Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, the second longest-running Broadway musical (only surpassed by Lloyd Webber’s own “The Phantom of the Opera”), and fourth longest-running West End musical, returns in high definition and digital sound to Great Performances where it had its 1998 world television premiere. The special encore presentation will air Friday, November 21 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings) as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival.
Produced under the personal supervision of Lloyd Webber, the production – winner of Best Musical in both Broadway’s Tony Awards and London’s Olivier Awards –was restaged for video and recorded with a specially augmented 76-piece orchestra. It was filmed at London’s Adelphi Theatre in August 1997, and headlines original London star Elaine Paige as Grizabella the Glamour Cat, the late SirJohn Mills as Gus the Theatre Cat, and original Broadway star Ken Page as Old Deuteronomy.
Lloyd Webber remarked at the time, “There were not many changes made to the show itself for the timing. We’ve been able to keep very close to the spirit of the stage show and that’s been the intention from the beginning. Of course, being close up with cameras we are able to tell the story a little clearer, a little better…Additionally, we had taken the position very deliberately in the filming ofCats not to have an audience, because we want people to come into the world of Cats and then lose themselves in it.”
A new production of Cats – with original director Sir Trevor Nunn, choreographer Gillian Lynne, and designer John Napier again heading the creative team — is set to open at the London Palladium in December.
Composer Lloyd Webber has become a household name through a succession of tremendously popular musicals including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “Sunset Boulevard.” Other works include “The Beautiful Game,” “Whistle Down the Wind,” “Love Never Dies,” and “Stephen Ward.”
Elaine Paige, star of Broadway and the West End, and host of her own TV and radio series in the U.K., created the role of Grizabella when the original production opening in London’s West End on May 11, 1981. She replaced Judi Dench, who was injured during rehearsals, and introduced the show’s signature song, “Memory,” one of the most recorded songs of all time. With John Napier’s eye-popping junkyard design and David Hersey’s striking lighting, it was the ultimate sonic and visual theatrical experience in its day, and set the standard for blockbusters like “Les Miserables,” “Miss Saigon,” and “The Lion King.”
Based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by Nobel Prize-winning American poet T.S. Eliot,Cats has been performed around the world many times and has spawned numerous cast albums.
A production of Universal Pictures International Entertainment, Cats is a presentation of Really Useful Films, and was produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and directed by David Mallet. Executive Producer: Gary Lucchesi. Gillian Lynne returns as musical stager and choreographer, with John Napier again as designer.
Alonzo: Jason Gardiner
Asparagus: Tony Timberlake
Bombalurina: Rosemarie Ford
Bustopher Jones: James Barron
Cassandra: Rebecca Parker
Coricopat: Tommi Sliiden
Demeter: Aeva May
Electra: Leah Sue Morland
Etcetera: Jo Bingham
Exotica: Femi Taylor
Grizabella: Elaine Paige
Gus the Theatre Cat: Sir John Mills
Jellylorum: Susan Jane Tanner
Jemima: Veerle Casteleyn
Jemima (Jr.): Helen Massey
Jennyanydots: Suzie McKenna
Macavity / Plato: Bryn Walters
Mungojerrie: Drew Varley
Mungojerrie (Jr.) (“James”): Paul Baker
Munkustrap: Michael Gruber
Old Deuteronomy: Ken Page
Pouncival: Karl Morgan
Quaxo/Mr. Mistoffelees: Jacob Brent
Rum Tum Tugger / Admtus: John Partridge
Rumpleteazer: Jo Gibb
Rumpleteazer (Jr.): Vicky Coote
Rumpus Cat / Admetus: Frank Thompson
Skimbleshanks: Geoffrey Garratt
Skimbleshanks (Jr.): David Arneil
Tantomile: Kaye Brown
Tumblebrutus: Fergus Logan
Victoria (White Cat): Phyllida Crowley Smith
Great Performances is produced by THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.
Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, The Agnes Varis Trust, The LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, The Starr Foundation, Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, and PBS.