstage portion of the set, is styled as a large household oven scaled to a cat's point of view. It serves as an entrance during the show, with the door opening and closing on a horizontal hinge. Often the oven is internally lit. The top of the oven also serves as a perch for cats.
The pipe, located upstage right to the left of the oven, is styled as a large drain pipe. As with most of the notable set items, it is scaled to be seen from a cat's point of view. It serves as an entry and exit, including Demeter's first entrance in the opening number.
The tire, styled as a large jeep tire, is located upstage center, to the right of the pipe. During the show, it serves as Old Deuteronomy's 'throne' or seat during the show. It rises on hydraulics (concealed with dry ice smoke) to raise Grizabella to the Heaviside Layer at the end of the show. Several miscellaneous 'boxes' (platforms) are located to the side of the tire to allow actors to climb onto it from the stage floor.
The Heavenly Hand/Harness
This refers to the method by which Grizabella is lifted from the tire to the 'Heaviside Layer' (upwards and offstage). Some productions utilize a staircase stylized as a large cat paw (a paw of the Everlasting Cat) that descends down towards the tire on hydraulics which the actor playing Grizabella would then walk on up and off stage; others use a harness to lift the actor directly. The exact method used usually depends on the venue in question and its limitations.
The Car Boot/Trunk
Located next to the tire upstage left, the trunk (also known as the boot) represents a car trunk/boot, particularly that of an older car from the 1960s/70s (e.g. the Volkswagen Beetle). It is painted black, with a number plate attached to it (see below for more information on the number plate). The trunk's lid is designed to raise up on hydraulics during the Gumbie Cat number to reveal Jennyanydots.
The Number Plate
The number plate is attached to the car boot/trunk (see above). On most sets, the number plate reads "NAP" followed by a number; the number is used to count the iterations of the set from the original, or, in some cases, to denote special occasions (e.g. NAP70, the London Palladium set, commemorates John Napier's 70th birthday). There are some exceptions to this rule, however - notably, the movie set's number plate read 'TSE 1' in honor of T.S. Eliot.
On earlier sets, the plate was painted black with white text, mimicking the iconic older style of British number plates commonly seen on older cars back when Cats first premiered in the 1980s; nowadays, most sets use a yellow plate design with black text and borders mimicking contemporary British number plates, which contemporary audiences would more easily recognize.
The 'catwalks' are a series of platforms spanning the upper section of the upstage portion of the set, starting at a hidden entrance on stage right and running along the top above the pipe and trash piles (see below) onto the tire and trunk, then back up to another hidden entrance on stage left. This platform serves as an area for actors to enter and exit as well as sit/stand on in character during the show. In productions featuring the trapeze, the actor on the trapeze will swing off of the catwalks on stage right.
Downstage left there is often a dilapidated brass bedstead set on its side, which provides a climbing frame for the Cats. In some productions this is duplicated stage right.
The Trash Piles
The 'trash piles' refers to the miscellaneous decorations surrounding the set and the borders of the stage (see above). They are stylized to look like random piles of odd junk fitting the junkyard aesthetic of the show, filling in areas of the stage without distinctive set items like those mentioned above and giving the set depth. The junk often includes discarded garments, shirts and underwear; broken crockery including teapots; household refuse such as egg boxes and cereal boxes; and many broken bottles. Often these miscellaneous "junk" textures are produced by vacuum-molded, painted panels upstage, with scale props scattered close enough for the audience to examine them.
Some of the apparently random trash are actually used as props during the show, such as Skimbleshanks' train, Beetles, and Pekes and Pollicles costumes are hidden in plain sight.
The Individual Sets
Below is a listing of the sets used in major productions of Cats worldwide and their distinctive characteristics.
(NOTE: This list is still WIP. Not all information has been added.)
This set was the first set ever designed and built for Cats. It was used for the original London production of Cats from 1981 to 2002. It was designed and built by John Napier and maintained by Kimpton Walker Ltd / Alan Walker. As the very first set and the template for most major productions following the original London production, this set debuted many of the distinctive design attributes seen in replica sets nowadays.
Unlike more contemporary sets, this stage lacked some notable features seen on other sets; notably, the oven was missing and the platforms/miscellaneous boxes near the tire were replaced with a simple set of stairs. Other notable features also differed slightly from contemporary sets - for instance, the NAP plate on the trunk was attached near the bottom of the trunk, as if it had worked loose, rather than mounted securely on it. The plate itself was colored black with white text reading 'NAP' in boldface - this is a reference to the older British number plates from cars built/registered before the 1970s, which the audience would have likely been familiar with (and hence being an explanation of sorts of why the car was in the junkyard - it was old, as evidenced by the plate).
The drainpipe, a favourite hang-out for Rum Tum Tugger, swivelled to also feature as the "plank" Growltiger was forced to jump from to his doom. The red corrugated iron steps that led up to the tire had to be manually removed for the ascent to the Heaviside layer. A dilapidated mattress was seen prominently, this was used by Growltiger and Griddlebone, as well as used as a trampoline by Cats. The set also included several sub-stage entrances, allowing Cats to pop up at the feet of the audience in the front row.
One unique feature of the New London set was that it was built on a revolve. The entire central stage, including the Car Boot and the tire, and the first four rows of stalls seating, were pre-set at the start of the show, rotated through approximately 120 degrees. This led to audience confusion as they took to their seats and discovered apparently very poor sight-lines. However, during the Overture, the stage moved into place, which created a sense of completion as the show began. The revolve was not used again during the performance. Partly because of this structure, the central stage space of the New London was relatively small, and the cast constantly spilled over into the aisles and among the seats of the audience.
Original London Production 1981-2002New London Theater, London
NAP 2 was the second set built for Cats, used for the original Broadway production from 1982 to 2000. It was produced by John Napier and Raymond Huessy.
As the Broadway production was given a much larger budget compared to the original London production, the set itself also featured several minor differences in set from the original. Notably, the oven was introduced for the first time. The design of the NAP plate was also modified - it was mounted further up on the trunk with a more detailed design (black with silver borders and silver boldface text) and different font. The text itself was also modified to read 'NAP 2', referencing the fact that the set was the second iteration overall; this tradition carried on onto many other productions.
The Broadway production included some audience seated onstage, behind the proscenium arch, in an echo of the London production's thrust staging.
Original Broadway Production 1982-2000
Winter Garden Theater, New York
This set was used for the Vienna 1983-1990 production. It was recreated by John Napier, with some modifications made to the design again. Notably, the oven was present, following the initiative of the Broadway set (NAP 2). The number plate's design was again modified - the number plate was colored yellow with black borders and black boldface text, similarly to contemporary British number plates - this plate design would go on to be seen in many sets to follow. The number plate itself sported the text "NAP 3" in bold letters.
This set was used for the Toronto 1985-1987 production. It was produced by Raymond Huessy. Its number plate read 'NAP 7'. The exact design of the plate is currently unknown due to lack of photos of that portion of the set, although it can be presumed that it was a yellow plate akin to that of NAP 3 and NAP 8, considering that Raymond Huessy's next set (NAP 08) sported such a number plate design.
This set was used for the Sydney 1985-1987 production. It was produced by Raymond Huessy. The number plate used the yellow design, reading "NAP 08".
HH NAP 9
This set was used for the Hamburg 1986-2001 production. The set was produced by Raymond Huessy. Notably, its number plate was based off of the then-current German numberplate design - it was white with black text with a rust/wear effect applied; this was likely done to be recognizable to and thus appeal to German audiences. The number plate itself read "HH NAP 9", the "HH" standing for "Hansestadt Hamburg" as was (and is) convention for Hamburg license plates.
This set was used for the Melbourne 1987-1989 production. Its number plate utilized the black and silver design of NAP 2 (see above), reading "NAP-10".
This set was used for the US Tour III and US Tour V productions. It was produced by Raymond Huessy. It used the yellow numberplate design, reading "NAP 11" as well as what appears to be random letters above and below the NAP text.
US Tour III
US Tour V
This set was the first (and currently only) inflatable version of the set ever built, intended for use for tour stops which were too short to justify putting together the full replica set (NAP 11). It was designed by Raymond Huessy and used for US Tour V. This set was identical in design (exterior wise) to the NAP 11 set used on the same tour; however, if you look closely, stretch marks were visible on the fabric when it was fully inflated, identifying the set as an inflatable versus a full replica.
US Tour V
NAP 12 (Amsterdam)
This set was used for the Amsterdam productions (1987, 1988, 1992). It was produced by Paul Gallis. Its number plate appears to be of the yellow design (this is not confirmed due to lack of photos showing the plate lit). The plate itself read "NAP 12".
Amsterdam 1987, 1988, 1992
NAP 12 (UK)
This set was used for the UK Tour I, Zürich and Euro Tour 1994 productions. It was produced by Raymond Huessy. Its number plate is of the yellow design, reading "NAP 12" with what appears to be random letters above and below it.
UK Tour 1989
NAP 14 (Paris)
This set was used for the Paris 1989-1990 production. It was reproduced by Paul Gallis. This set was the last major set to use the original black on white number plate design first seen on the original NAP set; almost all following sets would use the yellow plate design. The number plate read "NAP 14".
NAP 14 (UK)
This set was used for the UK Tour II production. It was reproduced by Raymond Huessy. Its numberplate was of the yellow design, reading "NAP 14" with random letters above and below it.
Notably, elements from this set were incorporated into the TSE 1 set used for the filmed production of Cats (see below).
UK Tour 1993-1995
This set was used for the Antwerp 1996, Stuttgart 2001, Berlin 2002-2004, Düsseldorf 2004-2005, and German Tour 2005-2006. The set was produced by Raymond Huessy. When Cats transferred from Stuttgart to Berlin, Christoph Weyers altered and updated the set. Its number plate reads "NAP 15" with "HUESSY 11" in smaller text beneath. This was the first set to incorporate additional legible/readable text asides from the NAP number of the set itself (not counting earlier sets with random letters above/below the NAP number).
Notably, elements from this set were incorporated into the TSE 1 set used for the filmed production of Cats (see below).
German Tour 2005-2006
This set consisted of various elements from sets NAP 14 and 15 (see above). It was assembled especially for the filmed version of Cats. Its number plate was of the yellow design, reading "TSE 1" in honor of T.S. Eliot, the writer of the original poems; however, on a few shots, the older plate from NAP 15 can be seen instead of the TSE-1 plate.
Film 1997Adelphi Theater, London
This set was used for the UK Tour III, Brazil 2010, and UK Tour IV productions. It was built by Raymond Huessy and produced by Scena Pro. Its number plate was of the yellow design, reading NAP 16 in bold letters, with "HUESSY12" below and random letters above the NAP text in smaller font.
UK Tour 2003-2009
UK Tour 2013-2014
This set was used for the Madrid 2003-2005, Moscow 2005-2006, and Dutch Tour 2006-2007 productions. It was produced by Christoph Weyers. Its number plate wsa of the yellow design, reading "NAP 17" in bold letters, with "WEYERS 2 AW" in smaller text beneath (the AW standing for Alan Walker).
Dutch Tour 2006-2007
This set was used for the Royal Caribbean/Oasis of the Seas production. It was reproduced by Alan Walker. Its number plate is of the yellow design, reading NAP 18.
Oasis of the Seas 2014-2020
This set was used for the German Tent Tour 2010-2013 production. It was reproduced by Alan Walker. Its number plate is of the yellow design, reading "NAP 19".
German Tent Tour 2010-2013
This set was used for the London Palladium (2014), Blackpool/London (2015), and Broadway Revival (2016) productions (the lattermost of which it is currently being used for). It was created under the supervision of Alan Walker.
The set itself primarily consists of modified elements from other sets, mostly from NAP 19 but also from NAP 16 as well as some additional material. Its number plate is of the yellow design, reading "NAP 70", the 70 being in honour of John Napier, it's designer's, 70th birthday. The text "Gritty Kitty G.B." is present in smaller text below the NAP number. Notably, its 'catwalks' run all the way up to the mezzanine/stalls of the theater, with hidden entrances present; the exact location of the catwalks are dependent on the venue in question (for instance, in the London Palladium production they ran through the closed off box area).
London Palladium 2014-2015For this production, the set's 'catwalks' (platforms) ran through the closed off box area into the theater mezzanine/stalls. The stage floor also contained hidden pyrotechnics for use during Mistoffelees's dance number.
Broadway 2016-2017For the Broadway production, the set was slightly altered by Alan Walker. In this production, the catwalks of the set ran up along the edges of the theater wall to the mezzanine of the theater.
NAP 70 (Paris)
This set was used for the 2015 Paris production. For this set, Alan Walker replicated the London Palladium set, down to the same number plate design and lettering (NAP 70/Gritty Kitty G.B.); however, a few minute differences are noticeable between the two sets, such as the number plate having visibly less of a 'worn' effect to it than the original NAP 70 (see above).
NAP 15 (Australia)
This set was used for the Asia-Pacific Tour (2007-2010), Asian Tour (2014-2015), and 2015/2016 Australia/New Zealand Tour productions. Its number plate was of the yellow design. It used to have different numbered for each venue the tour visited (e.g. J-AR 12); however, for the 2015 AU/NZ tour, the plate was changed to read "NAP 15", the 15 representing the year 2015; it is worth noting that this set is not related in any way to the previous, older NAP 15 set (see above).
AU/NZ Tour 2015-2016
This set is currently being used for the International UK Tour (2016-2018) production. It was produced under the supervision of Alan Walker. The number plate is of the yellow design, reading "NAP13R" with the text "Gritty Kitty" below it in smaller text. The stage floor of this set contains hidden pyrotechnics for use during Mistoffelees's dance number.