'Cats' Musical Wiki
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"The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles" is a musical number that is framed as a play performed by the cats to entertain Old Deuteronomy, under the direction of Munkustrap.

The cats dress up as various types of dogs in "homemade" costumes made of junk. They tell the story of how a big dog fight was averted by the Great Rumpus Cat.

Although the song was led by Munkustrap in all replica versions of the show prior, the 2016 Broadway revival and its subsequent tour saw it led by Gus, replacing "Growltiger's Last Stand". This change has also been incorporated into the International tour from 2017 onwards.

Context

Now that Old Deuteronomy has arrived at the Jellicle Ball, Munkustrap announces that the celebrations can truly begin:

Jellicle Cats meet once a year
On the night we make the Jellicle Choice
And now that the Jellicle leader is here
Jellicle Cats can all rejoice

The Cats perform a play narrated and directed by Munkustrap, who has clearly been rehearsing with the other characters and expects them to remember their cues. The "Matinee Lines" include Munkustrap saying "Hurry! Make Ready! Remember what I told you to do!" as he checks that various characters are in the right place and that they have their "Dog" costumes ready.

The performance does not go smoothly; the leader of the Pollicles steals a line from the leader of the Pekes, Tugger interrupts with bagpipes, the Rumpus Cat does not appear on cue, and so on. By the end of the performance, Old Deuteronomy reflects on Munkustrap's play, saying:

Jellicle cats and dogs all must,
Pollicle dogs and cats all must,
Like undertakers, come to dust

Meaning that Dogs and Cats are not so different - both are mortal at the end of the day. Suddenly, a loud crash interrupts Old Deuteronomy. Demeter immediately cries out "Macavity!" and the scene ends with most of the cats running off-stage to hide.

Revised Version

The 2016 Broadway revival and subsequent US and UK tours moved this number to the second act and gave it a completely different context. Rather than have Gus the Theatre Cat go into a reverie and dream of his days playing Growltiger, Gus instead recalls having played the Rumpus Cat and goes on to perform the role once more, in real time not a dream, with the ensemble playing along. Old Deuteronomy and Munkustrap occasionally interject when Gus forgets his lines or misspeaks.

Some parts of the original song are cut in this version, while also incorporating music from "Growltiger's Last Stand" such as the ending, but in 3/4 time signature. This version also cuts Old Deuteronomy's concluding message, though Munkustrap's announcement remains in its original spot in Act 1 and leads straight into the Macavity scare.

"Macavity" Interlude

The Broadway revival also extended the Macavity scare by introducing a short refrain of "Macavity the Mystery Cat" that is sung by the queens. Subsequent productions have since incorporated this interlude, including the international tour (from 2017 onwards), the Japanese production (since 2018), the 6th US tour and the Vienna revival.

In productions that move the "Pekes and Pollicles" to the second act, the Macavity scare remains in Act 1, occurring when a loud crash is heard right after Munkustrap's announcement that the celebrations can begin now that Old Deuteronomy has arrived.

History

Most of the lyrics for this number are taken from T S Eliot's poem of the same name from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939). The "Tom Pollicle" bridge comes from an Eliot poem titled "The Marching Song of the Pollicle Dogs", published in The Queen's Book of the Red Cross (1939). Old Deuteronomy's sombre lines at the end are taken from another Eliot poem titled "Lines to a Yorkshire Terrier" from Five-Finger Exercises (1933).

Since the early 2000s, the line "heathen Chinese" is often replaced with "winsome Chinese". In the 2016 UK Tour, the line was "foreign Chinese" instead.

The Rumpus Cat entrance varies by production. In early major productions including London and Broadway, he would spring up from a star trap concealed in the stage floor.

Q. How does the Rumpus Cat burst through the "Cats" stage head first without splitting his skull? A. A counterweighted jack-in-the-box fires him through a padded trap door sectioned in wedge-shaped slices. (Imagine a Titan missile erupting through a pizza.) His wig conceals a helmet.
The New York Times[1]

Smaller productions will usually just have him leap onstage. For recent productions that have Gus playing the role, the oven prop is seen lighting up and filling with smoke before Munkustrap opens it to reveal the Rumpus Cat.

Music

"Pekes and the Pollicles" begins with Munkustrap reciting a variation of his first four lines from "The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball". The recurring Jellicle theme accompanies him in its two-phrase form. The trumpet fanfare theme then signals the start of the play, serving as a transition from the serene ending of "Old Deuteronomy" to the big set piece the cats have prepared for their leader.[2]

The bulk of the number features many verses consisting of fast-paced and wordy rhymes, narrated by Munkustrap to a rolling 6/8 meter in the key of F minor.[2] These verses are interjected by "barking" refrains in which the cats imitate their canine counterparts.

"Barking" refrain

The play-within-a-play ends with the ensemble hailing the Rumpus Cat together in a rousing four-part harmony.

Ensemble's four-part harmony

The music turns sombre as Old Deuteronomy reflects on Munkustrap's play, only to be interrupted by a loud crash followed by Macavity's leitmotif.

Lyrics

Of the Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles
Together with some account
Of the participation of the Pugs and the Poms
And the intervention of the Great Rumpus Cat

The Pekes and the Pollicles, everyone knows,
Are proud and implacable passionate foes;
It is always the same, wherever one goes.
And the Pugs and the Poms, although most people say
That they do not like fighting, yet once in a way,
They will now and again join in to the fray
And they

Bark, bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark

Until you can hear them all over the Park.

And they

Bark, bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark

Until you can hear them all over the Park.

Now on the occasion of which I shall speak
Almost nothing had happened for nearly a week
(And that's a long time for a Pol or a Peke).
The big Police Dog was away from his beat -
I don't know the reason, but most people think
He'd slipped into the Wellington Arms for a drink -

And no one at all was about on the street
When a Peke and a Pollicle happened to meet.
They did not advance, or exactly retreat,
But they glared at each other, and scraped their hind feet,
And started to

Bark, bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark

Until you could hear them all over the Park.

And they

Bark, bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark

Until you could hear them all over the Park.

Now the Peke, although people may say what they please,
Is no British Dog, but a Heathen Chinese.
And so all the Pekes, when they heard the uproar,
Some came to the window, some came to the door;
There were surely a dozen, more likely a score.

And together they started to grumble and wheeze
In their huffery-snuffery Heathen Chinese.
But a terrible din is what Pollicles like,
For your Pollicle Dog is a dour Yorkshire tyke.

There are dogs out of every nation,
The Irish, the Welsh and the Dane;
The Russian, the Dutch, the Dalmatian,
And even from China and Spain;
The Poodle, the Pom, the Alsatian
And the Mastiff who walks on a chain.

And to those that are frisky and frollical
Let my meaning be perfectly plain:
That my name it is Little Tom Pollicle -
And you'd better not do it again.


And his braw Scottish cousins are snappers and biters,
And every dog-jack of them notable fighters;
And so they stepped out, with their pipers in order,
Playing "When the Blue Bonnets Come Over the Border".

Then the Pugs and the Poms held no longer aloof,
But some from the balcony, some from the roof,
Joined in to the din with a

Bark, bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark

Until you could hear them all over the Park.

Huffery-snuffery, huffery-snuffery
(bark, bark, bark, bark)
Huffery-snuffery, huffery-snuff
(bark, bark, bark, bark)

Until you could hear them all over the Park.

(Cacophony of barking)

NOW!!! - when these bold heroes together assembled,
The traffic all stopped, and the Underground trembled,
And some of the neighbours were so much afraid
That they started to ring up the Fire Brigade.
When suddenly, up from a small basement flat,
Why who should stalk out but the GREAT RUMPUS CAT.

His eyes were like fireballs fearfully blazing,
He gave a great yawn, and his jaws were amazing;
And when he looked out through the bars of the area,
You never saw anything fiercer or hairier.

And what with the glare of his eyes and his yawning,
The Pekes and the Pollicles quickly took warning.
He looked at the sky and he gave a great leap -
And they every last one of them scattered like sheep.

And when the Police Dog returned to his beat,
There wasn't a single one left in the street.

All hail and all power to the Great Rumpus Cat!

Revised Version

Of the Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles
Together with some account
Of the participation of the Pugs and the Poms
And the intervention of the Great Rumpus Cat

The Pekes and the Pollicles, everyone knows,
Are proud and implacable passionate foes;
It is always the same, wherever one goes.
And the Pugs and the Poms, although most people say
That they do not like fighting, yet once in a way,
They will now and again join in to the fray
And they

Bark, bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark

Until you can hear them all over the Park.

And they

Bark, bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark

Until you can hear them all over the Park.

Now on the occasion of which I shall speak
Almost nothing had happened for nearly a week
(And that's a long time for a Pol or a Peke).
The big Police Dog was away from his beat -
I don't know the reason, but most people think
He'd slipped into the Wellington Arms for a drink -

And no one at all was about on the street
When a Peke and a Pollicle happened to meet.
They did not advance, or exactly retreat,
But they glared at each other, and scraped their hind feet,
And started to

Bark, bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark

Until you could hear them all over the Park.

Now the Peke, although people may say what they please,
Is no British Dog, but a Heathen Chinese.
And so all the Pekes, when they heard the uproar,
Some came to the window, some came to the door;
There were surely a dozen, more likely a score.

And together they started to grumble and wheeze
In their huffery-snuffery Heathen Chinese.
But a terrible din is what Pollicles like,
For your Pollicle Dog is a dour Yorkshire tyke.

Then the Pugs and the Poms held no longer aloof,
But some from the balcony, some from the roof,
Joined in to the din with a

Bark, bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark

Until you could hear them all over the Park.

Bark, bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark

Until you could hear them all over the Park.

(Cacophony of barking)

NOW!!! - when these bold heroes together assembled,
The traffic all stopped, and the Underground trembled,
And some of the neighbours were so much afraid
That they started to ring up the Fire Brigade.
When suddenly, up from a small basement flat,
Why who should stalk out but the GREAT RUMPUS CAT.

My eyes were like fireballs fearfully blazing,
I gave a great yawn, and my jaws were amazing;
And when I looked out through the bars of the area,
You never saw anything fiercer or hairier.

And what with the glare of his eyes and his yawning,
The Pekes and the Pollicles quickly took warning.
He looked at the sky and he gave a great leap -
And they every last one of them scattered like sheep.

All hail and all power to the Great Rumpus Cat!

"Macavity" Interlude

He's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity...
Depravity...
Depravity...

He hypnotizes with his eyes, his head sways like a snake...
Like a snake...
Like a snake...

International Versions

Audio

Note: .ogg files cannot be played on iOS devices

Original Version

Revised Version

  • "The Pekes and the Pollicles" snippet from the 2016 Broadway revival (bootleg audio)

Macavity Scare:

  • Extended "Macavity" interlude from the 2016 Broadway revival (revised "Pekes and Pollicles" - bootleg audio)

Video

Gallery

Trivia

  • "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles" is often omitted from cast recordings despite being performed in the show

References

  1. On Stage, and Off, The New York Times (October 14, 1994).
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Megamusical, Indiana University Press (2006). Pages 139, 147, 152. ISBN 978-0-253-34793-0.
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