We are supported by the entire team at Atlas Games, including, especially, Michelle Nephew, the co-owner of the company who, along with her wonderful children, discovered the joys of Magical Kitties at Con of the North all those years ago. Our grateful thanks, too, for all of the friends, fans, and playtesters who’ve also done so much to make this edition of Magical Kitties Save the Day a reality.
The musical was scheduled to open on 30 April 1981, with previews starting on 22 April. Shortly before tickets went on sale in mid-February, Nunn revealed to the alarmed producers that he was struggling to write the script for the musical. Despite still having no established book or score, rehearsals began on 9 March 1981 in a church hall in Chiswick, London. The original music director, Chris Walker, became so frustrated with the unfinished score that he quit by lunchtime and was replaced by the film conductor Harry Rabinowitz. The situation improved later that day when Lloyd Webber, Mackintosh and Nunn met with Stilgoe, a musician known for his ability to improvise lyrics on the spot, in hopes that Stilgoe could write an opening song for the musical. By the next evening, Stilgoe had produced a draft for "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats". However, "Memory", an 11 o'clock number for Grizabella that Nunn insisted the show needed as its "emotional centre", still had no lyrics at this point. Lloyd Webber's former writing partner Tim Rice was brought in to write a lyric for the song, but his version was rejected by Nunn for being too depressing. The lyrics for "Memory" were not completed by Nunn until well into the previews.
Cats premiered in the West End at the New London Theatre on 11 May 1981. The musical was produced by Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, with direction by Nunn, choreography by Lynne (who also served as the associate director), set and costume design by Napier, lighting design by David Hersey, sound design by Abe Jacob and music direction by Harry Rabinowitz. It played a total of 8,949 performances before closing on its 21st anniversary, 11 May 2002. The final performance was broadcast live on a large outdoor screen in Covent Garden for fans who could not acquire a ticket. Cats held the record as London's longest-running musical from 1989, when it surpassed Jesus Christ Superstar, until 8 October 2006, when it was surpassed by Les Misérables.
Lloyd Webber began composing the songs in late 1977 as a songwriting exercise, partly because Eliot's book had been a childhood favourite and partly to see if he could write music to predetermined lyrics. The compositions were performed privately for friends but Lloyd Webber had no further intentions for them at the time. After his song cycle Tell Me on a Sunday was televised by the BBC in early 1980, Lloyd Webber began to consider using his musicalizations of Eliot's poems in the same vein for a televised concert anthology. He approached producer Cameron Mackintosh to discuss possible avenues for the songs.
Cats is considered the quintessential megamusical, because it reconceived, like no other show before, theatrical space as an immense affective encompasser, that transforms the viewing experience into a hypercharged thrill-ride and the spectator into an explorer of new and challenging aural and visual sensations. Its unprecedented success paved the way for even bolder hyperspatial configurations, made the set designer a proper environment builder and raised light and sound design into the status of art in their own right. It also paved the way for the constant revolutionization of stage technology.
Preformed vitamin A is required in the cat for retinal and reproductive health. Vitamin A is considered to be a fat-soluble vitamin and is seen as essential in a cat's diet. Normally, the conversion of beta-carotenes into vitamin A occurs in the intestine (more specifically the mucosal layer) of species, however cats lack the ability to undergo this process. Both the kidney and liver are contributors to the use of vitamin A in the body of the majority of species while the cats liver does not produce the enzyme Beta-carotene 15,15'-monooxygenase which converts the beta-carotene into retinol (vitamin A). To summarize: cats do not have high levels of this enzyme leading to the cleavage and oxidation of carotenoids not taking place.
Practical Cats, as the show was then called, was first presented as a song cycle at the 1980 summer Sydmonton Festival. The concert was performed by Gemma Craven, Gary Bond and Paul Nicholas. Eliot's widow and literary executor, Valerie, was in attendance and brought along various unpublished cat-themed poems by Eliot. One of these was "Grizabella the Glamour Cat" which, although rejected from Eliot's book for being "too sad for children", gave Lloyd Webber the idea for a full-blown musical. He explained:
Cats conserve energy by sleeping more than most animals, especially as they grow older. The daily duration of sleep varies, usually between 12 and 16 hours, with 13 and 14 being the average. Some cats can sleep as much as 20 hours. The term "cat nap" for a short rest refers to the cat's tendency to fall asleep (lightly) for a brief period. While asleep, cats experience short periods of rapid eye movement sleep often accompanied by muscle twitches, which suggests they are dreaming.
To aid with navigation and sensation, cats have dozens of movable whiskers (vibrissae) over their body, especially their faces. These provide information on the width of gaps and on the location of objects in the dark, both by touching objects directly and by sensing air currents; they also trigger protective blink reflexes to protect the eyes from damage.:47
The original London production received mostly rave reviews, with critics hailing it as a watershed moment in British musical theatre. Michael Billington of The Guardian lauded Cats as "an exhilarating piece of total theatre". Billington praised the show's "strong framework" and the ease in which the poems were integrated. He was also very impressed by Lloyd Webber's fitting compositions, Napier's environmental set, Lynne's effective and at times brilliant choreography, and Nunn's "dazzling staging" that makes use of the entire auditorium. The show received similarly glowing reviews from The Sunday Times' Derek Jewell and The Stage's Peter Hepple. Jewell proclaimed it to be "among the most exhilarating and innovative musicals ever staged", while Hepple declared that with Cats, "the British musical has taken a giant leap forward, surpassing in ingenuity and invention anything Broadway has sent us".
Spanish and Portuguese-language productions of Cats have been staged in South America, with productions in Argentina in 1993 (with Olivia Bucio as Grizabella), in Chile in 2006 (at the Arena Santiago) and 2014, in Colombia in 2009, and in Brazil in 2010 (with Paula Lima as Grizabella). Other countries that the musical has been performed in include South Africa (2001–2002), Lebanon (2002), Qatar (2003, 2017), Turkey (2013), Israel (2014), and the United Arab Emirates (2017).
Cats, like all mammals, need to get linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid, from their diet. Most mammals can convert linoleic acid to arachidonic acid, as well as the omega 3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) through the activity of enzymes, but this process is very limited in cats. The Δ6-desaturase enzyme eventually converts linoleic acid, which is in its salt form linoleate, to arachidonate (salt form of arachidonic acid) in the liver, but this enzyme has very little activity in cats. This means that arachidonic acid is an essential fatty acid for cats as they lack the ability to create required amounts of linoleic acid. Deficiency of arachidonic acid in cats is related to problems in growth, can cause injury and inflammation to skin (e.g. around the mouth) decreased platelet aggregation, fatty liver, increase in birth defects of kittens whose queens were deficient during pregnancy, and reproductive failure in queens. Arachidonic acid can also be metabolized to eicosanoids that create inflammatory responses which are needed to stimulate proper growth and repair mechanisms in the cat.
Then, as Rum Tum Tugger's song fades, a shabby old grey cat stumbles out wanting to be reconciled; it is Grizabella. All the cats back away from her in fear and disgust and explain her unfortunate state ("Grizabella: The Glamour Cat"). Grizabella leaves and the music changes to a cheerful upbeat number as Bustopher Jones, a fat cat in "a coat of fastidious black", is brought to the stage ("Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town"). Bustopher Jones is among the elite of the cats, and visits prestigious gentlemen's clubs. Suddenly, a loud crash startles the tribe and the cats run offstage in fright. Hushed giggling sounds signal the entrance of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, a pair of near-identical cats. They are mischievous petty burglars who enjoy causing trouble around their human neighbourhood ("Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer"). After they finish, they are caught off-guard and confronted by the rest of the cats.