Having opened over two decades ago on London’s West End, CATS is the longest running musical in history. The show is based on T.S. Elliot’s anthology of feline poetry -Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Andrew Lloyd Webber set these poems to music and what resulted was a range of stories about different cats performed in various musical styles. Each of these individual tales or components in CATS is filled with insightful social observations, regularly evident in Elliot’s poetry, and in this musical the themes of intolerance, acceptance, society, growing old and ‘life after death’ are dominant. Because of the unusual structure of CATS (different components which allow the individual cats to show off their various talents) some believe that it is not a very well crafted musical and that it lacks a story line throughout the piece as a whole. Others believe that CATS as a whole is bigger than each of its individual components, emphasized by its need for a lively and energetic ensemble and its intensely demanding attention to detail and physicality.
Gillian Lynne’s groundbreaking and dynamic choreography if resurrected in the primitive movements of the cat still works more than 20 years later. The tunes also remain as hummable as ever, with numerous artists having covered the show’s hit song Memory. Although Cats is primarily a dance show, Trevor Nunn’s direction cleverly underscores Elliot’s social commentary, and David Hersey’s lighting design brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the CATS ‘rubbish dump set’ around which all the action is centered.
The South African Production of CATS opens in Cape Town at the Artscape Theatre complex before moving on to the Pretoria State Theatre. This production is spear-headed by Jo-Anne Robinson, whose task it is to recreate Trevor Nunn's original direction and Gillian Lynne’s choreography. The Musical Supervisor is Fiz Shapur. This company will then move on to tours in Lebanon, Taiwan, Malaysia and Scandinavia.