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Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, we're a notorious couple of cats. As knock-about clowns, quick-change comedians, tight-rope walkers and acrobats.

Rumpleteazer is a featured character in the musical Cats. Mischievous and fun-loving, she is one half of a criminal duo alongside Mungojerrie.

Rumpleteazer originated in the London production and has been present in every production since. In the early years of the Broadway production however, she was presented as an in-universe fictional character rather than a member of the Jellicle tribe.

Personality

Mischievous, Rambunctious, Ne'er-do-well

Rumpleteazer is a young, high-energy, mischievous character. She is usually depicted as a teenager or older kitten, typically veering towards more childish behaviour. Together with Mungojerrie, her partner-in-crime, Rumpleteazer often gets into all sorts of trouble such as petty theft.

In some early productions, including the original London show, she is mentioned as one of Macavity's rumoured agents in "Macavity the Mystery Cat". The lyrics in "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" suggest that she lives with a reasonably wealthy human family. Despite her mischief-making, the other cats do not seem to hold a grudge against her.

According to 1998 film actor Jo Gibb:

"Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are the two naughtiest cats...We're always doing what we shouldn't, being where she shouldn't be, getting up to mischief, and creating a hassle for everyone else. But Rumpleteazer is lovable at the same time as being naughty and cheeky. She's always getting a clip around the ear from the older cats, but they like her."[1]

Role

Rumpleteazer is one half of a notorious double act. She is cheeky, irreverent, young and full of energy. An outstanding dancer with acrobatic skills, excellent singing voice with bags of personality. Playing age 20 - 25. Maximum height 5' 6".

Rumpleteazer shares a song with Mungojerrie aptly named "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer". In the song, they boast about their reputation for trouble-making. She usually plays the lead Peke in "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles". During "Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat", Rumpleteazer instigates one of the kittens - usually Electra or Carbucketty/Pouncival - into switching places with Cassandra which, much to her amusement, causes said kitten to be reprimanded by Skimbleshanks. In smaller productions that cut the minor female kittens Electra and/or Etcetera, Rumpleteazer joins the other kittens in swooning over Rum Tum Tugger, and is sometimes the one who squeals hysterically at the end of Tugger's song.

Broadway Puppet

When Cats first came to Broadway in 1982, the role of Rumpleteazer was cut. Instead, the song "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" was narrated by Mistoffelees who brought to life two "trash puppets", performed by the actors playing Etcetera and Coricopat, as entertainment for Bustopher Jones. This was revised in mid-1987 to the more typical running order of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer being characters in their own right. The role that had been Etcetera became Rumpleteazer permanently.

Mungojerrie Rumpleteazer Bway 1982 01

Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer trash puppets, Broadway 1982

Etymology

The character first appeared in the T S Eliot poem titled "Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer", published in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939). She was originally implied to be a male cat ("we are plausible fellows"), though she has always been depicted as female in the musical and its adaptations.

The spelling of her name has varied over the years. The original poem gave her name as "Rumpelteazer", while the 1998 film credits her as "Rumpleteazer". Both spellings are common in US and UK productions. The "Rumpleteaser" variation, though rare, has also been used.

International Names

The following names have also been used for the character of Rumpleteazer in various international productions:

Appearance

Rumpleteazer is a striped tabby cat. Her costume generally features orange, yellow and black stripes on a white base. However in productions based on the Broadway version, she is a much paler cat, primarily white with light orange and grey stripes, due to her evolving from Etcetera.

Her featured song costume consists of stockings attached to a leotard in bright calico colours and a string of stolen Woolworth pearls worn around her neck. She sometimes wears a diamond collar or a belt.

In the original London production, Bonnie Langford wore her trademark bright ginger hair in high buns to suggest cat ears, as did several other female characters. Gradually this was replaced by wigs, but some productions held on to the bun styled ears rather than a standard "Cats" wig.

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Trivia

  • While their relationship is never explicitly defined in the musical, the official website of the London revival/UK tour referred to Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer as "identical twins".[2] In some Broadway-based productions and the Japanese production however, the duo have very different colourings even in their song costumes, and are thus not depicted as being "identical".
  • Wax figures of Rumpleteazer are displayed in the Panoptikum Hamburg wax museum (in Germany) and in Madame Tussauds New York (alongside figures of Mungojerrie, Grizabella and Mistoffelees)

References

  1. CATS 1998 film - The Making of CATS The Video featurette
  2. "Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer", catsthemusical.com (archived)
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