Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats – on which the musical CATS is based – was written by T S Eliot during the 1930s and first published in October 1939 by Faber and Faber, with illustrations by the author himself on the cover. It cost 3 shillings and sixpence a copy. Although Eliot generally intended his cat poems to be for children, they were appealing and amusing to adults.
Many of the cats were modelled on other literary figures (Macavity is styled on Moriarty, the infamous villain who challenged Sherlock Holmes and Skimbleshanks on a work by Rudyard Kipling – The Long Trail).
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Since its opening, CATS has been presented in over thirty countries and over three hundred cities, including such diverse destinations as Buenos Aires, Seoul, Helsinki and Singapore.
Within two and half years of the London opening there were productions in New York, Tokyo, Budapest and Vienna, and the first of tour US touring productions had hit the road.To date the show has been seen by over 73 million people worldwide.
CATS was the recipient of two Olivier awards in 1981; Musical of the Year and Outstanding Achievement of the Year in a Musical which went to Gillian Lynne.
In 1983 the Broadway production became the recipient of seven Tony awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score (also Best Book, Best Director (Trevor Nunn), Best Supporting Musical Actress (Betty Buckley), Best Costumes (John Napier) and Best Lighting (David Hersey).
Having notched up a staggering 8,950 performances, the original production of CATS played it’s final performance in London in 2002, the same year it celebrated its 21st birthday.
CATS has been translated into at least fifteen languages, including Japanese, German, (three versions for Germany, Austria and Switzerland), Hungarian, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, French, Spanish (two versions for Mexico and Argentina) and Italian.
The Swiss production required a bilingual cast who performed in German and English on alternate nights!Despite its international appeal, the title of the show has rarely been translated – the Mexican producers did a survey as to whether the Mexican audience would like their production to be called Gatos. The response in favour of keeping the English original was unanimous.
The German Tent Tour of Cats toured 16 cities in four German-speaking countries: Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria. Previews started in late December 2010 in Hamburg – the city where Cats had its German premiere in 1986. The official premiere was at 6th January 2011 in Hamburg. The tour closed at 16th June 2013 in Graz, Austria.
It was the first European production that didn’t play at usual theatres but used a tent that was specifically designed for this tour with the set NAP 19.There had been tent tours in Australia and Asia before.
Ever wondered what the number plate on the set is all about? The “NAP” part refers to our fantastic set designer John Napier, and is usually followed by a number. Although it remains generally the same, the set is often updated or rebuilt for different productions and tours. The number tells you which edition of the set it is, for instance the NAP 16 set (above) was built for the 2003 UK Tour. This set was reproduced by Raymond Huessy, so the number plate also reads “HUESSY12″ in smaller text beneath.
In the Cats film, the number plate reads “TSE 1″ in reference to TS Eliot.
‘Memory’ has been aired on radio and television in the United Kingdom 46,875 times and over a million times in the USA (if you listened to the song non-stop 1 million times it would take five years!).
There have been over 150 different versions and recordings of the song.
- Since 1981 the crew has replaced over 6,124 seats, added 96,525 new screws, used over 36,625 posters and 356 gallons of varnish to cover the floor, replaced the wood for the star trap 6 times a week and used 3 litres of cleaner a week (2,316 litres).
- The sound department has used 30 new microphones a year (450 in total), 50 new aerials a year (750 in total) and 50 batteries a week (39,000 in total).
- Stage Management has used 1,000 plastic cups a month, 2,000 elastic bands a year, 50 painkillers a week and 449,280 throat lozenges in total. They used a pint of milk a day (not for the cats) and over 200 loo rolls a week – for everything but the loo!
- The wardrobe department has replaced 5 pairs of shoes a week (3,900 pairs), sewed on six knee patches per night. In total they sewed 3,450 costumes for 262 different performers, using 11,954 lbs of wool and 2,825 miles of cotton.
- The stage electronics department has changed 23,166 bulbs in the London auditorium (there are 1,166 bulbs in total, 30 are changed per week and each has been changed roughly 12 times) and used 22,405 feet of cabling.
- The make-up department has used 10,800 sponges and 72 batches of each eyeshadow, pencil, blusher, lipstick and mascara per year. Cast members get through a box of tissues each every week.
- The London Box Office has used 1,179,800 envelopes, 772,200 paper cups and 31,875 headache tablets!