The city junkyard is dark and quiet, sleeping in the serenity of the full moon on this warm spring night. But it won't be quiet and still much longer. Out of nowhere, a sudden burst of music fills the air, bringing with it the dark, shadowy forms of over a dozen cats as they prance gracefully up to the junkyard, looking curiously at the 'outsiders' as they pass by. (The Overture) Then, quickly as they appear, they vanish among the garbage, leaving the visitors to their world anticipating whatever happens next. They will soon find out that this is no ordinary night.
The first song opens with a few cats scampering cautiously out into view from amid the piled junk. At first they seem to just watch, waiting, until finally a solitary figure rises among them to stand full height, speaks, and the others follow suit, growing more and more accustomed to telling about themselves to the spectators. (The Prologue: Jellicle Song for Jellicle Cats) They stare directly into the eyes of the watchers, daring them to say the cats are lying. The cats are proud, and show it, as they dance in large circles as one body, breaking apart to form a choir, then dancing with electric energy.
But all doesn't seem right. There still remains doubt, as one tom cares to point toward, staring in outright accusation to a certain someone among the visitors. The other felines share his contempt for the non-believer, and aggressively withdraw, explaining once again why they are so proud, and justify it. (The Naming of Cats) This time they chant slowly, enunciating each word so that these silly humans will understand.
They slink away back into the dark corridors of the junkyard, letting those final thoughts sink into the audience's minds, but one cat remains. She is young, colored solid white, and though she doesn't speak, there is an air of youthful innocence carried about Victoria. The audience watches as she does a graceful, mystical solo dance, signifying something still hidden to the outsiders. (Invitation to the Jellicle Ball) When she finally comes to rest, all seems quiet, until suddenly another cat leaps into view: a young tom of black and white known mostly as Mistoffelees. He throws his arms wide, and suddenly the junkyard comes alive with music, lights, and cats as they reappear at his beckoning. They scuffle among each other, gossiping and quarreling, but come to a respectful quiet when a grown, solitary silver-gray tabby moves to the front: Munkustrap With a sense of duty, he finally takes time to explain to the unknowing audience what they are here for. They are the Jellicle Cats, who meet once a year to celebrate who they are by dancing and singing the night away, and which one cat worthy of its prize will be chosen by their leader: Old Deuteronomy, to travel to The Heaviside Layer and be reborn to a new Jellicle Life. The one thing that baffles them all, cats and audience, is who will it be?
Each of the cats has their own opinion as to who will be the one chosen, and some even go further as to promote themselves. Munkustrap makes it his business to be the first, introducing Jennyanydots, the Old Gumbie Cat, who sleeps all day but when night comes she becomes a master chef, instructor, scout leader, and makes sure the things about her home are orderly. (The Old Gumbie Cat) To prove her point as a successful nanny, Jennyanydots brings out her self-organized Beetles' Tattoo and drills them in a quick tap dance number.
And here is presented the first radical of the Jellicle Tribe. (The Rum Tum Tugger) Rum Tum Tugger, marked like a wildcat and acting like one as well, explodes into the scene with his rock'n'roll music and hip-shaking movements that drive the females wild. The older cats seem to disapprove of his wild antics, but the younger generation drool in admiration as Tugger explains himself: how picky he is, how unpredictable, how independent. He does not, however, bother to explain why he enjoys flirting with the queens of the tribe so much. Taking center stage, he proudly steals all the attention.
Tugger's fun is suddenly brought to a halt by the appearance of another cat. She is old, tattered, and has a distinct limp as she walks dejectedly into view. Some of the younger cats are curious, and approach this newcomer, but are quickly pushed away by the protective adults. They know who this cat is. She is Grizabella, once a beautiful Jellicle but left to explore the world. Life outside had been cruel to her, and now she is withered and sad, and wants only to be accepted by the Jellicles again and be happy. But the cats hate her, for she is everything they despise, and scoff and turn their backs on her. One cat, however, a young golden female called Demeter, seems to understand Grizabella, but, too, is afraid to approach her. (Grizabella, the Glamour Cat) She tells of her from afar, and with a proud stride that cannot be kept up for long, Grizabella makes her way through the cats before disappearing again into the darkness.
Another appearance is made, this one warm and cheery to wipe away the feeling of graveness brought on by Grizabella. This tom is well-rounded, colored a respectful black and white, and is looked up to by all the cats of the tribe. This is Bustopher Jones, and rich, dignified gentlecat who spends the majority of his life enjoying the luxuries of the finest foods available. (Bustopher Jones) Jennyanydots is quite taken with Bustopher, and helps to sing his praises. The cats as well give him all their attention, standing attentively as he sits atop a hat, explaining his favorite pubs and diners.
A sudden crash of thunder erupts over the junkyard, frightening Bustopher away and putting the Jellicles on the alert. Sirens are heard in the distance, and with senses only she possesses, Demeter knows the evil cat who is on the loose, and gasps his dreaded name. At hearing this, the Jellicles scatter in fear, Munkustrap remaining a moment to gaze suspiciously around the audience before he, too, disappears.
A cheeky giggle rings out over the empty space, cut short by a harsh "Shh", and from among the junk two sneaky cats appear, keeping watch for any other Jellicles and sporting bags of stolen goods. These two are Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, two cat burglars who enjoy getting into mischief and causing trouble for the family they reside with. (Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer) The two are extremely playful with each other, and after making sure the coast is clear, they tell of their deeds and reputation, but the one thing they can't seem to agree on is who gets the credit for their exploits. In the midst of their antics, the Jellicles reappear, and show their dislike for the two's burglaries.
Suddenly the mood in the night air changes. A slow, majestic music begins playing, and after gaining the confirmation from several cats, the Jellicles know their leader, Old Deuteronomy, is about to arrive. (Old Deuteronomy) The cats listen silently as Munkustrap tells of the ancient cat, and Tugger, who has been missing up until now, can't resist but to add in his own words. The cats rally behind Munkustrap, who urges them forward as the old tom appears, greeting them all with open arms and receiving all the love and respect they hold for him.
After seating the wise old cat, Munkustrap gives the signal, and the Jellicles rush to get ready for the reenactment they have to put together for Deuteronomy. The males and females dressed up as two different types of dogs, Munkustrap narrates. (The Aweful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles) As was dreaded, several things go wrong with their presentation, which tells the story of two rival dog armies heading for all-out war, stopped only by the intervention of the Great Rumpus Cat. Munkustrap strives to keep the aspects of the show together, and manages to get through it without loosing too much face.
The cats then discard their dog costumes to sit around Deuteronomy and listen to what he has to say. Barely are a few words spoken before another crash of thunder and sirens sends them scattering away again, Demeter once again giving the well-deserved reason they should be afraid. Deuteronomy remains, eying the scene with an air of expertise, while Munkustrap protectively checks every nook and cranny of the surrounding yard for signs of the evil cat. None is found, but Deuteronomy seems distant. It is soon realized, by both cats and audience, that the time has come for the cats to dance, and celebrate their annual Jellicle Ball.
The dance begins slowly as Deuteronomy gestures with his enormous paws for the cats to reappear. They do, slow at first, one at a time, once again speaking of their qualities until they are all in view, moving with the same confidence as before. Words fall away, and as a single body the cats move. Their dance is with unlimited energy, moving as one, breaking into solos and duet in which the cats show off their skills and abilities. Scuffles break out among them, but all is forgotten as an overwhelming power sweeps over them, and they fall away exhausted. Victoria once again finds herself standing prominently center stage, but this time she is not alone. A young tom approaches her, slowly at first, becoming more intimate as his intentions are made obvious. Victoria resists at first, but soon falls under the moon's spell, and they dance a slow Mating Dance before lying together among the sleeping cats, ending the first half of the Ball. The second half begins, faster, more intense. Grizabella is sighted slinking among the garbage, and with a hiss the cats chase her away. They dance as one body again, ending the Ball with a finale sweep, each cat moving in unison as they stretch their arms to the sky, to the moon, to their leader, and the Ball ends: the cats once again individuals as they land in their own poses.
The night is not yet over. Grizabella limps dejectedly into view once again, drawing the cats' attention back to cold reality as they hiss and dart away from her. (Grizabella) A few of the same, curious kittens try to approach her, but mocking Grizabella's own words are the adults who pull them back. Again, she finds herself alone, unaware of Deuteronomy watching her from behind. She tries to dance, to relive those wonderful memories of when she was young and beautiful...when she was happy. She can't. With a face creased in sorrow, she tells of her memories to the audience, her wishes for nothing but happiness and acceptance. She leaves again in despair. For a moment, she thinks someone is behind her, and reaches out to receive a friendly paw, but none comes. Deuteronomy reaches out for her, but goes unheeded, and seeing her sorrow he takes his seat on the tire...to contemplate until the Jellicles return.
Why will the Summer Day Delay—When Will the Time Flow Away?
Noises can be heard among the junkyard, and accompanying them: the sleek shadows of the cats. They enter with their usual manner: carefree and aloof, scuffling among each other playfully, rubbing heads and shoulders in affectionate greetings. Unheeded by most of the kittens, an old, thin tom comes limping into view, helped by a younger, caring Jellylorum. She helps him to a seat among the cats, who themselves have found places among the junk to relax and settle down comfortably. When all movement is still, Deuteronomy, gazing into space with a look of wistfulness, tells in abstract terms the meaning of happiness, which has a powerful effect on the cats but most of which do not understand. (The Moments of Happiness) One does. The young female kitten Sillabub (or Jemima) stands alone among the cats, bringing into reference a verse from Grizabella's own memories. The Jellicles relish deeply this moment of thought, and as they retreat back to give Jellylorum and the old tom the floor, they begin to understand.
The old tom is no stranger to most of the cats. He is Gus, an aged actor with a bad case of palsy who has worked with the greatest performers in his prime. (Gus, the Theatre Cat) Jellylorum nominates him to be the cat chosen to travel to Heaviside, telling of his exploits first, that his real name is Asparagus, the fame his name once knew, and his greatest role of all: Firefrorefiddle. Stepping back, she lets Gus tell his own part: what he thinks of kittens and productions these days, gloating of his past deeds, but when the memory of his peak performance comes, his face falls in sorrow, and Jellylorum cheerily tries to change the subject. But the pitiful aura about him is inescapable, and in one final, blessed moment he throws aside his tattered overcoat to give one last performance as Growltiger.
A heavy, menacing beat takes over the dark serenity of the junkyard. A ship appears as though from nowhere, and Gus, no longer limp and aged, stands in all his glory, decked fully in the pirate costume of Growltiger. (Growltiger's Last Stand) A motley collection of tom cats appear, dressed as his raffish crew, to tell about their captain: his evil deeds and hatred against any foreign breed of feline. The pirate's recapitulation is interrupted by a beautiful voice, and Jellylorum dances into view dressed as the fluffy white Lady Griddlebone: the only love of Growltiger's life. At his bidding the crew leaves, and the two cats carry on in a duet, all the while giving the appearance that their love is not as pure as it may seem. What they do not realize is that Genghis and his band of Siamese are creeping closer to the ship, armed with only one purpose: to rid the world of Growltiger and his evil reign. In the midst of the two's flirting they attack, locking the crew away below deck and surrounding Growltiger on all sides with sharp swords. Griddlebone vanishes from sight and to a fate unknown. Growltiger draws his sword, and a long sword fight ensues between him and Genghis. In the end, the Siamese triumphs, and Growltiger is forced to walk the plank. The pirate indeed goes over, but not before giving a mighty roar of defiance. The Siamese celebrate with an Oriental dance as the ship fades back into the junkyard, and one by one they, too disappear. Gus limps back to his reality, but the memory of his acting days is so strong, the image of Genghis can be seen, if only by him. He tries to go on, but breaks down weeping, and is quietly led away by Jellylorum.
The sorrowful mood built up around Gus is shattered as Deuteronomy himself introduces another cat for the Jellicle Choice. (Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat) This brisk tom, however, is caught sleeping among the garbage, and has to be woken. Immediately falling into action, Skimbleshanks in his brown vest and pocket watch tells of the trains he rides, making sure all is right, and demonstrating his techniques with the younger cats of the tribe. They all respect this tom, and enjoy his antics as he orders them about to construct a massive train from the surrounding junk. He stands proudly atop it, leaping nimbly down to lead Deuteronomy across the stage only to watch his makeshift train collapse in despair. Oh well. He dances a quick jig, leading the cats galloping about the junk before another crash of thunder and sirens cuts their celebrating short.
This time recognition from Demeter isn't necessary. The cat they fear so much makes his presence known with a horrendous laugh. For a moment his dark, scruffy figure can be seen among the junk. The kittens recoil in fear behind the adults, who try to keep brave faces. The evil tom appears again, flashing his long claws only to vanish a second later. The air is thick and tense as they strain their eyes searching for him, knowing what a tom such as Macavity is capable of. (Macavity, the Mystery Cat) Suddenly he leaps into full view, laughing insanely as he draws the attention of the Jellicles with supernatural powers...at the same time his ugly black henchcats dash into view and drag Deuteronomy away with them. Macavity follows shortly, laughing his contempt for the Jellicles, and they scatter in fear or in rage, all but two.
The two females Demeter and Bombalurina look both knowing and fearful as they creep about nervously, breaking the tense silence to tell about this tom who strikes fear into the hearts of all cats, and cannot be stopped by any human...for when they reach the scene of crime: Macavity's not there. The two switch turns telling of him, Demeter in absolute fear and hate, but Bombalurina with the same, but something more...a touch of admiration, perhaps. They make close eye contact with the watching humans, putting on all emphasis of how bad this cat is. The few cats who do venture out are not left from their narrating, either, and shrink in fear at the vary cat's name. When it seems the two have told all that has been needed and more, the Jellicles leap back into view just as another laugh from Macavity cuts the air, and once again he appears. Munkustrap rushes forward to attack, but Macavity does nothing. A gesture with his long claws to the junk, and he reveals Old Deuteronomy returning. The Jellicles greet him warmly, but all is not right. Something is wrong. Demeter senses is first, and when she hisses at the Jellicles' beloved leader the others look at her strangely. When she leaps by him, knocking them away, they begin to grow suspicious as well. It most certainly seems Demeter has lost her mind when she attacks the ancient Jellicle leader, leaping onto his back.
But it isn't Deuteronomy. With a strength previously unseen in the old tom, he throws Demeter aside, and with it the furry disguise that reveals an enraged Macavity beneath. With electric power he tears into the Jellicles, slashing and clawing at any who dare attack him or are in the unfortunate range of his claws. After frightening them all away, he grabs Demeter roughly and drags her away from the others. Her fate seems almost certain when two toms come to her rescue: Munkustrap and Alonzo. One of them grabs Demeter and pulls her to safety, while the other stands his ground before Macavity, and a viscous fight follows. The tables turn many times during the fight, until both finally fall away wounded. The Jellicle rolls into the safety of the others' arms, while Macavity backs away, tires and hurt. The Jellicles begin to grow bolder, slashing and swiping at him, until in a final attempt to escape alive Macavity snatches two opposite ends of a barely-living car battery and jams them together. He vanishes with a final laugh in an explosion of sparks. Did he survive? The Jellicles don't know...but he is gone, leaving them in the dark.
A solitary light emits from a lamp onstage, guided by a cat to shine upon the brave, battered tom who fought the evil cat. He slowly climbs to his knees, seeming well enough to walk, when Demeter approaches him and rubs heads in the silhouette of the light. Perhaps she feels more than gratitude for his actions...
The Jellicles are faced with yet another problem. Macavity is gone, but so is Deuteronomy. For a moment they seem uncertain of what to do, until a single voice emits from the darkness of the junk, and the light swivels to land on The Rum Tum Tugger, who has finally decided to reappear. (Mr. Mistoffelees) He speaks of a cat most of them know, but they are skeptical as to him helping their situation. But Tugger goes on, and interest climbs as he tells more of this Mr. Mistoffelees, a cat with magical powers. They finally become eager and excited as Tugger tells if his accomplishments. As though on cue, Mistoffelees appears, decked in a jacket of flashing lights. A wave of his claws, and the bright lights of the junkyard return, and the Jellicles are ecstatic that he's here. Mistoffelees shows off his magic tricks--and lack of some control--as well as his dancing ability before finally getting to the task at hand, all to the narrating of Tugger. Producing a large sheet, he beckons the slim queen Cassandra over, and covers her with it. A wave of his paws, a tense silence from the cats, and the bulk beneath the sheet grows. A drum roll, and he pulls it back...revealing a bewildered Deuteronomy beneath it. The cats are shocked, not the least of who is Tugger, and grabs the old one's hands gratefully, gesturing to Mistoffelees for the credit. Realization sinks in, and the Jellicles join in a rejoicing chorus as they surround Deuteronomy and Mistoffelees, singing his praises. Cassandra reappears at a wave of his claws, and together they strut to take their bows. For a final trick and grand exit, Mistoffelees astonishes the Jellicle by making himself vanish.
The dawn is approaching, which Deuteronomy well knows. Sillabub/Jemima stands once again alone among the cats, recalling a now-familiar memory, and falls quiet again. (Memory) Munkustrap receives the gesture from Deuteronomy, and relays the information that it is time to choose which cat will make the journey to Heaviside to be reborn. Such is the moment that Grizabella decides to reappear again. The cats greet her with the same cruel hisses and mockeries, until eventually all but Deuteronomy and Sillabub turn their back on her. But she doesn't want to travel to Heaviside...all she wants is to be happy for at least a day before her age catches up with her fully. Deuteronomy listens as she explains her memories, what she is wishing for, and the other Jellicles are not deaf. They hear her as well, and one by one they begin to realize her situation, and turn back to face her just as she collapses from sorrow to the ground. None move to help her, but Sillabub stands again, taking up the baton to tell of the dawn, and the new hope that comes with it. Grizabella lifts her head, a spark of hope fleeting her withered features, and with one last want for happiness, she rises to her feet and begs to be accepted, to no longer be alone. The moment passes, and once again her sadness overwhelms her, and she begins to leave, abandoning all hope. One last time, before she disappears forever, she reaches out behind her, hoping for acceptance. It comes in the form of Victoria, who pads silently over and places her white hand into Grizabella's.
The barriers fall, and finally being relieved of their hate and prejudice, the cats rise to Grizabella, extending their paws in friendship and understanding. (Journey to the Heaviside Layer) Grizabella can't describe the happiness she feels at being accepted, so is outright curious when Deuteronomy takes her hands and bows to her, then begins to guide her by the shoulders through the yard, the cats following with a mystical chant. Raising his arms, Deuteronomy stops the enormous tire he has sat on throughout most of the evening, and astonished realization floods both Grizabella and the cats as they see Deuteronomy has chosen her to travel to Heaviside, to be reborn again with a new chance at life. He leads Grizabella onto the tire, and the cats watch in awe as it rises magically, a golden light emitting from above. Grizabella is hesitant, but Deuteronomy and the cats urge her on. With a final wave of gratitude, she steps up into the gates of Heaviside, and on to her new life.
The light fades away, and the cats fall quiet again as Deuteronomy stands atop the tire, looking up to him respectfully to hear what he has to say. (The Addressing of Cats) But his words aren't directed at the cats...but to the audience. In an awkward speech for the occasion, the Jellicle leader tells of the cats again, how they must be respected if they're to become friends, and what they expect of the humans. The Jellicles join in chorus, supporting his words wholeheartedly. They round off his wise words with a final "That's how you address a cat!", and sweep their arms in an all-encompassing arc over their heads, indicating the moon, themselves, the audience, and everything around them in the finale. There, the show ends...until next year.