Our Most Memorable Experiences at ‘Cats’
Did you know that Saturday is International Cat Day? Did you also know there is a hugely successful Broadway and West End musical that’s all about, well, cats?
Whether you love it or love to hate it, everyone remembers their first time seeing Cats onstage, with dancers clad in furry leotards prowling down the aisles to the Jellicle Ball. Based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sprawling musical features a loose plot (who will make it to the heavyside layer?) and lots of ferocious belts.
In honor of International Cat Day, we’re looking back at some of our most memorable times in the company of Cats.
Victoria, Product Team
My first experience with Cats was when I was about 8. I was on a gymnastics team and the whole club thought it would be great if we did floor routines to different songs — teams would perform “The Jellicle Ball,” the senior gymnasts would perform to “Memory,” etc. I was tasked with a routine to “Mr. Mistoffelees.” The first tumbling pass required me to “growl” and put my hands in a paw. Over and over again, my coaches deemed I wasn’t “cat enough” so I had to watch the whole performance over and over again.
Jess, Tech Team
Cats was the first musical I fell in love with. I had the DVD of the 1998 film version and I would watch that musical on every. single. car trip that was longer than 90 minutes. And we only had one portable dvd player so my brother also got to watch it over and over again. I’m not ashamed that it’s the show that got me into theater and dance, and I still love watching it! I watched it so much as a child I could tell you most of the shots and the choreography for certain numbers. And I still know the names of arguably too many of the cats since most of their names are never mentioned, At one point I brought the soundtrack to my day care and I remember dancing around to the “Skimbleshanks,” “Macavity,” and “Mr. Mistoffelees” sequence almost every day. When the revival was on Broadway, my mom and I went to see it for my 20th birthday. From the moment the overture started I couldn’t stop smiling, because it was the music and a lot of the same choreography that were still ingrained in my brain.
Ali, Accounts Team
This is actually really hard for me to talk about and is something I’m still working through in therapy. When I was 7, my grandparents took me to a community theater production of Cats. My grandmother had season tickets in the front row of the theater, which is all fun until the fourth wall gets shattered. In this production, the hyper-sexualized Rum-Tum-Tugger came into the audience and straddled my grandmother’s seat and thrusted and gyrated while she laughed. Twenty years later, I can’t unsee it. Pray for me.
Tom, People + Culture Team
My aunt made the mistake of putting on the Cats VHS for me when I was about 7 years old and from that point, I was… obsessed. Within a few weeks I was able to give my family full renditions of the Jellicle Ball, was desperate to rename our pet cat after characters from the show (she just *looked* like a Mistoffelees, you know?), and begging my parents to take me to see it live. Over the next few years my grandmother took me to see it more times than she’d care to admit, and pretended to enjoy it too. I would make sure we got there early enough to shop at the merch stand, read every word in the programme, and we’d always buy seats on the aisle to ensure maximum dancer-dressed-as-a-cat interaction. The show gets a lot of bad press for not having a solid plot to follow, but the design, choreography and music was so magical for me as a child that I didn’t seem to mind. As a piece of theatre, Gillian Lynne and the rest of the creative team redefined what musical theatre can be (keeping in mind the show is almost 40 years old!). Hearing the overture still gives me goosebumps to this day and I will always be filled with nostalgia and happy “memories” of the show that introduced me to theatre. All of the above does not apply to the film, which I’ve blocked out]
Suzy, Marketing Team
I don’t usually tell people this, but Cats was my first Broadway show. I like to say it was Rent because I won the Lottery when I was 19 and got to sit front row, and that was the moment I truly fell in love with Broadway. However, when I saw Cats on my eighth grade East Coast trip (I grew up in California), it was my first Broadway adventure. I remember being in awe when the cats walked down the aisle, and I thought “Jellicle Cats” was totally a bop. But then…I fell asleep and woke up and the cats were on a pirate ship (probably “Growltiger’s Last Stand”), and I was just very confused.
Courtney, Merchandising Team
Small child Courtney, at the prime age for appreciating people pretending to be animals, rented Cats over and over from the local Blockbuster’s teeny tiny musical section. Some time later, the show visited our town on tour, and became my first introduction to professional theatre. My mom appreciated the emotional rendition of “Memory,” while I was enthralled by the costumes and choreography and commitment to a character. Mr. Mistoflees became my idol — tuxedo as everyday casualwear? Iconic. Did I also go home with a glow-in-the-dark cat eye t-shirt? Of course I did, and I wish it still fit. Take note Broadway merch creators.
Marika, Operations Team
Not going to lie, I am quite traumatized from a questionable college variety show when I had to sing “Memory.” I literally resembled a chimney sweep à la Dick Van Dyke, because the stage makeup that was put on me was so poorly! I first saw the show in 2007 with my family. When I was working front of house at the same theatre many years later, I probably watched the show 14 times. Whilst checking fire exit doors before the incoming, I would always try and catch Mr. Mistoffelees (Joseph Poulton) rehearsing over and over again that iconic Conjuring Turn (And he nailed it every performance) Purr-fect.
Abby, Merchandising Team
Embarrassed to admit that in order to write this, I had to Google “old cat in cats name.” You could’ve told me two minutes ago that Old Deuteronomy’s was called literally anything else and I would’ve believed you. That’s because I have one and only one experience with Cats. I grew up in a college town and when I was in middle school, one of the national tours that year was Cats. Apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber (I love Joseph and the Amazing Dreamcoat!) but the only moment I remember was — just as Old Deuteronomy was walking out to sing one of his songs — for the first time in my life, I fell asleep while sitting up and was awoken by my neck jerking itself back into place. At that time and now, I meant no disrespect to the elder cat. But the truth is the truth and I fell asleep sitting up while a human in a cat costume was singing in front of me.
Geri, Partnerships Team
Even though I didn’t see Cats on Broadway until its recent revival the show was weirdly formative for me. I definitely jazz-squared to “Jellicle Cats” in a “Dancing on Broadway”-themed kids camp one summer as a young theater lover in Maryland. And I have an oddly specific memory of my cousin, around age 10, performing “Memory” in his front yard for passersby in their suburban Connecticut neighborhood. I also personally just love cats (the animal) so appreciate the subject matter, in theory. By the time I saw the show live, I have to admit I teared up during “Jellicle Cats” and will always stand by the fact that it is a truly magical opening number!