Great Performances: Season 27, Episode 3

Cats (27 Oct. 1998)

TV Episode  -   -  Biography | Drama | Music
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"Jellicle" cats join for a Jellicle ball where they rejoice with their leader, Old Deuteronomy. One cat will be chosen to go to the "Heavyside Layer" and be reborn. The cats introduce themselves.



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Title: Cats (27 Oct 1998)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Elaine Paige ...
Gus the Theatrical Cat
Rosemarie Ford ...
Michael Gruber ...
John Partridge ...
Aeva May ...
Geoffrey Garratt ...
James Barron ...
Bustopher Jones
Jo Gibb ...
Drew Varley ...
Susie McKenna ...
Jennyanydots the Gumbie Cat
Jacob Brent ...
Susan Jane Tanner ...
Phyllida Crowley Smith ...


Cats is a pop-cultural phenomenon that has been performed on stage for more than 50 million patrons in 26 countries for almost 18 years, resulting in more than two billion dollars in ticket sales. Now that Cats has finally made it to the small screen, attention must be paid not just by fans of this critic-proof show, but also by those entertainment mavens who have somehow avoided it until now. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

27 October 1998 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


"CATS", a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" by T.S. Eliot, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, opened in the West End of London at the New London Theatre on 11 May1981, directed by Trevor Nunn and the associate director - staged and choreographed by Gillian Lynne; set and costume design by John Napier and lighting by David Hersey. Andrew Lloyd Webber and his long time collaborator Tim Rice had a falling out in 1977. Webber, to show Rice that he didn't need a lyricist, set Eliot's verse to his compositions, the principal exception being the most famous memorable song from the musical, "Memory" for which the lyrics are credited to director Trevor Nunn after an Eliot poem entitled "Rhapsody on a Windy Night". Also, a brief song entitled "The Moments of Happiness" was taken from a passage in Eliot's "Four Quartets". Andrew Lloyd Webber premiered the compositions at the Sydmonton Festival in 1980. The concert was attended by T.S. Eliot's wife, Valerie Eliot and she loved the song folio that Webber had composed; giving her blessing for the songs to be adapted into a stage musical play. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Macintosh needed a theatre and a venue to start production and rehearsals. Scouting venues for their production with designer John Napier they discovered a vacant television-theatre-audience stage with an existing 36' diameter turn-table; the facility and stage had been built for and used primarily for television production. The facility had offices, dressing rooms, scene dock. The building's television studio-stage had an adequate floor (daily-game-show) audience seating area with the raised stage occupying two thirds of the building's studio-stage foot-print. The audience second floor horse-shoe ring balcony was above the floor audience section. The orchestra area was nestled beneath the upper horse-shoe audience-balcony's left side. The set that John Napier designed for the theatre venue comprised an enormous mound of over-scaled scenic elements comprising automobile parts, rubber tires, architectural elements, and typical discarded household trash items. With no house curtain, the audience arrived, sitting in their seats, staring at this huge mound of JUNK piled in front of them. As the overture started, the house lights dimmed to complete total darkness, embedded in the scenic eight foot high alley trash hedge of junk, cat's eyes started blinking, through-out a scenic mountain of trash. Slowly, the turntable rotated revealing the empty central stage area; performers dressed in camp 80s punk feline fur-patched costumes crept out of the trash pile crevices, an automobile back-end trunk 'bonnet' lid lifting, felines pouncing onstage from the set's over-sized crates, barrels, pipes and card board crumpled box lids into the performance's opening: the cats gather on stage and explain the Jellicle tribe and their purpose "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats", explaining how the different cats of the tribe are named, which signals the beginning of the "Jellicle Ball"- the night they make what is known as "the Jellicle choice" and decide which cat will ascend to the heaven-side layer and come back to a new life. Due to the Eliot estate asserting that they write no script and only use the original poems as the text, the musical had no identified plot during the rehearsal process causing many actors to be confused about what they were actually doing. An unusual musical in terms of production construction, the overture incorporates a fugue; there are occasions when the music accompanies spoken verse. The musical-play is completely told through music with virtually no spoken dialogue in between the songs. Dance is the major key element in the musical especially during the opening 10-minute Jellicle Ball dance sequence. "CATS" played a total of 8,949 performances in London. The final performance was on its 21st birthday, 11 May 2002, and broadcast on a big screen in Covent Garden to the delight of fans who could not acquire a ticket for the small theatre."CATS" held the record as London's longest running musical until 8 October 2006, when it was surpassed by "Les Miserables". "CATS" has been produced and staged in twenty-six countries. See more »


During 'Old Deuteronomy', Mungojerrie can been see in the background lying in front of Rumpleteazer with his head on her lap. The film then cuts to a close up, in which Mungojerrie is now lying *behind* Rumpleteazer, propped up on one elbow. When the film goes back to a long shot, Mungojerrie is back to his original position. In some shots, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer disappear entirely. See more »


Rum Tum Tugger: You ought to ask Mr. Mistoffoles, the original conjuring cat. There can be no doubt about that. Please, listen to me and don't scoff. All his inventions are off his own bat.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the credits, when it lists additional song voices, Jemima is spelled as Jemmima. See more »


Referenced in Very Annie Mary (2001) See more »


Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by T.S. Eliot, Richard Stilgoe and Trevor Nunn
Performed by Michael Gruber, Rosemarie Ford, John Partridge,
Jacob Brent, Veerle Casteleyn, Ken Page and chorus
See more »

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User Reviews

Perhaps the most entertaining of all stage musicals, now in its filmed version.
13 January 2004 | by (Houston, Tx, USA, Earth) – See all my reviews

I have long enjoyed the musical 'Cats', both in several attendances at live productions and simply listening to the music on CD. 'Cats', the movie, was created in 1997, a full 16 years after its debut on stage. This isn't simply the taping of a stage performance. For the movie they assembled the best cast they could from among 'Cats' stage veterans. The set was designed especially for the movie, the makeup was toned down to look better in the closer perspective of the movie, especially the close-ups, a full orchestra was used, songs were recorded in a studio, and conventional movie techniques were used for the filming -- multiple angles, close-ups, cameras moving on tracks, etc. What we get is a movie that is does not have the realism of a stage production, and it is fairly obvious most times that singers are lip-syncing their own recordings, but a movie nonetheless that is a superb supplement to the live performances. The DVD has a very nice 'making-of' special, we see Andrew Lloyd Weber personally supervising the musical numbers, we see some of the makeup artistry at work, and a few before/after shots of actors and their characters.

Overall a fine DVD of a superb movie of perhaps the most entertaining stage musical of all.

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