|“||Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw - For he's a master criminal who can defy the Law.||”|
Macavity is a featured character and the main antagonist of Cats. He is a malevolent criminal mastermind whose wicked deeds strike fear in the Jellicles. His looming presence and attempts to terrorise the tribe, particularly Demeter, are major subplots in the musical.
|“||Hypnotic, Jealous, Dangerous||”|
Macavity is a "monster of depravity", having supposedly committed numerous crimes while always managing to elude the police. He is usually accompanied by his loyal henchmen.
His past relationship with Demeter has left her in a constant state of paranoia and fear. Gillian Lynne described their relationship through her choreography as "wonderful when he made love to me, but I hated him" and "your hand to feel your own body, as he once did." She also described both Demeter and Bombalurina as having "known [him] intimately."
|“||Male, 6'0" and up, excellent dancer, tumbler. Tall and commanding. Evil, terrorizes the tribe. Doubles as Plato, a laconic, lackadaisical cat – the opposite of Macavity.||”|
We first hear about Macavity from Demeter as she is startled by every single disturbance, attributing each one to Macavity. After several false alarms, Macavity finally appears. He and his hench-cats kidnap Old Deuteronomy and run off, leaving Demeter and Bombalurina to explain who he is in "Macavity: The Mystery Cat". In the later years of the original London production, lines of speech were added to clarify the action in the show, with Macavity saying to Demeter "I'll be back for you!" while kidnapping Old Deuteronomy.
Soon after, he returns disguised as Old Deuteronomy but Demeter uncovers his deception. He then tries to take her by force, only to end up fighting Munkustrap and Alonzo. Macavity initially has the upper hand, but the other cats join in the fight and surround him. He makes his escape by shorting out the lights in the junkyard, seemingly electrocuting himself in the process.
T S Eliot modelled Macavity on the the character of Professor Moriarty from Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series. Both characters are machiavellian criminal masterminds who always manage to elude the authorities. Macavity's nicknames include The Mystery Cat, The Hidden Paw, and The Napoleon of Crime, the last of which was taken from Holmes' nickname for Moriarty.
Macavity's physical description is also based on the Sherlock Holmes villain. In "The Adventure of the Final Problem", Moriarty is described as such:
|“||He is extremely tall and thin, his forehead domes out in a white curve, and his two eyes are deeply sunken in his head ... His shoulders are rounded from much study, and his face protrudes forward, and is for ever slowly oscillating from side to side in a curiously reptilian fashion.||”|
— "The Adventure of the Final Problem" (1893)
Similarly, Macavity's poem describes him as such:
|“||Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin; You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in. His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed ... He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake ...||”|
— "Macavity: the Mystery Cat" (1939)
The following names have also been used for the character of Macavity in various international productions:
- Van Zonderen
- Nefastulo (Spanish) - derived from nefasto, meaning "ominous" or "loathsome"
- Sam Mitsegél (Hungarian)
Macavity seems to possess various magic powers, including the ability to appear and disappear such that he is never found at the scene of the crime. He makes his entrance by "teleporting" around the theatre and at one point in the musical, two Macavitys appear on-stage at the same time - one in disguise as Old Deuteronomy.
Macavity also has some sort of hypnotic ability that allows him to put the Jellicles in a trance-like state, or in some productions even outright control their movements. He is a master of disguise, able to fool the Jellicles - except Demeter - into thinking he is Old Deuteronomy.
Demeter also claims that he has "powers of levitation", though this ability is never shown. Even without using his powers, Macavity is shown to be a very skilled hand-to-hand combatant.
Macavity's teleporting effect is achieved through the use of decoys spaced throughout the theatre. The decoys are usually played by the taller male ensemble members such as Alonzo and Gus. The decoys wear Macavity masks such that they, unlike the Macavity performer, do not have to alter their makeup and can thus change into and out of the decoy costume quickly.
As with most of the featured characters, Macavity has his own instrumental motif that is played every time he is suspected to be around, usually following a loud crash. Like the character, the music is sneaky and mysterious, evoking Henry Mancini-style detective movie themes. This motif can also be heard in parts of his eponymous song.
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Macavity is described as a ginger tabby. His costume is usually brilliant white, black and red, which combined with the stage lighting makes him a very threatening presence. He is usually dirty or unkempt, with wild, knotted hair created by the costume being covered in fibres rather than brush stroke painting and soft fluffies.
In the Japanese production, Macavity is red, white and black, with his black markings giving him the appearance of having a tuxedo vest. Japanese Macavity also wore a cape and top hat, but this was dropped in the 2018 update.
In 2014, John Napier amended his original design for the London Palladium revival, simply removing the white bib and flashes from the costume. This resulted in a much darker and less cohesive costume under the dramatic lighting used for the fight scene.
The 2016 Broadway revival gave Macavity an entirely new design, primarily black and resembling the classic Rumpus Cat design (not used in this production) but with a gingery wig and tufts of fur scattered across his body. There were also rips throughout his costume that were painted red to look like bloody gashes. This design is also used in the 6th US tour.
The Vienna 2019 revival redesigned Macavity again: sleeker and more form-fitting, and with a very small wig but larger ears. It is primarily red, with lightning patterns in black on a finer scale than the original design. The Asia Tour 2020 uses this design.
For fandom headcanons and theories, CLICK HERE.
- The Macavity Award is a notable literary award for mystery writers, named after the T S Eliot character.
- "Macavity the Mystery Cat" was selected as number 66 in a BBC poll of the Nation’s favourite poem in 1995.
- The American punk rock band Gimp titled their 1996 EP Smiles for Macavity.
- Gillian Lynne in Omnibus, Season 15 Episode 2, BBC1 (17 January 1982)
- The Poems of T. S. Eliot Volume II: Practical Cats and Further Verses. Faber & Faber, 17 November 2015. Page 66. Quote: "TSE to Frank Morley, 17 Feb 1938: 'I have done a new Cat, modelled on the late Prof. Moriarty, but he doesn't seem very popular [with Eliot's godchildren]: too sophisticated perhaps.'"
- "Macavity the Mystery Cat" (1939), T S Eliot.
- "The Adventure of the Final Problem" (1893), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- The Megamusical, Indiana University Press (2006). Page 410. ISBN 978-0-253-34793-0.
- THEATER: LLOYD WEBBER'S 'CATS', New York Times. Oct 8, 1982.
- Official CATS Study Guide