Previewed 6 December 2014, Opened 11 December 2014, Closed 25 April 2015, returned
Previewed 23 October 2015, Opened 27 October 2015, Closed 2 January 2016 at the London Palladium
The return of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical Cats in London for one final, London Palladium celebratory season.
Enter the magical musical world of Cats... On just one special night of the year, all Jellicle cats meet at the Jellicle Ball where Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, makes the Jellicle choice and announces which of them will go up to The Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life. Featuring some of the most energetic and exciting dance ever seen on stage and the wonderful music of Andrew Lloyd Webber - including of course the beautiful 'Memory' - and it is easy to see why this musical has become a universally acclaimed triumph. Let the memory live again! For this production Andrew Lloyd Webber has especially updated some parts of the musical. Originally performed 'in-the-round' at the New London Theatre, this production has also been especially revised and reconfigured to adapt to the 'proscenium arch' layout at the Palladium.
Casting for the October 2015 to January 2016 season is to be announced. The original revival cast featured former Pussycat Doll popstar and X-Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger who made her West End stage debut as 'Grizabella'. She performed the role from 6 December 2014 through to 7 February 2015. The role of 'Grizabella' was then taken over by Kerry Ellis up to 25 April 2015. Cats the Musical features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. This production is directed by Trevor Nunn with associate direction and choreography by Gillian Lynne and designs by John Napier. This production is re-directed especially for the Palladium by Chrissie Cartwright under the oversight of Trevor Nunn and Gillian Lynne.
When this production opened in December 2014 starring Nicole Scherzinger as 'Grizabella', Rod McPhee in the Daily Mirror praised the "timeless music, spectacular sets and a superb cast," adding that "as the rapturous applause confirmed, Nicole Scherzinger is Schamazing." Neil Norman in the Daily Express highlighted that "on John Napier's amazing set, a giant rubbish tip which extends well beyond the stage, the cast deliver a souped–up version of a show that has always remained my favourite Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Nicole Scherzinger is the draw but there is plenty more talent on the stage that shines through the motley collection of songs." Dominic Maxwell in the Times commented that, "back in the West End for the first time in 12 years, Andrew Lloyd Webber's pumped-up and retweaked version of his humongous hit musical can leave even cynics purring with pleasure... The show's greatest moments come close to pure sensation... The cast are first-rate. And though the star signing, Nicole Scherzinger, is too conspicuously trying to act 'pained' as the faded glamour cat Grizabella, she can really sing. Memory will blow your wig off. It’s not subtle, but boy it’s effective." Michael Billington in the Guardian explained: "I raved about Cats when I first reviewed it in 1981. Seeing it revived by the original creative team, I still admire its energy, verve and choreographic vigour... Take it for what it is and it remains an invigorating dance-spectacle that banishes all thoughts of catnaps." Paul Taylor in the Independent noted how "Trevor Nunn's youthful cast certainly do their utmost to rejuvenate the material, performing the cartwheels, flips, balletic leaps and spins of Gillian Lynne's demanding choreography with terrific freshness and high-definition zest." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail hailed it as being "a top-whisker revival of Lord Lloyd Webber’s 33-year-old musical." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard thought that "the thinness of the plot can't be concealed — this is a series of character sketches, not a sustained story. But Gillian Lynne’s choreography is winningly effervescent. And the cast is strong throughout."
"Andrew Lloyd Webber's score, with its synthy piano and power-ballad drum rolls, feels as rooted in the early 1980s as the Sloane Ranger Handbook. Then again, updating Rum Tum Tugger as a rap is a knuckle-bitingly embarrassing misstep. Cats is a curious theatrical beast, a dance revue with only the loosest connecting narrative and quite a few longueurs. But there's no denying the bonkers originality of its TS Eliot-inspired concept and, here, the vim of its troupe - still in leg warmers! They're the cat's whiskers." The Sunday Times
"Sir Trevor Nunn’s revival sticks pretty much to the original, staged on John Napier’s vast heap of urban junk with the cars, pipes and bedsteads larger than life to create a cat's-eye view. It’s not in the round, as it used to be, but there are felines prowling up into the auditorium... For the most part, it's a trip up Memory lane. Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger plays fading sophisticat Grizabella and sings the show’s most famous number with little expression but masses of volume... Spectacular and superbly danced as it is, there's neither enough variety nor narrative to sustain the show for three hours, making it far less than purrfect." The Mail on Sunday
"Cats is far from perfect. All Lloyd Webber's skilful pastiche cannot disguise the monotony of his musical motifs. The loosely linked songs offer little scope for emotional involvement, notwithstanding the perfunctory framing device of Grizabella's ascent to the Heaviside Layer. At heart, this is a feline variety show and its success is almost entirely due to its dance. The eclecticism of Gillian Lynne's choreography combining classical tap, Broadway jazz (and, less happily in this new production, hip hop) perfectly matches the score... The multitalented cast is led by Nicole Scherzinger; who is given star billing despite having the least stage time." The Sunday Express
The musical Cats in London at the Palladium public previews from 23 October 2015, opens on 27 October 2015 and closes on 2 January 2016.
Cats the Musical - Original Production 1981 to 2002
Previewed 22 April 1981, opened 11 May 1981, closed 11 May 2002 at the New London Theatre
For this unique production the New London Theatre was partially gutted and rebuilt to create 'a gaint playground for cats!' Immediately you enter the auditorium the set is all around you, even right up to the dress circle. The designer, John Napier, has created a complete environmental space for the show, taking us into a world which uses real objects, larger than life, to conjure up a world of fantasy, which at first is slightly disorientating and makes one wonder what is going to happen - and how!
Cats the Musical features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. This production is directed by Trevor Nunn with associate direction and choreography by Gillian Lynne, designs by John Napier and lighting by David Hersey.
Most of the poems comprising Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939) have been set to music complete and in their original published form; a few have been subject to a minor revision of tense or pronuon, and eight lines have been added to the 'Song of the Jellicies'. However, some of the lyrics, notably 'The Marching Song of the Pollicle Dogs' and the story of 'Grizabella' were discovered among the unpublished writings of Eliot. The prologue is based on ideas and incorporates lines from another unpublished poem, entitled 'Pollicle Dogs and Jellicle Cats'. 'Memory' includes lines from and is suggested by 'Rhapsody On a Windy Night', and other poems of the Prufrock period. All other words in the show are taken from the Collected Poems.
Judi Dench was originally scheduled to play the role of 'Grizabella' but unfortunately during rehearsals she fell and snapped her Achilies tendon, although she managed to return to rehearsals, she had a further fall and so had to leave the show. With just four days to go before the first public preview on Wednesday 22 April 1981 Andrew Lloyd Webber drafted in Elaine Paige to play the role. She began intensive rehearsals on Sunday under Trevor Nunn when she said: "It's a lovely part and I'm very excited about being back in a new British musical. I will develop the character as we play the previews but I believe as soon as an audience is out there watching, you have to deliver for them...I hope I can get it together in time. I have a lot of work to do. But I am enjoying it and I feel sorry for Judi that she could not continue. I don't have a cat but I've been watching all the cats in my street and picking up tips from them about how to move. They have so many idiosyncrasies about the way they stretch or even sit." Andrew Lloyd Webber said: "We think it's remarkable of Elaine to take over the role at such short notice... Obviously Elaine can't do everything Judi Dench was going to do by curtain-up. That would be a physical impossibility. But the show is an ensemble piece and Elaine is already bringing her own very special quality to it. She has always been incredibly professional when it comes to the crunch."
Cats opened at the New London Theatre on 11 May 1981 with a cast that included Elaine Paige, Brian Blessed, Paul Nicholas, Wayne Sleep, Sarah Brightman and Bonnie Langford. The show became London's longest-running musical on 12 May 1989 when it played its 3,358th performance at the New London Theatre beating the record of 3,357 performances held by Jesus Christ Superstar. On 29 January 1996, Cats in London became the longest running musical ever to play in the West End or on Broadway, when the show at the New London Theatre overtook the record of 6,137 performances held by the Broadway production of A Chorus Line. Cats finally closed on Saturday 11 May 2002 after it's 8,949th performance.
The highlight of the last performance on 11 May 2002 was a specially choreographed mass finale at the end when some 150 former cast members join the current cast on stage - to enable former cast members who where performing in other West End shows the same evening to join the finale, the final performance started 45 minutes later than normal as 8.30pm. To allow more fans to see the show live than could be accommodated in the New London Theatre, the final show was broadcast via a live video relay to a giant screen in the nearby Piazza in Covent Garden.
"London's newest musical is a hymn to the disturbing, disconcerting, disreputable, but not the discordant nature of cats. It is also a feast of unbelievably sinuous, writhing, elastic dancing, by a company who give the impression that they haven't a bone or a protesting sinew in their feline bodies... The theatre's round stage provides a brilliantly-utilised setting - a circular junkyard crammed with old tyres, corrugated iron, abandoned cars, through which the cat-dancers weave and slide... It would be hard to choose the most memorable moment but it will for most people be Elaine Paige, as the tired, tawdry glamour cat, Grizabella, singing 'Memory'... At the end when the cats finally vanish, we all go home. But as with Wonderland's famous Cheshire Cat, the smile lingers on." The Daily Express
"Andrew Lloyd Webber's dance musical based on TS Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Pratical Cats had a truimphant opening. The first thrill on Monday night was to discover Sean Kenny's revolutionary theatre (it opened in 1973) at last realising its potential... John Napier's stunning costumes are decorated body tights and rehearsal leggings. The tribe has assembled for the annual Jellicle ball, presided over by the fabled elder, Old Deuteronomy. The celebration of each others' characteristics, joyously undertaken, steam-rollers any danger of the scenario degenerating into a routine, unconnected recital of the poems... If the director, Trevor Nunn, injects warmth and detail of characterisation into the evening, the real plaudits must be reserved for his choreographer, Gillian Lynne. For years it has seemed impossible that the British could produce their own original dance musical. But here it is, with a company of outstanding dancers and singers fully at home in every style, from tap to ballet, from Bob Fosse-style shimmying to corporate cakewalk, from acrobatic, jazz routines to explosive narrative invention... Lloyd Webber's score is thoughtfully accommodating towards Eliot's rhythms, continuously inventive and a concerted effort to break with his own output to date. FOr him, as for the British musical, this is a refreshing departure." The Financial Times
"Cats at the New London is an exhilarating piece of total theatre... the particular triumph of Cats as that it never simply becomes a series of isolated feline spectaculars. For a start John Napier has desgned a wonderful environmental rubbish-dump, set made up of huge tyres, rusting cars, dust-bin lids and old bicycles from whch the cats playfully emerge. Even more crucially, director Trevor Nunn and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber have raided Eliot's Collected Poems and some unpublished work to give the show a strong framework... What is particularly heartening is the way the poems are deftly integrated... Gillian Lynne as choreographer and associate director has conceived some brilliant moments... the show is packed wth dance but it never kills the language or overpowers the strong individual characterisations... Many hands have made Cats work. But in the end one comes back to Lloyd Webber's remarkable ability to find tunes that fit each specific feline. And to Trevor Nunn's dazzling staging." The Guardian
Cats in London at the New London Theatre previewed from 22 April 1981, opened on 11 May 1981 and closed on 11 May 2002.