Cats is one of the most successful and long-running shows in musical theatre history, but even after more than 35 years, there’s still more to learn about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical. Ready to be surprised? Here are 10 things you might not have known about Cats.
- It almost included dogs – yep, Cats almost wasn’t entirely about cats! Webber based his hit show off T. S. Eliot’s 1939 collection of poems called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which almost included poems about dogs. However, Eliot concluded that “dogs don’t seem to lend themselves to verse quite so well, collectively, as cats.”
- Dame Judi Dench was almost the star – the British screen star was given the role of Grizabella during its original West End run but was forced to withdraw after snapping her Achilles tendon during rehearsals.
- Webber mortgaged his home to pay for the show – despite huge success as one of the minds behind Jesus Christ Superstar, Webber had so much difficulty finding people to invest in Cats that he took out a second mortgage on his house.
- It was Broadway’s longest-running musical – before being taken over by The Phantom of the Opera in 2006, Cats was the longest-running show in Broadway history, having run from 1987 to 2006. It’s now the fourth longest-running both on Broadway and in London’s West End.
- The musical was sued by an audience member – one disgruntled theatregoer sued Cats after David Hibbard (who played Rum Tum Tugger) allegedly gyrated his pelvis in her face trying to get her to dance, despite saying “no” twice.
- It won the late T.S. Eliot a Tony Award – Eliot was still earning acclaim even from beyond the grave! Because the songs were almost word-for-word recitations of his poems, Eliot was posthumously given the 1983 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical, which was accepted by the author’s wife Valerie.
- It used more than a ton of yak hair – in its 18-year Broadway run, the costume designers went through over 1,300kg of yak hair to make wigs, which reportedly cost $3,000 each and took more than 40 hours to create.
Tell us in the comments below, have you ever seen a performance of Cats? What did you think?
Photo: Joan Marcus