As the cats are revelling in a reprise of "The Rum Tum Tugger", Grizabella appears onstage for the first time. Immediately the mood turns hostile - she is not welcomed by the tribe. Undaunted, Grizabella holds her head high and addresses them.
Demeter's verse forms the main bulk of "Grizabella the Glamour Cat" and is taken ad verbatim from an unpublished T S Eliot poem of the same name. Eliot did not include this eight-line poem in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939) because he considered it too sad for children. However his widow, Valerie, showed it to the Cats creative team in 1980. The discovery of this poem, and thus the character of Grizabella, inspired the key narrative framework of the musical, that of Grizabella's acceptance and redemption.
The poem itself is open to interpretation, one theory involving allusions to World War II in mentioning "The Rising Sun", "No Man's Land", and "The Friend At Hand". However the more literal interpretation is that these are references to pub names, often used as geographic markers in London. Tottenham Court Road is well known as a location, "The Rising Sun" and "The Friend At Hand" both being pubs in the area.
The opening four lines of the number, which are sung by Grizabella herself, are lifted from another Eliot poem "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" from Prufrock and Other Observations (1917), and concerns a prostitute walking the streets in the early hours of the morning.
Originally in the 1981 London production, Demeter's verse accompanied Grizabella's second entrance after the "Jellicle Ball", and led straight into "Memory (Act 1)". When the show transferred to Broadway in 1982, Demeter's verse was moved up to its current spot at Grizabella's first entrance. In return, a reprise of "Grizabella the Glamour Cat" was added to the start of "Memory (Act 1)".
As Grizabella enters for the first time, we are introduced to her cello ground bass motif, setting the dark and gloomy mood that surrounds her. An English horn soon joins in with a forlorn tune, a very loose interpretation of the melody of "Memory", and finally Grizabella herself joins in, singing about herself in the third person. The ground bass line dissolves as Grizabella is overcome with intensity and the music turns harsh. This introduction is set to a 4/4 meter and composed in the key of A minor. Grizabella's vocals span from A3 to C5.
Grizabella's opening gives way to a poignant yet sultry bluesy segment sung mainly by Demeter. This section is set to a tempo of 68 beats per minute, with the 4/4 meter occasionally flitting to 6/4. It was written in the key of Bb minor in the original London score, but has been transposed to A minor in the modern score. Demeter's vocals span from G3 to C5 in the modern score.
Without Demeter's verse:
- "Grizabella the Glamour Cat" from the 1981 London cast recording
With Demeter's verse:
- "Grizabella the Glamour Cat" from the 1983 Broadway cast recording
- The Poems of T. S. Eliot Volume II: Practical Cats and Further Verses. Faber & Faber, 17 November 2015. Page 43. Quote by Eliot in a 1959 interview with Donald Hall for the Paris Review: "There's one about a glamour cat. It turned out too sad. This would never do. I can't make my children weep over a cat who's gone wrong. She had a very questionable career, did this cat."
- The Megamusical, Indiana University Press (2006). Pages 157-159. ISBN 978-0-253-34793-0.
- Cats: Songs from the Musical, Hal Leonard (May 1, 1982). Pages 56-58. ISBN 978-0881882001.