At the young, sweet, annoying age of seven I went to see my first ever musical in the West End. Cats! It was magical, mysterious, and made me dream of being a dancer. John Partridge played the Rum Tum Tugger in my performance and was absolutely incredible. Because of Partidge, the Rum Tum Tugger became my favourite musical theatre character, and no one has ever managed to surpass him since. I was also lucky enough to see Elaine Paige star as Grizabella the glamour cat. But what made Cats particularly special to me was T.S Eliot’s presence in the musical. Before I was even aware of Webber’s creation, my dad would read me poems from Eliot’s book: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I was read a poem each and every night before I went to sleep. So to see the poems come alive through theatre was an absolutely incredible experience, especially at the small age of seven.
As an observant little girl I noticed that the set referenced Eliot by putting his name on a registration plate attached to a car. I was pleased to see his name credited because there are an awful lot of people out there who don’t understand Eliot’s importance for the existence of Webber’s musical.
Since the age of seven, I have periodically watched the DVD version of Cats. It is a musical never to be forgotten. So when I heard Cats was coming back to the West End I just had to buy tickets in order to relive the magical moments of childhood.
My dreams were shattered!
Of course the musical was still incredible. But it was not as incredible as it once was. Maybe I’m just getting old and don’t like change but I refuse to believe that. I am a theatre fanatic and having performed professionally myself, I like to think I know what I am talking about.
The first error was that Andrew Lloyd Webber made no reference to T.S Eliot. The talented poet who helped to make Lloyd Webber famous was given no obvious credit. As a lifelong Eliot fan, I was pretty distraught.
But the thing that made me want to cry and go into mourning was Webber’s decision to KILL the RUM TUM TUGGER. The once sexy, jazzy, charismatic cat, had been replaced by a rapping creature with poor singing ability and very little stage presence. T.S Eliot must be turning in his grave; I turned in my grave and I’m not even dead yet.
Yes Cats was still amazing but I don’t think I can ever watch that rapping version again. Imagine the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera rapping to Christine to declare his love. Wouldn’t work, would it? In fact it would be utterly ridiculous and moronic.
Mr Webber, please stop trying to be ‘down with the kids’. You’re too good for that.