Memory Lives Again

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Pat Cerasaro

One of the most unlikely inspirations for a musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1981 CATS derives from T.S. Eliot's classic children's collection OLD POSSUM'S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS. Premiering in the West End in 1981 before making its Broadway bow soon thereafter, theatre enthusiasts could never have predicted the gargantuan success that the eclectic and unusual stage piece would enjoy during its tumultuous and troublesome developmental period. Among the many bumps in the road, Lloyd Webber and producer Cameron Mackintosh scrambled to finance the expensive enterprise while also losing their leading lady when Judi Dench injured herself during rehearsals, to be replaced at the eleventh hour by Lloyd Webber's EVITA headliner Elaine Paige, who would go on to sing the sole original lyric selection in the guise of breakout hit "Memory".

Despite the nerve-wracking rehearsal and preview period, CATS emerged as an almost immediate hit, eventually taking home the Olivier Award for Best Musical and seven Tony Awards for its Broadway iteration, including the top prize. Running nearly 9,000 performances in the West End and racking up a 15-year run on the Great White Way, CATS is one of the most lucrative and ubiquitous musicals in history. Now, it is being re-imagined for a new generation in a feature film version to be released next December, showcasing a plethora of major players from Broadway, Hollywood and beyond.

Helmed by Academy Award-winning LES MISERABLES director Tom Hooper, CATS on the silver screen will feature Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson in the role of Grizabella, along with Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Judi Dench, James Corden, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, Idris Elba, Jason Derulo, Steven McRae and Francesca Hayward essaying the beloved roles of Grizabella, Macavity, Rum Tum Tugger, Old Deuteronomy, Skimbleshanks, Jennyanydots, Old Deuteronomy, Gus and the rest. BILLY ELLIOT's Lee Hall adapts the Eliot text of the stage version, while Lloyd Webber will be penning new musical material, including a brand new song for the character of Victoria. Filming is set to begin this month, with a December 20, 2019 release date already confirmed by the studio.

Wowing crowds around the world and winning the hearts of countless theatergoers for more than three decades, CATS appears destined to rekindle old memories and create fresh ones when it leaps onscreen next year when the Jellicle Ball begins again.