Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

It’ll be raining Cats come December

Posted by Kimberly on August 25, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
August 25, 2007, page 18 (1,093 words)

There’s a certain Irish legend that claims, ‘a cat’s eyes are windows enabling us to see into another world.’
That world was opened the day Andrew Lloyd Webber unleashed his feline fantasy Cats, onto an unsuspecting public at the New London Theatre on May 11, 1981.
Who could have possibly predicted that a series of poems by T. S. Eliot could produce a show destined to become a legend.
Cats had the honour of being the longest running musical at both the West End and Broadway until it was surpassed in 2006 by Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera, respectively.
It still holds the title of being the longest, continuously touring show in American theatre history, playing thus far, a combined total of 16 years and two months.
And come Christmas Eve, Macau residents are invited to the Cultural Centre to watch the cast perform at a rubbish dump three times larger than life.
Many have no doubt never seen the musical but the mere mention of it would elicit some response as would the musical’s most famous song, Memory, based on Eliot’s poems ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’ and ‘Preludes’.
For those unfamiliar with its plot, Cats tells the story of the Jellicle Cats who come out to play at night.
This particular night is that of the annual Jellicle Ball, when their leader Old Deuteronomy, is expected to announce, just before dawn, the name of the cat that will be reborn to a new life in the Heavyside Layer.
While they wait, the cats amuse themselves and the audience with stories of famous cats both past and present.
Grizabella, a Jellicle Cat, is shunned by the rest of the tribe for leaving the tribe years ago to explore the outside world.
Despite wanting to return, the Glamour Cat is not accepted by the others.
Dawn breaks and Old Deuteronomy prepares to make his announcement, at which point Grizabella reappears, recalling her Memory of the way things used to be.
This time though, she is accepted by the cats and is chosen to journey to the Heavyside Layer to be reborn.
With the Ball coming to an end, Old Deuteronomy instructs the audience in The Addressing of Cats.
For all their unique qualities and differences, he says ‘cats are very much like you.’
Produced by Lloyd Webber’s The Really Useful Group (RUG), the company’s Asia Pacific subsidiary is responsible for its Macau show, with General Manager Ms Kerry Comerford providing an explanation of what the audience can expect.
“This production which we will bring to Macau began its tour in January 2007 as part of a two-year tour,” she said, adding that it will have travelled to Taiwan and South Korea by then.
“The same exciting company we will present to you here in Macau, we will be performing worldwide.
“You will see the same production you would see in the West End or Broadway,” she added.
In addition she said, the production will have the same creative team that worked on the original production with Trevor Nunn in the West End.
Principally sponsored by Wynn Macau, the resort’s President, Mr Ian Michael Coughlan stated that Wynn was “proud to support Macau’s thriving art scene by joining this artistic alliance with the Macau Cultural Centre, widely regarded as the region’s pre-eminent showcase for performing arts and culture.”
He added that, in his opinion, “this production is a reminder of Macau’s potential as a must-see destination in Asia with unique attractions and one-of-a-kind events and as an important centre for luxury travel, conferences, exhibitions and entertainment. “
Finally, he said that the resort was “committed to supporting leisure and cultural initiatives that reinforce pride in our city and keep overseas guests returning again and again.”
Also present at the press conference this week was Ms Nelma Morais Alves, Director of the Macau Cultural Centre and Mr Tam Vai Man, Chairman of IACM.
Ms Alves commented that the Centre was “honoured to be the starting leg of the coming China tour,” adding that “we do believe that our community will treasure this unique opportunity to witness first hand how diversifying and magical performing arts can be.”
Mr Tam reiterated Ms Alves’ comments about performing arts, suggesting that the musical’s arrival brings the possibility of “not only broadening the horizons of our arts citizens but also satisfying their cultural demands.
“I hope our collaboration will bring more high quality performances to Macau,” he said.
Since its opening, Cats has been presented in 26 countries, within more than 300 cities and to over 65 million people worldwide.
Lloyd Webber recalls setting T.S. Elliot’s poems to music late in 1977, as he writes on RUG’s website, “partly because it is a book I remember with affection from my childhood and partly because I wanted to set existing verse to music.”
The idea was never taken seriously by him until the performance of his composition ‘Tell Me On A Sunday’ on the BBC in the early 1980s.
He began to think along the lines of a “possible concert anthology that could also be performed on television.”
Over the course of that summer, Lloyd Webber met with T.S. Elliot’s widow Valerie and Trevor Nunn, Cats’ future Director and began the journey towards the musical’s creation and its famed Jellicle cats.
As for what that term actually means, it has been noted that Elliot’s niece used to call for her ‘dear little cat’ in such a way as to make the poet hear the words ‘Jellicle cat’.
‘Pollicle dog’ comes from her attempt to say ‘poor little dog.’
In 1998 Lloyd Webber produced Cats for a different medium: the television set. Based upon the stage performance, it starred Elaine Paige, who played the original Grizabella in London, among others of note.
Having been nominated for an astonishing eleven Tony Awards in 1983 alone, including Best Musical, and Best Original Score, it won seven of them.
It also won two Laurence Olivier awards at its inception, for Musical of the Year and Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Musicals to Gillian Lynne as choreographer.
It has been suggested by the myriad of Cats fans, that certain rules be followed during its performance to allow everyone a chance to enjoy the show, including refraining from singing out loud or dancing in the aisles.
But with four shows scheduled between December 24 and 28, at a time when Christmas cheer is in the air and mistletoe everywhere, it’s hard to imagine getting annoyed if a patron pays homage to Andrew Lloyd.

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