Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Beloved musical ‘Cats’ comes to Mullins Center

By Alissa Mesibov

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The national tour of ‘Cats’ arrived at the Mullins Center yesterday for one show only.

The 1982 show features music by mega-composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Webber has been won 11 Tony Awards, including best original score for ‘Cats’ in 1983. ‘Cats’ won seven Tony Awards overall, including Best Musical. The lyrics are mainly from poems by T.S. Eliot, with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe.

‘Cats’ tells the story of a group of London felines, known as Jellicle cats. Once a year, they gather to celebrate as their elderly leader, Old Deuteronomy selects one of them to go to the Heavyside Layer, after which they are reborn as a new, young Jellicle. The most deserving is the elderly Grizabella, who was a revered beauty in her youth, but is now rejected by the majority of the Jellicles. Meanwhile, they also face the terror set upon them by the evil Macavity. In between, audience members meet a variety of entertaining Jellicles, such as a kitten with magical powers, a pair of acrobatic thieves, and an Elvis-like rock star of a cat.

The musical features one of the most famous songs in recent theater. ‘Memory’ has been recorded by over 150 artists, such as Barbara Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Liberace and Barry Manilow, whose rendition of the song made the Top 40 list in the United States, according to the tour’s publicity materials. The song has also been featured in television and film alike. The Original Broadway Cast recording has a 4.5/5 star rating on iTunes.

‘Cats’ transformed musical theater. Though mainstream now, when the show first arrived on the scene in London in 1981, it was considered extremely alternative and risky. It also allowed for a new audience in musical theater: children. Though shows like ‘Annie’ and ‘Oliver’ had already been around for some time, they were not as interactive, and told stories that not as easy for young children to follow. Children were much more fascinated by graceful dancers dashing down the aisles of theaters in brightly colored costumes in ‘Cats’.

However, the musical is not just intended for children. Gillian Lynne’s choreography, which includes jazz, modern, tap, and ballet, is recognized as being among the best in the world of musical theater. The musical style of ‘Cats’ is diverse enough to please theatergoers of any age, ranging from rock n’ roll to opera, and everything in between.

‘Cats’ has also made history for its previously unheard of level of success. It was the first of the mega-musicals that includes ‘Les Miserables’. ‘Cats’ ran for 18 years on Broadway, an incredible feat for the time. It held the title of the longest running show in Broadway history until early 2006, when Andrew Lloyd Webber’s own ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ surpassed ‘Cats’’ record. For over ten years, ‘Cats’ has remained the longest running, continuously touring show in North America, according to promotional materials. ‘Cats’ has also been shown in 26 countries on five continents, and translated into 10 languages, according to promotional documents.

The show often uses the publicity campaign slogan, “Now and Forever.” With a worldwide audience of over eight and a half million since 1981, this certainly seems to hold true.

Alissa Mesibov can be reached at [email protected]

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