In addition to Gus quick-changing into Growltiger onstage, the number also features Jellylorum as Griddlebone, the Raffish Crew, and the Siamese. It usually includes a Lover's Duet that is either "The Ballad of Billy M'Caw" or "In Una Tepida Notte".
The entire Growltiger sequence has been cut from several prominent productions, including the 1998 film due to time constraints. Since the 2016 Broadway revival, the number has also been removed from all replica US and UK productions, replaced with Gus playing the Rumpus Cat in "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles". However, a version based on the London revival is included in other replica productions: the Australia NZ 2015 tour, the Paris revival, the Asia tours of 2017 and 2020, and the Vienna revival. The original version survived in the Oasis production until 2019, when it and several other numbers were cut to reduce the playing time.
A very short refrain from "Growltiger's Last Stand" was featured in the 2019 Cats movie.
This number divides into several sections:
- Growltiger and the Raffish Crew
- Griddlebone's Introduction
- The Lovers' Duet
- The Siamese Attack
- Coda - Gus the Theatre Cat
The sequence starts with Gus transforming into Growltiger centre-stage. This is done by removing his large blanket coat to reveal the pirate costume underneath and adding an eye patch. His shoulders and belly also expand comically thus turning the frail Gus into the bulky, muscular Growltiger. This effect is achieved by having a stage technician release Freon gas by remote control into a hidden tank in the stomach of the Growltiger costume, which is in turn linked to inflatable rubber shoulder pads. Meanwhile, Growltiger's barge and his Raffish Crew appear on-stage.
His transformation complete, the members of the Raffish Crew begin to sing about Growltiger while he struts around and postures for the audience.
The musical mood changes to a lush Puccini-esque romantic melody as Griddlebone arrives, and is brought onstage by the crew. Griddlebone flirts with everybody, but Growltiger demands her attention, scares off his crew, and they sing their Lover's Duet. Growltiger and Griddlebone compete for the limelight to comedic effect, far more interested in showing off than in each other. Unbeknownst to Growltiger and his crew, a rival gang of Siamese are slowly sneaking up on them.
The staging differs between "Billy M'Caw" and the Aria. In "Billy M'Caw", the crew and even the Siamese, creeping onstage, join in the rousing chorus of the drinking song. The Aria on the other hand, focuses entirely on the duet and their operatic antics.
As the audience applause dies down, the Siamese board Growltiger's barge and launch their attack. Griddlebone escapes in the chaos, but Growltiger finds himself in a duel for his life against Genghis while surrounded by his enemies. Growltiger is soon disarmed and forced to walk the plank to his death. The Siamese sing of their victory, and as the last notes echo, Gus re-appears in the present.
He takes a final bow to Genghis, and sings a short reprise of "These modern productions are all very well/ But there's nothing to equal from what, I hear tell,/ That moment of mystery as I made history...."
"Growltiger's Last Stand" was heavily re-worked for the 2014 London revival, and this revised version was subsequently used in the 2015 Australian/New Zealand tour, 2015 Paris revival, 2016 UK tour (cut in 2017), and 2019 Vienna revival.
The opening section was completely re-written as a smoky jazz number mostly sung by Growltiger in the first person. It has many lyric alterations and re-writes. Growltiger no longer has a pirate cutlass, but rather a Cosh as a weapon. The Raffish Crew are busy raising a sail from the side of the set, which covers the upper stage, and they wheel on a barrel-shaped couch.
The slow jazz sound is dramatically contrasted by the arrival of Griddlebone, with the unchanged Puccini-esque romantic melody. There are some minor lyric changes in Griddlebone's introduction, "The tender moon was shining bright" is replaced by "A lover's moon...", and Griddlebone sings her own introduction in first person in the same manner as Growltiger did.
The Lovers' Duet was cut altogether in the first Palladium run, as Growltiger and Griddlebone seemed about to settle down together, the Siamese attacked. However for the second Palladium run, a new version of the Aria was introduced. Whereas the original version of "In Una Tepida Notte" is clearly a Puccini pastiche, and staged as a very over-the-top operatic performance of two big egos trying to out-shine each other, the new version sounds like a Venetian ballad, and is played straight without any comedy.
The Siamese attack was also re-written: rather than having an eastern pentatonic influence the new composition is a strident atonal and arrhythmic piece. Growltiger no longer duels for his life.
The 2016 Broadway revival removed the number entirely, having Gus instead reminisce about playing the Rumpus Cat in "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles". This was incorporated into the subsequent International tour and US tour as well.
The 2017 Asia tour, however, retained the number in its usual place, including the revival changes to the score and the costumes of the Raffish Crew, and the old Siamese costumes. The Vienna revival also retained it, but redesigned the Siamese costumes: removing the armour and reducing the effect of caricature, and changing the colour palette to shades of blue and grey more in keeping with the visual tone of the revised number. These changes were retained for the 2020 Asia tour.
Most of the lyrics in "Growltiger's Last Stand" are taken from the T S Eliot poem of the same name from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939). The poem itself is said to be written in metrical homage and in allusion to the Ernest Thayer poem "Casey at the Bat" (1888).
The lyrics for "The Ballad of Billy M'Caw" are a rearrangement of an Eliot poem titled "Billy M'Caw: The Remarkable Parrot" that had been published in The Queen's Book of the Red Cross (1939), while "In Una Tepida Notte" is an Italian translation of a section of the Growltiger poem.
The original concept for the Lover's Duet was for Growltiger and Griddlebone to perform the Puccini-style aria "In Una Tepida Notte", however when Susan Jane Tanner was cast as Jellylorum/Griddlebone in the original London production, the decision was made to simplify the vocal part and make the duet a drinking song "The Ballad of Billy M'Caw", offering as much comedic potential without the demands of a legitimate soprano part. When the show transferred to Broadway, Andrew Lloyd Webber took the opportunity to revert to the original plan and include the Aria, with the London production later incorporating the Aria as well. Outside of the UK, "The Ballad of Billy M'Caw" is rarely used.
In some 1980s and 1990s European productions, the role of Griddlebone was played by Jennyanydots rather than Jellylorum, thus removing the need for quick costume changes. The original London version had an additional verse in "Griddlebone's Introduction" that was cut in later productions (italicised in the Lyrics section).
"Growltiger's Last Stand" is primarily composed in the key of C major and set in the 4/4 time signature - occasionally flitting to 2/4. The opening section sees Growltiger and his Raffish Crew singing; their refrains set to a tempo of 116 beats per minute (bpm). As Griddlebone's Introduction begins, the key changes to Db major and the tempo slows down to 88 bpm, the brash opening giving way to a lush romantic melody. The key signature is transposed four times in just this section alone, first from Db major to A major, then to E major, then to D major, and lastly back to the song's home key of C major.
Growltiger and Griddlebone then begin their Lover Duet's and the music slows down even more. The original version of the duet is "The Ballad of Billy M'Caw", which is composed in the style of a boisterous British drinking song. It is written in the E major key and set to a 6/8 meter, with a tempo of 56 bpm.
Alternatively, the Italian aria "In una tepida notte" may be performed. This parody of Puccini-style operatic love duets remains in the common time and is composed in the Eb major key, shifting to E major in the last verse.
As the duet comes to an end, the Siamese launch their attack and the music speeds up to 140 bpm without warning ("presto"). This section is fast-paced and sees a return to the original 4/4 time signature and C major key, though it switches to C minor midway through. It ends grandly and triumphantly as the Siamese celebrate their victory. Gus finally reemerges and sings a short reprise of his quiet song, a sharp contrast to the dramatics of the preceding sections.
In "The Ballad of Billy M'Caw", both Growltiger and Griddlebone's vocals span from B3 to G#5. In the aria "In Una Tepida Notte", Growltiger's vocals span from B3 to Bb5, while Griddlebone's span from B3 to B5.
Growltiger and the Raffish Crew
(Sung only in conjunction with "In Una Tepida Notte")
The Lover's Duet - The Ballad of Billy M'Caw
Alternative Duet - In Una Tepida Notte
The Siamese Attack
(Coda - Gus the Theatre Cat)
- Revised English Version
"The Ballad of Billy M'Caw"
- "Growltiger's Last Stand" from the 1981 London cast recording
"In Una Tepida Notte"
- "Growltiger's Last Stand" from the 1983 Broadway cast recording
- "Growltiger's Last Stand" snippet in French from the 2016 Paris revival (bootleg audio)
Note: .ogg files cannot be played on iOS devices
"Growltiger's Last Stand" has been met with criticism from both critics and theatre fans, condemning the portrayal of the Siamese for its dated and offensive racial stereotypes. The number has been phased out of all US and UK productions since 2016.
- Besides the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical setting in Cats, the English composer Humphrey Searle composed a musical setting of "Growltiger's Last Stand" as the second of his Two Practical Cats for speaker, flute, cello and guitar.
- Lloyd Webber has said that he much prefers "The Ballad of Billy M'Caw", though he says that audiences usually prefer "In Una Tepida Notte". With regards to the revised version introduced in the Broadway revival, he noted that he "was never musically satisfied with ['Growltiger's Last Stand']".
- Casey at the Bat: A Centennial Edition. David R. Godine Publisher, 1988. Page 30.
- The Poems of T. S. Eliot Volume II: Practical Cats and Further Verses. Faber & Faber, 17 November 2015. Page 612.
- Cats: Songs from the Musical, Hal Leonard (May 1, 1982). Pages 65-73. ISBN 978-0881882001.
- Cats: Songs from the Musical, Hal Leonard (May 1, 1982). Pages 74-78. ISBN 978-0881882001.
- "The Making of Cats", 2016 Broadway revival souvenir program.