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"Old Deuteronomy" is a musical number about the titular leader of the Jellicle tribe. He is greeted with respect and great affection, even Rum Tum Tugger loses his devil-may-care attitude to sing with fondness.

Context

The tribe's confrontation of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer is interrupted when Mistoffelees senses Old Deuteronomy's arrival ("Old Deuteronomy?"). After confirmation from Coricopat and Tantomile ("I believe it is Old Deuteronomy"), he leaves to escort the Jellicle leader. Munkustrap begins singing about Old Deuteronomy, even Rum Tum Tugger joins in. As Old Deuteronomy appears, the whole tribe sings to welcome him.

History

The lyrics for the song are taken from the T S Eliot poem of the same name from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939). When the London production premiered in 1981, the song was twice as long (but still shortened slightly from the original poem) and sung by Quaxo (Mistoffelees), Skimbleshanks and George.[1] By the time the London cast recording was recorded however, Skimbleshanks had been replaced by Munkustrap. Most later productions either shortened or entirely removed the instrumental break and second verse (italicised in the Lyrics section).

There is no record of any production outside of London in its early years and the Paris production (which had Asparagus sing a shortened second verse), in which the song is not sung by Munkustrap and Tugger, discounting localised non-replica productions which may deviate from the licensed script.

In the original Broadway production and its subsequent US tours, the chorus line "Yes, no, Ho! Hi!" was changed to "No, yes, Ho! Hi!". This was reverted in the 2016 Broadway revival.

Because Old Deuteronomy was played by Judi Dench in the 2019 movie, the masculine pronouns in the lyrics were changed to feminine pronouns. Moreover, the line "Old Deuteronomy's buried nine wives / And more I am tempted to say ninety-nine" was changed to "Old Deuteronomy's lived many lives / No, I am tempted to say ninety-nine".

Music

A solo flute playing Old Deuteronomy's melody leads into the opening refrain. The song starts off as a gentle lullaby, building up with each repeated refrain into a rousing anthem by the time Old Deuteronomy enters the scene.[2] The melody itself is simple and sentimental, reflecting the tenderness that the Jellicles feel towards Old Deuteronomy.

The song is set in the 6/8 time signature, with a "slow and sustained" tempo of 44 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of G major.[3] Munkustrap's vocals span from B3 to G5, while Tugger's span from B3 to E5.

The chorus is sung to Old Deuteronomy's melody

Lyrics

Well, of all things, can it be, really!
Yes, no, Ho! Hi! Oh, my eye!
My mind may be wandering, but I confess
I believe it is Old Deuteronomy!

Old Deuteronomy's lived a long time
He's a cat who has lived many lives in succession
He was famous in proverb and famous in rhyme
A long while before Queen Victoria's accession

Old Deuteronomy's buried nine wives
And more I am tempted to say ninety-nine
And his numerous progeny prospers and thrives
And the village is proud of him in his decline

At the sight of that placid and bland physiognomy
When he sits in the sun on the vicarage wall
The oldest inhabitant croaks

Well, of all things, can it be, really!
Yes, no, Ho! Hi! Oh, my eye!
My mind may be wandering, but I confess
I believe it is Old Deuteronomy!

Old Deuteronomy sits in the street
He sits in the high street on market day
The Bullocks may bellow, the sheep they may bleat
But the dogs and the herdsmen will turn them away

The cars and the lorries run over the curb
And the villagers put up a notice "Road closed"
So that nothing untoward may chance to disturb
Deuteronomy's rest when he feels so disposed

The digestive repose of that feline's gastronomy
Must never be broken whatever may befall
And the oldest inhabitant croaks


Well, of all things, can it be, really!
Yes, no, Ho! Hi! Oh, my eye!
My mind may be wandering, but I confess
I believe it is Old Deuteronomy!

Well, of all things, can it be, really!
Yes, no, Ho! Hi! Oh, my eye!
My mind may be wandering, but I confess
I believe it is Old Deuteronomy!

Well, of all things, can it be, really!
Yes, no, Ho! Hi! Oh, my eye!
My legs may be tottery, I must go slow
And be careful of Old Deuteronomy

International Versions

Audio


Video

Gallery

References

  1. London Set List, May 1981.
  2. The Megamusical, Indiana University Press (2006). Pages 144-146. ISBN 978-0-253-34793-0.
  3. Cats: Songs from the Musical, Hal Leonard (May 1, 1982). Pages 48-50. ISBN 978-0881882001.
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