When Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical Cats returns to the West End for a limited 12-week run from 6 December at the London Palladium in December, the composer will have rewritten the music for at least two of T.S. Eliot’s iconic poems – ‘The Rum Tum Tugger’ and ‘Growltiger’s Last Stand’.
In fact, having revisited Eliot’s words for rebellious feline The Rum Tum Tugger, Lloyd Webber has come to the conclusion that the poet was “the creator of rap” and that the character more commonly played as a rock rebel should become “a street cat for today”.
Having received its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981, this groundbreaking musical (based on Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) became one of the longest-running shows in West End and on Broadway. After 21 record-breaking years and almost 9,000 performances, the London production closed in 2002. Now, more than a decade later, the original creative team – Lloyd Webber, director Trevor Nunn, associate director and choreographer Gillian Lynne and designer John Napier – have reunited to create a new edition of the show for a Christmas season at the London Palladium.
Stood alongside two of that team – Lynne and Nunn – at a press launch which literally took place on the stage of the London Palladium, Lloyd Webber said it was “a dream come true” to have the opportunity to revisit the show, to do justice to the project and to work with the original creative team.
“We have been talking about Cats for about a year,” he divulged, “about reworking material, re-examining the piece that changed all our lives back in 1981.
“Those who saw the original Cats may well be grandparents or parents themselves now, so we hope they will bring along a whole new audience to be inspired by this new production.”
With this new, young audience in mind, Webber and the team want to create a festive Cats experience at the London Palladium. During the run, children visiting will have the opportunity to be transformed by professional make-up artists into one of the show’s infamous cats.
Parents of those young theatregoers will also be pleased to hear that top price tickets (which are now on sale) will be priced at £59.50 and children’s tickets at half price for Monday to Thursday performances.
There were hints that this new version may also be updated in other ways, perhaps in what turns up on the rubbish dump that dominated Napier’s original set, but director Nunn was keen to point out: “There are definitely some ingredients which will benefit from being updated, but we shouldn’t have to modernise emotion.”
The new staging of Cats will be based on the current touring production and hardworking members of the cast dashed to and from their run at the Newcastle Theatre Royal, where the show is based this week, to perform as part of the press launch at the London Palladium. There is not yet any news of casting for the new production.
Chrissie Cartwright, long-term associate director of Cats, will work for Nunn and Lynne in re-directing the production for the London venue.
Since its world premiere, Cats has been presented in more than 26 countries, has been translated into ten languages and has been seen by over 50 million people worldwide. Both the original London and Broadway cast recordings won Grammy Awards for Best Cast Album. The Lloyd Webber score includes the classic ‘Memory’ which has been recorded by more than 150 artists from Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis to Liberace and Barry Manilow.
Cats was originally produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Group Limited.
Videos taken at the Cats press launch at the London Palladium can be watched via the Musical Theatre Review YouTube channel.