The "Jellicle Ball" has earned Cats the reputation of being one of the hardest shows to perform in musical theatre history. The number is a full 9 minutes and 30 seconds (originally 10 minutes) of unbroken dance, demanding the highest calibre of dancing from performers who are also singers, actors, and playing cats.
The "Jellicle Ball" is often conflated with "The Song of the Jellicles", but it is the dance-only section of the overall Ball sequence.
The Jellicle Ball is an annual celebration which has gathered all the members of the Jellicle Tribe together on this night. As the cats dance in celebration, Grizabella creeps into the shadows to watch. Victoria, the white cat, is symbolically mated with one of the male characters of similar age, after which everyone snuggles down to nap. However the magical cats - Mistoffelees, Coricopat and Tantomile, sense Grizabella's presence, and in retaliation the cats begin to dance again, even more spectacularly than before.
Throughout the number, many of the cast will usually leave the stage to dance along the aisles and interact with the audience.
Pas de Deux
In the middle of the "Jellicle Ball", Victoria performs a pas de deux with one of the male cats, exactly who varies between productions. The intimate choreography made up of balletic lifts is sometimes dubbed the "mating dance".
In the 1980s and 1990s, Victoria's dance partner was mainly either Admetus (UK) or Tumblebrutus (outside of the UK). More recent productions usually give this featured moment to either Admetus or Plato. The part has also gone to Pouncival, Carbucketty, Mistoffelees or Alonzo in major replica productions throughout the years.
The music for the "Jellicle Ball" combines many of the melodies heard previously in the show, including the "Overture", "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats", and "The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball". The only character's melody we hear however, is Old Deuteronomy's.
In 2003, Andrew Lloyd Webber cut out some bars of the music when he rearranged the show for the UK Tour, reducing the length of the Ball by around 30 seconds. This change has been incorporated into all replica productions since.
The "Jellicle Ball" is made up of many sections, each of which were named by Gillian Lynne. Some sections have alternate names, used by different productions and replicators. Additionally, some sections, mostly in the beginning half of the ball, differ between productions and years. The Broadway revival in particular, fused the original Gillian Lynne choreography with new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. This video gives a general overview of all the sections:
This section is still a work in progress
|Hip Wrench:||The cats, with Victoria in the forefront, swing their hips to the left|
|Step Look Look:|
|Bombalurina Section:||Bombalurina interrupts with a sensual solo.|
|Girls Join:||She is joined by the other adult female cats.|
|Boys Join In:|
|Sensuals:||Victoria and a young male cat, usually Admetus/Plato/Tumblebrutus, tentatively approach each other.|
|White Cat Lift:||Victoria and the young male cat perform a series of balletic lifts, while the other cats gather around them to lay down and rest.|
|Pop Ups:||One by one, the cats suddenly pop up from their resting positions as they sense Grizabella's presence. One of the cats, usually Mistoffelees or Alonzo, goes to chase her away.|
|Cartwheels:||Mistoffelees and Carbucketty/Pouncival cartwheel, while Bill Bailey/Tumblebrutus does a tumbling pass from stage left to right. Alonzo and Admetus/Plato follow up with more cartwheels, while Bill Bailey/Tumblebrutus does another tumbling pass from stage right to left.|
|Girls Upstage:||The younger female cats, usually led by Victoria, enter upstage and interrupt the "Big Boys".|
|Girls Relevée:||As the girls dance, some productions have Mistoffelees do a variation of his Conjuring Turn in the back.|
|Build Up 1:|
- "The Song of the Jellicles" and "The Jellicle Ball" from the 1981 London cast recording
- "The Song of the Jellicles" and "The Jellicle Ball" from the 1983 Broadway cast recording
- "The Jellicle Ball" from the 2018 Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection (1998 film version)
- "The Jellicle Ball" from the 1998 Hey, Mr. Producer! live recording
- "The Jellicle Ball" by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (1988)
- A cover of "The Jellicle Ball" by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was used as the theme music for the BBC's broadcast of the 1982 World Cup