Who let the cats out? – CATS, the musical

CATS premiered in 1981 at the New London Theatre. Since its debut, it has been seen by more than 73 million people and won various awards including Grammy Awards. Madách Theatre has its own production of CATS: thanks to the smart translation of József Romhányi, Hungarians can enjoy the musical since 1983 – just two years after its premiere in London.

Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical relies on the power of song and choreography heavily: the audience witnesses a wide spectrum of emotions displayed, ranging from pathological loneliness (and the sadness it results in) to lighthearted, pure joy. Dance styles vary on stage accordingly: tense scenes call for elegant, rule-bound ballet steps, but a sudden shift in mood switches the atmosphere, inviting lively tap dancers along.

The lyrics originates from T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a collection of light verse written for his godchildren – an interesting contrast compared to his earlier modernist poems, such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. His unique style of personification persists, however: an author who can breathe life into something as inanimate as fog easily turns cats into human-like characters with vices and virtues very similar to ours.

While some argue that CATS does not have a plot, merely introductions of different characters for entertainment value, others claim that the moral of the musical is acceptance – an important message for cats and humans alike.

Despite its remarkable success, CATS isn’t for everyone: usually, people are most drawn to the story and appreciate music, choreography, costumes and stage design as supplementary elements of a show. Here, the order is the opposite. It’s different, just like all the singing cats who come to accept and appreciate each other in the end, and in my opinion, it is definitely worth a try.