Cats the Musical

Cats the Musical was composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber, an English composer of musical theater whose works also include The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.

Cats was inspired by T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a book of whimsical poems about quirky cats. The musical made its debut in the West End, London, in 1981. It immediately became very popular among London’s theater goers. The show ran for 21 years.

Cats the Musical opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater in 1982, and it ran for 18 years. Cats Broadway musical made its final performance in 2000. Cats is the second longest-running show on Broadway (The Phantom of the Opera claimed the title of longest-running show in 2006).

The best known musical number of Cats is Memory, a hauntingly beautiful tune sang by Grizabella, one of Cats’ main characters.

Even though the show was not a critics’ favorite when it debuted, it continues to have a following of devoted fans.

Indeed, many critics have said that Cats the Musical has no plot but that it is just a series of songs kept together by a simple story line. Despite these criticisms, Cats the Broadway musical became an extremely popular show, just as the London version.

Note: The lyrics were based on T.S Eliot's poems, and were written by: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nunn, and Richard Stilgoe.

Below you will find a summary of Cats' Act One and Act Two. Some of the musical numbers are shown in parentheses.

It's time to learn about these musical cats...

Act 1 - When Cats are Maddened by the Midnight Dance

The first act of Cats the Musical begins as the Jellicle cats are making their entrance into a big junkyard (Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats). As they enter, the Jellicle cats suddenly become aware of their human audience and realize that they must explain what a Jellicle cat is. Jellicat cats, they explain, are a very special breed of cats, very different from the ordinary cats. For starters, they each have three names: the first name is given by their human owners, the second name is unique and tailor-made for that specific cat based on its character and personality, and the third name is so mystical and esoteric that it is only known by the cat itself (The Naming of Cats).

But, even more special than their unique names is the Jellicle cats’ ability to be reborn. In fact, the Jellicle cats have gathered together in the junkyard for that very reason. It is the night of the annual Jellicle Ball, an event in which Old Deuteronomy (the eldest and wisest Jellicle cat) chooses the cat who will be given a new life (Invitation to the Jellicle Ball).

Several cats are given the opportunity to make their case before Old Deuteronomy and the rest of the tribe as to why they should be chosen to be reborn. The audience first hears from Jennyanydots, The Old Gumbie Cat who is introduced by Munkustrap. This fun tabby cat appears to hibernate during the day: she just sits and sleeps all day. But her nights tell a different story altogether: she spends her nights teaching insects and roaches how to crochet, among other things.

Jennyanydots is followed by Rum Tum Tugger, a mischievous, yet smooth cat. Rum Rum Tugger is abruptly interrupted by Grizabella, The Glamour Cat. She begs the Jellicle cats to let her into the ball. But she’s turned away. Grizabella lost the favor of her fellow cats ever since she left the tribe to “see the world” to later turn into a “lady of the night”.

Rum Tum Tugger is followed by Bustopher Jones, a well-known and respected Jellicle cat. The cats are scared off (albeit briefly) by rumors that Macavity (an up-to-no-good cat) is around. Two cat burglars (Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer) stay behind but are soon expelled out of the junkyard.

Old Deuteronomy finally makes his appearance. The Jellicle cats sing their praises as Old Deuteronomy makes his way onto the junkyard. Munkustrap tells Old Deuteronomy the tale of "The Awefull Battle Between the Pekes and Pollicle Dogs". After the tale is finished the Jellicle Ball is officially underway. The cats begin to dance while Old Deuteronomy mulls over what cat deserves to be reborn.

Once again, Grizabella attempts to get into the ball but the other cats shoo her away. Nearby, Old Deuteronomy listens to her pleas. (Grizabella, The Glamour Cat, reprisse).

Act 2 – Why Will the Summer Day Delay - When Will Time Flow Away

At the beginning of Cats the Musical - Act 2, Old Deuteronomy announces that he will choose the cat who "has found meaning to the happiness he or she has experienced" (The Moments of Happiness).

Jellylorum welcomes the next competing cat, Gus, The Theater Cat. He tells the tribe of his past achievements in theater and ponders how things have changed. The next cat to make his presentation is Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat, a cat who firmly believes in order and efficiency.

Macavity, the Mystery Cat, crashes the Jellicle Ball, interrupting Skimbleshanks’ presentation. Furious because he was not invited, Macavity and his cohort kidnap Old Deuteronomy so he cannot choose the next cat to go to heaven.

Rum Tum Tugger tells the Jellicle cats that they should summon Mr. Mistoffelees, the Magical Cat, so that he can bring back Old Deuteronomy. But before anyone has a chance to call him, Mr. Mistoffeles appears magically before the Jellicle cats. And without much ado he produces Old Deutoronomy, to the joy of all the cats.

Grizabella crashes the ball one more time. She confronts the tribe and asks them to give her a second chance. She tells them that her dream is to re-live the happy times she enjoyed when she was young and beautiful (Memory).

After listening to Grizabella, Old Deuteronomy announces that he has chosen the cat who will go to heaven. The lucky cat is Grizabella. Old Deutoronomy accompanies her on a flying tire to the "Heaviside Layer", a place beyond the Jellicle Moon and the Russell Hotel (The Journey to the Heaviside Layer). With that, the Jellicle Ball is over. Old Deuteronomy addresses the Jellicle cats and reminds them of their unique responsibilities and privileges as cats (The Ad-dressing of Cats). The Jellicle cats finally return to their homes and the junkyard is left empty and silent.

Here's additional information about Cats the Musical's cast members, awards, and more.

Cats the Musical - Great Gift Idea!

The gift of Cats the Musical will delight both cat lovers and non-cat lovers alike. You can either give the DVD of the recorded performance or the soundtrack (which you can find on MP3 or CD). A better idea is to give a gift set that includes both the DVD and the soundtrack of this beloved musical.

Related Links

More information about the musical Cats

Lyrics to the song Memory from Cats

The Cat in the Hat

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