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Cats the Broadway Musical – Review

Andrew Lloyd Webber is a Broadway legend responsible for successes like The Phantom of the Opera and Evita. Cats is one of his longest running and most beloved Broadway creations. The bizarrely captivating musical perfectly combines memorable songs, fantastic costumes, and an upbeat storyline. Based on T.S. Eliot’s book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, this Broadway favorite first opened in 1982. It was immediately viewed as a dicey experimental effort. An old book of children’s poetry set to operatic and Britpop music? However, Cats is a hugely prosperous production that is still running around the world today.

The story follows a tribe of cats, the Jellicles. In the opening of the play, the audience learn that Old Deuteronomy, the tribe’s leader, will choose one other to go to Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a new life. The cast of cats are diverse and oddly memorable. For example, there is Gus, the old theater actor cat, and Grizabella, a decrepit older feline who is shunned by the tribe. Skimbleshanks, a railway cat, is seemingly responsible for a whole train service! Indeed, most Cats show fans have a personal favorite from this rich cast.

Certainly, Cats has a sweet message that is conveyed to the audience through riotous music, choreography, and visuals. The feline characters dance and leap in exquisitely decorated leotards and the movement is always riveting. Musical theater fans who enjoy smooth choreography will fall at the feet of Cats as its dancers perfectly capture feline movement. After all, Cats has one multiple Tony and Olivier Awards for its exceptional production values. The musical has won fans in New York and all over the world, and it’s a classic that will always remain a Broadway must-see.

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Cats Broadway Musical NYC

Theater: Neil Simon Theatre
Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes (1 intermission)
Starring: Mamie Parris, Tyler Hanes, Ricky Ubeda

Cats the Musical – Act I

— When Cats Are Maddened by the Midnight Dance
The Jellicle cats gather every year to make the “Jellicle Choice”, and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.
After the overture, the Cats gather on stage and explain the Jellicle tribe and its purpose (“Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats”). The Cats (who break the fourth wall throughout the production) then notice that they are being watched by a man, and proceed to explain how the different Cats of the tribe are named (“The Naming of Cats”).

This is followed by a dance from Victoria the White Cat that signals the beginning of the Jellicle Ball (“The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball”). Munkustrap (the wise second-in-command of the Jellicle tribe) explains that tonight, the Jellicle leader, Old Deuteronomy, will choose a cat to be reborn into a new life on the Heaviside Layer.

Munkustrap introduces Jennyanydots (“The Old Gumbie Cat”), a large tabby cat. She “sits and sits and sits and sits” all day, while at night she teaches the mice and cockroaches various activities. Jennyanydots finishes her song and greets the other cats, but is interrupted. The music changes suddenly and The Rum Tum Tugger makes an extravagant entrance (“The Rum Tum Tugger”). He is very fickle and unappeasable, “for he will do as he do do, and there’s no doing anything about it”.

As Rum Tum Tugger’s song fades, a shabby old grey cat stumbles out and looks around; it is Grizabella. All the Cats back away from her in fear and disgust and sing of her unfortunate state (“Grizabella: The Glamour Cat”). Grizabella leaves and the music changes to a cheerful upbeat number as Bustopher Jones, a fat cat in “a coat of fastidious black”, appears (“Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town”). Bustopher Jones is among the elite of the cats, and visits prestigious gentlemen’s clubs. Suddenly, a loud crash then startles the tribe and the Cats run off the stage in fright. Hushed giggling signals the entrance of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, a pair of near-identical Cats. They are petty burglars, very mischievous, and they enjoy causing trouble for human families (“Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer”).

Finally, the Jellicle patriarch, Old Deuteronomy, appears (“Old Deuteronomy”). He is a large old Cat that “has lived many lives” and “buried nine wives (And more, I am tempted to say—ninety-nine)”. He is the Cat who will choose which Jellicle Cat will go to the Heaviside Layer. After rejoicing to their leader’s arrival, the Cats put on a play (“The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles”) for Old Deuteronomy. It is a story about two dog tribes clashing in the street and subsequently being scared away by the Great Rumpus Cat, a cat with flashing red eyes. After a moral from Old Deuteronomy about the destiny of Jellicle Cats and Pollicle Dogs, a second loud crash, presumably from Macavity, sends the alarmed Cats scurrying. Old Deuteronomy calls the Cats back and the main celebration begins (“The Jellicle Ball”), in which the cats sing and display their “Terpsichorean powers”.

During the Ball, Grizabella reappears and tries to dance along, but her age and decrepit condition prevent her from doing so. Once again, she is shunned by the other Cats, but that does not stop her from singing a short version of “Memory'”.

Cats – Act II

Why Will the Summer Day Delay — When Will Time Flow Away?

After addressing the gathering by singing “Memory”, Grizabella is chosen to be reborn into a new Jellicle life.
After the Jellicle Ball, Old Deuteronomy sings of “what happiness is”, referring to Grizabella. The Cats do not understand, so he repeats the message again and Jemima (or Sillabub, depending on the production) sings it in simpler terms (“The Moments of Happiness”). Gus — short for Asparagus — shuffles forward (“Gus: The Theatre Cat”). He was once a famous actor but is now old and “suffers from palsy which makes his paws shake.” He is accompanied by Jellylorum, who tells of his exploits. Gus then remembers how he once played the infamous Growltiger, the Terror of the Thames (“Growltiger’s Last Stand”). He tells the story about the pirate’s romance with Griddlebone and how he was overtaken by the Siamese and forced to walk the plank.

Back in the present, after Gus exits, Skimbleshanks is seen sleeping in the corner (“Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat”). He is the Cat who is unofficially in charge of the night train to Glasgow. Skimbleshanks is considered vital to the train, as without him “the train can’t start”. Within his song, a whole steam train engine is assembled out of objects in the junkyard: Various Cats spin wheels, hold up the structure, and light the headlights.

With a third crash and an evil laugh, the “most wanted” cat Macavity appears. He is a “master criminal” and is never found at the scene of the crime. Macavity’s minions throw a net over Old Deuteronomy and capture him. As the other Cats try to follow him, Demeter and Bombalurina sing what they know about Macavity (“Macavity: The Mystery Cat”). When they are finished, Macavity returns disguised as Old Deuteronomy, but when Demeter blows his cover, Macavity ends up fighting with Munkustrap and Alonzo. Though Macavity holds his own for a time, the rest of the tribe begin to gang up and surround him, but he shorts out the stage lights as an attempt to escape in the confusion.

After the fight, Rum Tum Tugger suggests that the Cats should find a local magician named Mr. Mistoffelees “the original conjuring cat” for help. (“Magical Mr. Mistoffelees”). Mr. Mistoffelees is small and black and can perform feats of magic that no other Cat can do. Mr. Mistoffelees soon arrives just in time as he performs his dance, which is often one of the most intricate and challenging dance solos in the show. The magical Cat restores the lights and brings back Old Deuteronomy, earning praise from all the Cats. The Jellicle Choice can now be made.

After Old Deuteronomy sits down, Grizabella returns to the junkyard and he allows her to address the gathering. Her faded appearance and lonely disposition have little effect on her song (“Memory”). With acceptance and encouragement from Jemima and Victoria, her appeal succeeds and she is chosen to be the one to go to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn to a new Jellicle life (“Journey to the Heaviside Layer”). A large tire rises from the piles of junk, carrying Grizabella and Old Deuteronomy partway toward the sky; he then steps off so she can finish the journey on her own. Finally, Old Deuteronomy gives his closing speech to the human audience (“The Ad-dressing of Cats”) and the show comes to a close.

Musical

Cats – Act I

“Overture” – Orchestra
“Prologue: Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” – The Company
“The Naming of Cats” – The Company
“The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball” – Victoria, Quaxo, Munkustrap
“The Old Gumbie Cat” – Jennyanydots, Munkustrap, Bombalurina, Jellylorum, Demeter
“The Rum Tum Tugger” – Rum Tum Tugger and Company
“Grizabella: The Glamour Cat” – Grizabella, Demeter, Bombalurina
“Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town” – Bustopher, Jennyanydots, Jellylorum, Bombalurina
“Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer” – Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer
“Old Deuteronomy” – Munkustrap, Rum Tum Tugger, Old Deuteronomy
“The Awefull Battle of The Pekes and the Pollicles” – Munkustrap, Rumpus Cat and Company
“The Song of the Jellicles” – The Company
“The Jellicle Ball” – Orchestra
“Grizabella: The Glamour Cat” (Reprise) – Jellylorum and Jemima
“Memory (Prelude)” – Grizabella

Cats the Musical – Act II

“The Moments Of Happiness” – Old Deuteronomy, Jemima
“Gus: The Theatre Cat” – Asparagus, Jellylorum
“Growltiger’s Last Stand” – Asparagus as Growltiger, Jellylorum as Griddlebone, and Company
“Gus: The Theatre Cat” (Reprise) – Asparagus
“Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat” – Skimbleshanks and Company
“Macavity: The Mystery Cat” – Demeter, Bombalurina
“Macavity Fight” – Macavity, Munkustrap, Alonzo
“Mr. Mistoffelees” – Mr. Mistoffelees, Rum Tum Tugger, and Company
“Jellicle Choice”/”Daylight” – Munkustrap and Jemima
“Memory” – Grizabella, Jemima
“The Journey to the Heaviside Layer” – The Company
“Finale: The Ad-Dressing of Cats” – Old Deuteronomy and Company

Cats Musical – Characters

Principal characters

Jennyanydots (Left) and Skimbleshanks in the Polish production of Cats, December 2007.
Asparagus / Gus – An elderly actor, known as “the Theatre cat”.
Bombalurina – A red queen with a flame-colored pelt and an interest in the Rum Tum Tugger. She sings “Macavity” alongside Demeter and is 1 third of the “Gumbie trio” with Jellylorum and Demeter.
Bustopher Jones – A fat cat respected by all, as the upper-class “St. James’s Street Cat.” He is described as “the Brummell of cats” due to his immaculate pelt, which resembles a tuxedo and spats. In most productions, the actor playing Gus also plays Bustopher, though in early productions the part was handled by the actor playing Old Deuteronomy.
Demeter – A skittish queen. She sings “Macavity” alongside Bombalurina and is 1 third of the “Gumbie trio” with Jellylorum and Bombalurina.
Griddlebone – Growltiger’s lover in Growltiger’s Last Stand, in which she sings The Ballad of Billy M’Caw or the mock Italian aria In Una Tepida Notte (depending on production).
Grizabella – A former “glamour cat”, ostracised by the Jellicles, who has lost her sparkle and now only wants to be accepted.
Growltiger – A theatrical character Gus recalls playing in his youth, and who appears in Gus’ memory of the production of Growltiger’s Last Stand. In some productions he is portrayed as a vicious pirate; in others, he is more comical.
Jellylorum – A queen who watches out for the kittens, along with Jennyanydots. She sings “Gus: The Theatre Cat”. Named after T. S. Eliot’s own cat.
Jemima – A kitten. She becomes the first cat to accept Grizabella when she sings alongside her in Memory (reprise) and sings a solo during The Moments of Happiness.
Jennyanydots – The old Gumbie cat. She sits all day and rules the mice and cockroaches at night, forcing them to undertake helpful functions and creative projects, to curb their naturally destructive habits.
Macavity – A notorious criminal known as The Napoleon of Crime. The character is a literary allusion to the Sherlock Holmes character Professor Moriarty.
Mr. Mistoffelees – A young tuxedo tom learning to control his magical powers. He is a featured dancer, performing a minimum of twenty-four fouettés en tournant during his number. Mistoffelees’ chorus identity is sometimes known as Quaxo.
Mungojerrie – One half of a notorious duo of cat-burglars, with Rumpleteazer.
Munkustrap – The show’s main narrator. A tabby tomcat who is storyteller and protector of the Jellicle tribe. He is Old Deuteronomy’s second-in-command.
Old Deuteronomy – The elderly Jellicle Leader.
Rumpleteazer – One half of a notorious duo of cat-burglars, with Mungojerrie.
The Rum Tum Tugger – A flashy cat. His temperament ranges from clownish to serious.
Skimbleshanks – The railway cat. An active orange tabby cat, who lives on the trains and acts as an unofficial chaperone to such an extent he is considered rather indispensable to the train and station employees.
Victoria – A white kitten. She is a featured dancer, opening with a solo in “Invitation to the Jellicle Ball” and is the first character to touch Grizabella.[1]

NEIL SIMON THEATRE NEW YORK, NY
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