Many theatergoers are familiar with “Memory,” the classic tune from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. Originally running from 1982 until 2000 at the Winter Garden Theatre, the musical is the fourth longest-running show on Broadway, eclipsed only by The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago and The Lion King. The magic was brought back to the stage in July 2016 when the revival production opened and is currently playing an open run at the Neil Simon Theatre, bringing back the majority of its original creative team, including director Trevor Nunn.
After it originally opened in 1981 in the West End, the show was revived in 2014 at the London Palladium for a 12-week run. Nicole Scherzinger of The Pussycat Dolls took on the role of Grizabella in that production, which was nominated for two Laurence Olivier Awards. In addition to the current Broadway revival, the musical is also scheduled to be adapted for film. Tom Hooper, who also helmed the movie version of Les Miserables, is set to direct, and production will begin in 2017 or 2018.
Cats is based on a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a childhood favorite of composer Webber, who also penned Phantom. The original production was a standout hit, winning seven Tony Awards in 1983, including Best Musical, as well as three Drama Desk recognitions and the 1984 Grammy for Best Cast Show Album. In addition to a U.S. national tour of the show, the musical has also been produced around the world, including Mexico City, Budapest, Singapore, Warsaw, Manila and many more places.
The show tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles. On one night every year, the group choose which one of their following will be sacrificed and ascend to the “Heavenside Layer” to be reborn. That is where the musical begins. Old Deuteronomy is the feline in charge of making the decision, which will take place after the Jellicle ball. Each cat is introduced one by one – Jennyanydots, The Rum Tug Tugger, Grizabella, Bustopher Jones and more – most singing their own song that describes the reason why they should be chosen.
Cats is told through small song vignettes for each feline – the words of which are Eliot’s verses set to music. As Macavity, the “mystery cat,” sings his story, his minions capture Old Deuteronomy. Despite disguising himself as the elder feline to gain the trust of the tribe, the other cats see through it and an epic fight ensues. Just before Macavity can be overcome, however, the lights go out and he escapes under the cover of darkness amid the confusion.
The Jellicles decide to find Mr. Mistoffelees, who has a unique magical talent that no other cat holds. He is able to bring back the power, as well as Old Deuteronomy. The decision-maker returns to his rightful place and the selection goes ahead as planned.
Grizabella, once known as the Glamour Cat, steps forward to tell more of her backstory. She was essentially shunned by her fellow felines, as her age and appearance waned over the many years of her life. It is Grizabella who sings “Memory,” reminiscing on a time when she was well-loved. It is her last attempt to ascend to the Heavenside Layer and gain new life.
Will Grizabella be the chosen one? Can the Jellicles capture the evil Macavity? The Cats revival on Broadway will keep audiences entertained and on the edge of their seats as the musical answers these questions and many more. With a stage designed to resemble a junkyard, fantastic and intricate costumes and frequent instances of felines breaking the fourth wall, it is easy to see why Cats ran for so long the first time around. The revival of this Broadway favorite brings back all of the elements theatergoers loved, as well as some new ones they are sure to enjoy. Critics predict the musical revival will remain on the Neil Simon Theatre for the foreseeable future. Cats will no longer be just a memory.
“The cast for the revival…is largely excellent. Eloise Kropp doffs her puffy fat-cat suit to perform a nimble bit of tap as Jennyanydots…Mr. Hanes is magnetic as Rum Tum Tugger…As Gus, the theater cat, Christopher Gurr delivers a poignant reminiscence of a career on the stage in one of the show’s most softly lyrical, moving songs. (He’s also funny as the dandy Bustopher Jones.) In the most prominent female dancing role, Georgina Pazcoguin, on leave from New York City Ballet, continually catches the eye with her smooth, precise, sinewy movement as Victoria, the white cat…
Ms. Lewis has a rich, powerful voice, and invests her rendition of the show’s most famous song, the much-recorded, indisputably gorgeous ‘Memory,’ with a fervent intensity.” – The New York Times
“Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epoch-defining Tony winner is unlikely to disappoint a ton of the 10 million people who flocked to Broadway for what was then a record 18 years.
For worldwide fans of the show, and, no doubt, for susceptible new generations, it will be safe for the promoters to change the original ‘Now and Forever’ slogan to ‘Again and Forever…’ Best of all is the refreshed choreography by Tony winner Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton) who has replaced Gillian Lynne’s compilation of stock moves with variety and invention.” – Newsday
“Only hardcore fans will be able to spot the differences in this new version, which include some cuts as well as the reimagining and repositioning of a few musical numbers… In a testament to the advances made in synthesized keyboards over the years, the orchestrations sound remarkably full-bodied despite a drastically reduced orchestra featuring only 13 musicians, with no brass players. While the theater’s interior hasn’t been torn up as extensively as was the Winter Garden’s, Napier’s lavish set is nonetheless terrific, extending to the sides and upper reaches of the auditorium. The immersive effect is further enhanced by the performers frequently venturing into the aisles and getting up close and personal with the audience.” – The Hollywood Reporter