'Cats' coming in spring to the Show Me Center

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Even dog people must like "Cats."

The musical has sold more than 8.25 million tickets since debuting in London in 1981. In 1997 it became the longest-running musical in Broadway history, finally completing its 18-year-run on Sept. 10, 2000.

But "Cats" still has some lives left. The national touring company will perform April 23 at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. Single tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday.

Promoter Tim Roberts thinks "Cats" became so popular because it made Broadway accessible to a bigger cross section of people.

"I think a certain percentage of the population is intimidated by going to a Broadway show, as if they wouldn't understand it," he said in a phone interview from Indianapolis, Ind. "... Obviously that's a misperception. But 'Cats' may well obliterate that."

"Cats" and the musical "Grease" have brought new audiences to see live theater because both are so accessible, he says.

"Cats" has no spoken dialogue. The story begins at midnight in a junkyard. The tribe of Jellicle Cats is reuniting for a celebration. Along the way the audience meets an array of distinctive cat personalities: Jennyandots, the outcast Grizabella, Bustopher Jones, Skimbleshanks, Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, Munkustrap, Rumpus Cat, the villainous Macavity and the great and wise leader, Old Deuteronomy. The musical ends with Old Deuteronomy deciding what cat will be reborn into a new life.

"Cats" is based on the T.S. Eliot book of poetry "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music 10 years after picking up the book of poetry in an airport.

"Cats" won seven Tony Awards in 1983, including Best Musical, best Book of a Musical, Best Lighting and Best Costumes. "Memory," the musical's most famous song, has been recorded by more than 150 artists.

The musical is credited with having an economic impact of $3.12 billion on New York City.

Some cosmetic changes have been made in the touring show to make it more portable, Roberts said. The musical has a cast of 30.

Webber also is the composer of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Evita," "Starlight Express," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Sunset Boulevard" and other musicals. In 1992, his accomplishments earned him a knighthood.


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