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The original West End production of the musical Cats opened on the West End on May 11th 1981. It went on to run for 21 years, giving 8,949 performances and winning numerous awards. The production closed on May 11th 2002 on its 21st birthday.

This production made Cats the longest running musical on the West End until 8th October 2006, when it was surpassed by Les Miserables.

Creative Team

Original Team (1981)

Later members

History

Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cats is based on T S Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), which the composer recalled as having been a childhood favourite. The songs of the musical comprise Eliot's verse set to music by the composer, the principal exception being the most famous song from the musical, "Memory ", for which the lyrics were written by director Trevor Nunn after an Eliot poem entitled "Rhapsody on a Windy Night". Also, a brief song entitled "The Moments of Happiness" was taken from a passage in Eliot's Four Quartets. Andrew Lloyd Webber began composing the songs in late 1977 and premiered the compositions at the Sydmonton Festival in 1980. The concert was attended by T.S. Eliot's wife, Valerie Eliot and she loved the songs that Webber had composed. She gave her blessing for the songs to be adapted into a musical stage play.

Newlondon

The New London Theatre (now re-named The Gillian Lynne)

Rehearsals for the musical began in early 1981 at the New London Theatre. Due to the Eliot estate asserting that they write no script and only use the original poems as the text, the musical had no identified plot during the rehearsal process, causing many actors to be confused about what they were actually doing. An unusual musical in terms of its construction, the overture incorporates a fugue and there are occasions when the music accompanies spoken verse. The show is completely told through music with virtually no spoken dialogue in between the songs. Dance is also a key element in the musical especially during the 10-minute Jellicle Ball dance sequence.

The set, consisting of an oversized junk yard, remains the same throughout the show without any scene changes. Lloyd Webber's eclecticism is very strong here; musical genres range from classical to pop, music hall, jazz, rock and electro-acoustic music as well as hymnal songs such as "The Addressing of Cats".

Development

As the original production, the London production was very much experimental in nature. As can be seen from the original cast list, quite a few of the show's tracks (roles) were different - such as Mungojerrie playing Macavity, and Bustopher Jones played by the same actor as Old Deuteronomy, not Gus as is convention now. Several songs have also been modified or replaced completely since the opening of this production; most notably, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, originally a languid jazz number, has since been replaced by a more upbeat version seen in productions worldwide.

After its huge success, the show transferred to Broadway in 1982, where it was considerably overhauled, made brighter, more cheerful and family-friendly than the dark, exotic world created originally. Gradually, some of these changes filtered back to the London production, such as innovations in costume construction and revised arrangements and orchestrations.  The London production served as the main influence on the video production, released in 1998. After the video production's release, further changes to the production were minimal; one of the biggest changes after that point was the character "George" being cut in 2001. The London production also notably introduced spoken dialogue in its later years so as to explain the story more clearly.

Cast

Original London Cast (in alphabetical order)

Character Performer
Kitten (Admetus) Steven Wayne
Alonzo / Rumpus CatRoland Alexander
AsparagusGrowltiger Stephen Tate
Kitten (Bill Bailey Peter Barry
Bombalurina Geraldine Gardner
Carbucketty David Baxter
Cassandra Seeta Indrani
Coricopat Donald Waugh
Demeter Sharon Lee-Hill
Kitten (Electra) Anita Pashley
Kitten (Etcetera) Julie Edmett
George John Chester
Grizabella Elaine Paige
Jellylorum/Griddlebone Susan Jane Tanner
Jemima Sarah Brightman
Jennyanydots Myra Sands
Mungojerrie / Macavity John Thornton
Munkustrap Jeff Shankley
Old Deuteronomy / Bustopher Jones Brian Blessed
Quaxo / Mistoffelees Wayne Sleep
Rumpleteazer Bonnie Langford
Rum Tum TuggerPaul Nicholas
Skimbleshanks Kenn Wells
Tantomile Femi Taylor
Victoria Finola Hughes
The Cats Chorus (Booth singers)
  • Nick Hamilton
  • Jeni Evans
  • Nichola Kimber
  • Stephen Hill
Button

The original cast included Dame Judi Dench in the roles of Grizabella and Jennyanydots, and Les Saxon as Mungojerrie. Judi Dench suffered a snapped Achilles Tendon in rehearsals, and had to be replaced, at very short notice, by Elaine Paige. This all happened during a crucial development point in the show's rehearsals, resulting in changes such as Jennyanydots becoming a full character (it is speculated that she would originally have appeared only for her song, much as Bustopher Jones does) played by Myra Sands. The costume design for recognisable as Jennyanydots' basic, was originally labelled "Electra", suggesting this is the role Myra Sands was originally cast in.

Further Cast Lists

For complete London Casts see here.

Final Cast, May 2002

Character Performer
Alonzo / Rumpus Cat   Chris Jarvis
Bill Bailey Robert Foley
Bombalurina Alexis Owen Hobbs
Bustopher Jones / Gus / Growltiger Peter Polycarpou / Gareth Snook
Carbucketty Jye Frasca
Cassandra Tiffany Graves
Coricopat Oliver Tydman
Demeter Barbara King
Electra Julie Carlton
Etcetera Sarah Jane Honeywell
Grizabella Chrissie Hammond
Jellylorum / Griddlebone Louisa Shaw
Jemima Caroline Bagnall
Jennyanydots Susie Fenwick
Macavity / Admetus Kenny Linden
Mungojerrie Adrian Edmeades
Munkustrap Jack Rebaldi
Old Deuteronomy Junix Inocian
Quaxo / Mistoffelees Benjamin Tyrrell
Rumpleteazer Lynsey Britton
Rum Tum TuggerJohn Partridge
Skimbleshanks Ross Finnie
Tantomile Helen Harper
Victor Matthew Atwell
Victoria Sorrell Thomas
Alt. Old Deuteronomy Nicholas Pound
Standby Gus/Old Deuteronomy Carl Sanderson
Swings Clinton Brown
Stori James
Joe Ryan
Andrew Wright
Rebecca Louis
Summer V-Strallen
Kate Tydman
Emma Woods

Gallery

Extensive galleries available year by year

Promotional Images

Jellicle Ball - London 1981 01

Jellicle Ball - London 1981 01

Jellicle Ball, original London Cast

Victoria Solo - Finola Hughes London 1981

Victoria Solo - Finola Hughes London 1981

Jellicle Ball - London 11th May 2002

Jellicle Ball - London 11th May 2002

Mr

Mr. Mistoffelees - London 11th May 2002

Awards and Nominations

1981

  • Laurence Oliver Award - Best New Musical - Won
  • Laurence Olivier Award - Outstanding Achievement in a Musical - Gillian Lynne - Won

Trivia

  • The premiere was interrupted by a bomb hoax.
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