Flashback to the 80’s
Friday evening, my girlfriend Lorena and I had the pleasure to see the legendary award-winning musical Cats by Andrew Lloyd Weber, playing for the first time at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, with the Salle des Princes filled to capacity for the third night in a row! Paraphrasing the feature song « Memory », I had a flashback from the first time I saw it back in the 80’s on Broadway, when the famous and talented Elaine Paige was the original Grizabella.
The show really began in the lobby with both children and adults getting their faces painted as cats, and where two cat-women were walking slowly and sensually surprising the people waiting to enter the Salle des Princes. And the cats continued interacting with the public all through the performance, to the delight of children and adults. The present cast of 28 accomplished dancers and singers, beautifully dressed up as colorful cats, interchange to play all the roles are mostly British, and a live orchestra accompanies the troupe.
Becoming a legend
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and other poems by T. S. Eliot (1939), which was the composer’s childhood favorite, and produced by Cameron Mackintosh. Directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Gillian Lynne, rehearsals for the musical began in early 1981 at the New London Theatre and premiered on May 11 of that year and then with the same creative team on Broadway in 1982.
As of 2014, Cats is the second longest-running show (18 years) in Broadway history, only surpassed by The Phantom of the Opera. It is the fourth longest-running West End musical (22 years). It has been performed around the world many times and has been translated into more than 20 languages. In 1998, Cats was turned into a television film. It won many accolades, including Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards.
No real plot but poems
This timeless musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as “the jellicle choice” and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life. The set consists of a junkyard remains unchanged through the duration of the show. The Eliot state required that they write no script and only use the original poems as the text, the musical had no identified plot. The show is completely told through music with virtually no spoken dialogue in between the songs with dance becoming the most important element.
The musical genres range from classical to pop, music hall, jazz, rock and electro-acoustic as well as hymn-like songs, a proof of Lloyd Weber’s eclecticism. Cats also introduced the song “Memory” with lyrics by Trevor Nunn after an Eliot poem entitled « Rhapsody on a Windy Night », that was made famous by Barbara Streisand. Another song entitled Moments of Happiness was taken from a passage in Eliot’s Four Quartets. Lloyd Weber began composing the songs in late 1977 and premiered the composition at the Sydmonton Festival in 1980.
On the road again
The Cats troupe performed in Greece and Italy before arriving in the Principality and their next destination is Portugal and then Israel.
Jules Verne was quoted saying: “I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.”