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Other CATS Articles

This article appears in a small book called "The LONDON CAT" by James Dosing. It's an interesting, yet curious little thing, seeing that it has no copyright or year of publication printed anywhere. However, it does read 'SUNRISE PRESS, 34 CHURTON ST, LONDON.' I don't know where one can find a copy of this book but I got mine at the Westminster Abbey giftshop.
~ Kezia

CATS TOP OF THE BILL

CATS, the musical, lifted the feline family into a new, glittering realm. Every cat-lover knew they were stars, and every cat instinctively agreed, but at the New London Theatre Andrew Lloyd Webber made their wiles, egos and mating habits the centre of an entire West End show.
Some of the theatre pros shook their heads."An evening about cats - barmy!" However, the producers had as their base that collection of verse of the inter-war years, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, written by T.S. Eliot and influenced by Edward Lear.
Thought Lloyd Webber had his odd stage disappointment up to that time Cats was not to be one of the flops. Every since 1981 weekly grosses have ticked over pleasantly year on year in London and around the world.
Eliot, who was American born, taught briefly at Highgate School in North London after studies at Oxford. Then followed eight years in the service of Lloyds Bank which almost brought him to a nervous collapse since he was also moonlighting, cat like, on literary projects. By the time the Possum collection was published, however, in 1939, he was established as a leading creative figure in the English-speaking world and beyond.
Like any feline enterprise, the opening night of Cats in May 1981 came with a dash of ill luck, or black magic, call it what you will. A bomb threat was received during the performance, sending cast and audience into the street. But a hit show rises above all obstacles, and amid much good humour the performers received a massive ovation at the end - a legend was born.
For Lloyd Webber the show had been more than the usual showbiz gamble. He had branched out minus Tim Rice, though now he had director Trevor Nunn to marshal the considerable resources on hand. Not least was the theatre's revolving stage to which were added seating for the audience, since the theatregoer was to be involved as much as possible; can models were placed thought the theatre, along with piles of rubbish to make any feline lick its chops. In fact, the garbage was enlarged three-and-a-half times to put it into cat's scale, while scattered about the stage and auditorium were 600 pairs of cat's eyes - enthralling, seemingly alive.
Audiences loved John Napier's designs and enjoyed such tricks as Rumpus being catapulted through the trap door and Mr. Mistoffelees's jacket covered in 370 tiny lights. By 1996 Cats had broken the West End and Broadway records for longest-running musical and at its sixteenth birthday had been seen by seven million people in Drury Lane alone.


The Last Meow

After a record-setting 18-year run, CATS bids Broadway bye-bye.
It opened in 1982, when this year's college freshmen were newborns. In 7,485 performances - the most ever by a Broadway show - it grossed more than $400 million and became as much a tourist mecca as a musical.
Nothing is forever, though, not even CATS , and on September 10, as an emotional invitation-only audience watched, Old Deuteronomy waxed wise, Rum Tum Tugger swaggered and, for the last time, a melancholy Grizabella looked up at the moon to sing 'Memory'. "It feels weird," says Betty Buckley, the Tony-winning original Grizabella, who was seated in the fifth row. "It feels like we went to some major college reunion and our school just got torn down. We all started crying at the end."
Still, for producer Cameron Mackintosh the evening was no occasion for tears. The last performance, he says, "was a wonderful celebration of an extraordinary run. The show went out on Braodway the way it came in - with a bang." CATS' success was always something of a showbiz miracle. It was, after all, the poetry of T.S. Eliot put to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and performed by actors in leotards and feline makeup. And plenty of critics hissed. "Before it opened," says Mackintosh, "they used to say that Cats was gonna be a dog."
It wasn't. And for diehard CATS fanatics, there is still London. It opened there a year before its U.S. premier-and it's still going strong.

Article taken from the September 2000 issue of People magazine. [American Publication?]


'Cats' uses its 9 lives, for now

NEW YORK -
CATS pads off into memory after its final performance today.
But the longest-running attraction in Broadway history - 7,485 performances over the last 18 years - will be remembered as more than an incredible popular hit.

Cats was a phenomenon.

The show heralded a wave of British-born mega-musicals that eclipsed America's long domination of the field. It changed the way Broadway shows were sold. It was - and remains - arguably the most famous musical ever made.
"Practically everyone has heard of Cats," says Bill Rosenfield, RCA Victor vice president for shows and soundtracks.
David Letterman and Jay Leno mock it. Sophisticates snigger. But when word spread earlier this year that CATS would close in June, business boomed so much that producers extended the show through the summer.
CATS has been seen by more than 10 million people at the Winter Garden since its October 7, 1982 premiere. Costing $5 million to produce - a record in its day - the show subsequently grossed more than $400 million on Broadway. The show is said to be the biggest generator of income and jobs in Broadway history.
Although nearly 30 million other people have seen Cats in its five touring editions across North America, its Broadway incarnation became a magnet for theatergoers from around the globe.
Reviews were grudging ("If you blink, you'll miss the plot," sniped The New York Times), but fueled by huge advance sales - $.3 million, another record at the time - the show proved an instantaneous success with audiences lured by thrilling reports of director Trevor Nunn's imaginative environmental staging and Andrew Lloyd Webber's glistening music.
Opening in a notable dismal musical season in which every other original tuner flopped, CATS nabbed seven Tony Awards, including best Musical. And as the years went by, CATS evolved into a must-see for sightseers.
"It was a show for the entire family - for people of all ages and all languages," says Philip J. Smith, president of the Shubert Organization, one of the show's major Broadway producers.
British producer Cameron Mackintosh's promotional genius, which sold CATS with a monolithic image of giant yellow cat's eyes and a resonant "Now and Forever" slogan, drew wider audiences than Broadway's norm. Ad dollars were invested heavily in Japan and other countries that sent large numbers of tourists to New York.
"The show marked the advent of marketing Broadway as a destination in itself," notes Jack Viertel, creative director for Jujamycn Theaters.
CATS also was an entirely different musical. Drawn from T.S. Eliot's 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats', a collection of whimsical poems about a motley crew of felines, the dance- driven, dialogue-free show featured only the slightest whisker of a story. The interior of the Winter Garden was transformed into a fantastic junk-yard where furry denizen prowled and played as they awated the Jellicle Ball in which one lucky cat was chosen to have an extra life.
No less an expert than 'My Fair Lady', writer-lyricist Alan Jay Lerner admired Lloyd Webber's music: "The score is remarkably theatrical with one absolutely beautiful song, 'Memory'," he wrote.
Grizabella, the bedraggled glamour cat who sings 'Memory', has provided a juicy role for actresses. Judi Dench was supposed to originate the part but tore an Achilles' tendon late in rehearsals for the 1981 London premiere and was replaced by Elaine Paige.
In New York, Betty Buckley won a best featured actress Tony Award in the role and was later succeeded by the late Laurie Beechman and Liz Callaway, among others.
Terrence Mann, Ken Page, and Harry Groener were also in the original Broadway production. Marlene Danielle, who began as an understudy and graduated to the part of Bombalurina, is the only performer to remain with CATS during its entire run.
But as the song 'Memory' goes, the effect of CATS still lingers on. Rosenfield points to Cirque du Soleil's series of circus spectacles as CATS offspring, while Viertel considers current hits Riverdance on Broadway and Swing as other descendants.
In the newest generation of shows, Disney attractions like The Lion King and Ada manage to combine a book musical with extravagant physical accouterments. "I think that CATS certainly has broadened the scope of musical theater," says Viertel.
Although CATS is passing here (it remains in London), Rosenfield believes Broadway hasn't seen the last of the show. He predicts a scaled-down version will likely pop up at one of Broadway's smaller musical houses before too long. "Look for it to come back in two or three years," he suggests.

Article edited from original version - Courtesy of Zest magazine written by Michael Sommers; September 10 2000/September 17 2000.


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