US Tour - photo by Joan Marcus
The cats are at first suspicious and proud, reluctant to allow an audience into their domain. In “The Naming of Cats”, however, they begin to reveal who they are and that cats have three different names: the one the family uses daily, a more dignified name, and a secret name. It is the contemplation of these secret names that keeps felines deep in thought:
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason I tell you is always the same;
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name…..
Victoria, from the 1998 film
Victoria , a young white cat, dances to signal “The Invitation To The Jellicle Ball”. Munkustrap, a large grey tabby, explains that the Jellicle Cats meet once a year to rejoice. They are waiting for their leader, the wise Old Deuteronomy, who will choose which of the Jellicle Cats will journey tonight to the Heaviside layer to be reborn into a new life.
Jellicle Cats come out to-night,
Jellicle Cats come one come all:
The Jellicle Moon is shining bright -
Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball…..
And so begins our introduction to the cats. One by one they step forward to audition for the role, to be chosen to make the special journey to be reborn.
Jennyanydots, The Old Gumbie Cat, sleeps and lounges all day long:
She sits beside the hearth or in the sun or on my hat:
She sits and sits and sits and sits – and that what’s make a Gumbie Cat!
Exploding on the set comes Rum Tum Tugger, a playful prankster that the female cats find extremely attractive, and who enjoys being the centre of attention:
Yes, the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat -
And there isn’t any need for me to spout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!
Grizabella, The Glamour Cat, is shunned by the rest of the tribe despite being a Jellicle Cat. She left the tribe years ago to explore the outside world and now wants to return.
Bustopher Jones, Cats UK Tour 2003
Bustopher Jones is a large “twenty five pounder”, always clad in signature white spats. “The cat about town”, he spends his time eating, eating and eating in one of the many English pubs and clubs that he frequents:
He’s the Cat we all greet as he walks down the street
In his coat of fastidious black:
No commonplace mousers have such well-cut trousers
Or such an impeccable back…..
Suddenly a thunderous crash, followed by the sound of police sirens and flashing red lights signals that the villainous Macavity is on the loose! The cats scatter, leaving an empty space.
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He’s always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place -
MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!
Distant giggles signal the entrance of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, a fun-loving, frolicking team of pranksters who are always in trouble with the family with whom they live:
And when you heard a dining-room smash
Or up from the pantry there came a loud crash
Or down from the library came a loud ping
From a vase which was commonly said to be Ming -
Then the family would say: “Now which was which cat?
It was Mungojerrie! AND Rumpleteazer!” – And there’s
Nothing at all to be done about that!
Old Deutoronomy, from the Asia tour 2007-09
The entire tribe returns as their benevolent and wise old leader Old Deuteronomy arrives. The cats adore and respect him, indeed he is father to some of them:
Old Deuteronomy’s lived a long time;
He’s a Cat who has lived many times in succession.
He was famous in proverb and famous in rhyme
A long while before Queen Victoria’s accession…..
They entertain him with a special show narrated by Munkustrap, The Aweful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles together with the The Marching Song of the Pollicle Dogs:
Now when these bold heroes together assembled,
The traffic all stopped and the Underground trembled,
And some of the neighbours were so much afraid
That they started to ring up the Fire Brigade…..
The cats dress up as the two rival dog factions who bark ceaselessly at each other until they are frightened away by the Great Rumpus Cat, a sleek and powerful feline.
Another crash from the villainous Macavity is heard, which sends the cats scurrying. Old Deuteronomy soothes them as they come back one by one. It is time for The Jellicle Ball, the great annual dance in which all the cats celebrate.
Grizabella appears once more, wanting to rejoin her family and be a part of the celebration. She is left to contemplate her “Memory” of the time before she left the tribe. She stretches out her hand behind her, hoping another cat will touch her. She is still not accepted and, disappointed, slinks off into the night.
After the Jellicle Ball, the cats rest and contemplate “The Moments of Happiness” before introducing more cats. Gus the Theatre Cat is an aged stage actor who worked with the greatest actors of his day. Gus tells of his greatest theatrical triumphs and yearns to perform again.
He once played a Tiger – could do it again -
Which an Indian Colonel pursued down a drain.
And he thinks that he still can, much better than most,
Produce blood-curdling noises to bring on the Ghost.
And he once crossed the stage on a telegraph wire,
To rescue a child when a house was on fire…..
Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat introduces himself. A friendly uncle to all the cats, Skimbleshanks attends the trains he rides, and makes sure every detail is perfect:
In the watches of the night he is always fresh and bright;
Every now and then he has a cup of tea
With perhaps a drop of Scotch while he’s keeping on the watch,
Only stopping here and there to catch a flea…..
A third crash interrupts the celebration, and this time the villainous Macavity appears. Two of his henchmen invade the proceedings and kidnap Old Deuteronomy. Demeter and Bombalurina sing what they know of Macavity, whose evil deeds have resulted in his being dubbed the Napoleon of crime.
Macavity returns, disguised as Old Deuteronomy, but he is exposed and battles with Munkustrap and the other male cats. Tired and almost defeated, Macavity rigs an electrical explosion that puts out all the lights, leaving the Jellicles in the dark. But they still have to find Old Deuteronomy. The Rum Tum Tugger calls upon Mr Mistoffelees, the conjuring cat, to use his magical powers to bring back their leader. Mistoffelees succeeds in reinstating the lights, locating Old Deuteronomy and showing off his spectacular magic tricks, including his infamous conjuring turn:
And not so long ago this phenomenal Cat
Produced seven kittens right out of a hat!
And we all said: OH!
Well I never!
Did you ever
Know a Cat so clever
As magical Mr Mistoffelees!
At last the time has come for Old Deuteronomy to make the Jellicle Choice and decide which cat will be reborn into a new Jellicle life. At that moment, Grizabella reappears. Again she recalls her “Memory” of how things used to be. This time the cats accept her back into the tribe and it is she who is chosen to Journey to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn.
The Jellicle Ball has come to a conclusion, but first Old Deuteronomy instructs the human spectators in “The Addressing of Cats”:
So first, your memory I’ll jog,
And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.
A Cat’s entitled to expect
These evidences of respect.
And so in time you reach your aim,
And finally call him by his NAME…..
For all of their unique qualities and differences, he says, cats are very much like you.