Kelly Kazek, an award-winning journalist and humor columnist, travels the South’s backroads writing about roadside attractions and Southern culture for It’s a Southern Thing and This is Alabama. She is the author of two humor books and numerous books of regional history. Born in Georgia and raised in Alabama, she is a true daughter of the South.
I’m a cat lady and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Those incredibly aloof, fuzzy and endearing critters have always had my heart. Let’s face it, they are loaded with personality.
Legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber apparently thought so, too. The charming mischief makers inspired Webber to write the musical “Cats,” the fourth longest running Broadway play of all time. It has earned more than $3.5 billion to date. Let’s just say its success brought about the phenomenon of the “megamusical.”
So how does a strange musical about a strange tribe of cats (played, of course, by people dressed as cats) come to be? The musical is based on a quirky 1939 collection of T.S. Eliot poems called “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.”
The musical debuted in 1981 in London’s West End and in 1982 on Broadway.
And don’t let the flop of the 2019 film deter you – “Cats” is one of those productions meant to be seen live. Because it is a sung-through production, meaning most of the dialogue is sung by the characters, “Cats” just didn’t translate well to film.
But as a stage production, it is something to be experienced with your eyes, ears, heart and soul. Think about it – audiences at 9,000 performances over 21 years in London’s West End and 7,500 performances over 18 years on Broadway can’t be wrong. Not to mention audiences at productions in other countries and touring shows – it has been produced in more than 30 countries and in 15 languages, according to Huntsville’s Broadway Theatre League.
On Jan. 28-30, 2022, BTL is bringing “Cats” to the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.
The show, winner of seven Tony Awards, is known for its beautiful songs, especially the beautiful and melancholy ballad, “Memory.”
The Broadway Theatre League crew says it is excited to bring the show to a new generation and advises parents the show is suitable for children as young as 5 years old
“‘Cats’ tells the story of one magical night when an extraordinary tribe of cats gathers for its annual ball to rejoice and decide which cat will be reborn,” BTL says.
Webber has said he began making Eliot’s poems into songs as an exercise to see if he could set already published works to music, never intending them to be used for a show, according to 1983’s “Cats: The Book of the Musical.”
“I began setting ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ to music late in 1977, partly because it is a book I remember with affection from my childhood and partly because I wanted to set existing verse to music,” he wrote.
He performed the music for friends and, eventually, he was persuaded to create a show. What began as a lark certainly worked out well for Webber. The audience has also benefitted from this inspiring tale. It is definitely a show everyone should see at least once in a lifetime.