Cats (musical)

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Name: Cats
Creator: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Date(s): 1981 (West End), 1998 (TV film), 2019 (feature film)
Medium: musical theater
Country of Origin: England
External Links: Wikipedia
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Cats is an extremely popular Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. For better or worse, it is one of the first megamusical productions and is considered a staple of the musical theatre repertoire, having been produced in over 30 countries and 15 languages.[1] The original West End production ran for 21 years[2] and the original Broadway production ran for 18 years[3] so it's a very long-standing fandom within musical theatre.

Since those productions, Cats has been parodied in pop culture, produced by many smaller local theater companies, revived for new productions, and toured several countries.

While some fans have been introduced to the show by seeing it live in its many years on Broadway or the West End, Cats is interesting in that many members of the fandom were introduced to the show through the 1998 filmed version or the 2019 movie, making it a rare musical fandom that was formed around a proshot and not fans trading various bootlegs, although those do exist. Perhaps as a result, Cats is a very cosplay-heavy fandom due to the very distinctive and consistent costuming from production to production, but other types of fanworks such as fanfic and fanart also exist.


At its core, Cats is a bunch of T.S. Eliot poems set to music with very little original lyrical content. The two major songs that were written for the show are the opening number, which was based on the unpublished "Pollicle Dogs and Jellicle Cats" poem, and the show's most famous song, Memory, which was based on the T.S. Eliot poem "Rhapsody on a Windy Night." It was originally conceived of as a song cycle, but quickly became a full musical that premiered on the West End in May 1981. It was not particularly well-received in previews, with Andrew Lloyd Webber recalling:

Everybody in the West End thought we were completely and utterly crazy. The moment that Cats came on stage could have been one of the most ridiculed moments in the history of theatre.[4]

The show was a huge success, however, and is one of the longest running shows in both West End and Broadway history. In 2016, it was announced that Tom Hooper (known for directing the 2012 Les Miserables movie) would be directing a Cats movie.[5] The movie, which was released in December 2019[6] and featured Taylor Swift among others, received mostly negative reviews. [7]


Like many musical fandoms, canon in Cats is a slightly fluid concept. There can be significant changes between stagings of a show resulting in fans having a different perception of it depending on what version they're most familiar with. Because Cats is such a long-standing fandom, this can cause some fans to mark certain differences in production as merely "fanon" or "not really canon."

As far as the familiar relationships go- this seems to be a bit of a sticking point for certain people. Some Jellicles can be viewed as either mates or siblings; others can be parents and children, etc. I believe nothing is set in stone in canon, and there's enough wiggle room for everyone's own interpretation. I've chosen my own interpretations; I don't mean to step on anyone else's opinions, I've really just gone with whatever seemed simpler, story-wise.

- Delphicoracle-Cat in an author's note[8]

The 1998 Adelphi Theatre filming of Cats, which most fans are familiar with, cuts the song Growltiger's Last Stand and changed or altered many lyrics[9] while the 2019 film introduced a canonical ship between Mr. Mistoffelees and Victoria[10], as well as cutting Of The Awefull Battle of The Pekes And The Pollicles. It also kept the 1998 cut of Growltiger's Last Stand but confusingly also introduced Growltiger as a character in Macavity's gang of rogues. As one might guess from that change, the movie also altered or removed many of the long-standing interactions between ensemble cats, such as making Bombalurina a villain instead of the lead female role to accommodate Taylor Swift playing her.[11]

Additionally, the names and inclusion of various ensemble cats can vary from production to production making who appears in any given fic up to the writer, rather than canon. Bill Bailey was a character from the original West End production that was later renamed Tumblebrutus for the Broadway production and then even later used as the ensemble name for Rum Tum Tugger in the 2016 Broadway revival. Multiple cats other than Bill Bailey/Tumblebrutus have been given different names in various productions while fulfilling the same role and having similar costumes, such as Jemima/Sillabub, Carbucketty/Pouncival, and Admetus/Plato, resulting in a situation where many fans have a clashing view of what is "canon" even though all of these things are, at times, "canon."

The 1998 filmed version includes a character named Exotica who was created specifically as a cameo for Femi Taylor, the actress who originated the role of Tantomile in the original West End production.[note 1] There are also regional variants of the ensemble cats, with the Japanese Shiki Theatre Company production possibly being the most different from any other version. It features specifically redesigned costumes, Gilbert, a character that's unique to the Japanese production, and the change from Rumpus Cat being a relatively minor character to an ensemble character.[12]


Headcanons and Ships

Due to the differing "canon" of each production and the fact that very few character relationships are stated in the text, headcanons for each character vary wildly. Some more popular headcanons include Munkustrap, Macavity, and The Rum Tum Tugger all being brothers, and Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer being twins. Popular ships include Tuggoffelees, a slash pairing between Mr. Mistoffelees and The Rum Tum Tugger, Demestrap a het pairing between Munkustrap and Demeter, and Demelurina a femslash pairing between Bombalurina and Demeter. [13][14][15]


While the show has a fandom of its own, it is notable for being a case such as Shrek where memes are sometimes more prevalent than sincere fannish content. Cats is not necessarily a well-loved musical by the larger musical theatre fandom[16] so many people meme on it as a result. In particular, people often joke about Cats not having a particularly complex plot or much of a plot at all:

If you're unfamiliar, here's a synopsis of CATS

-We're cats
-Cats cats cats, that's us
-This one's lazy
-This one FUCKS
-One's a fallen woman??
-Fat one
-Old one
-Evil cat who also FUCKS
-This one likes trains
-A wizard cat!
-Slut cat sings so good she dies, but it's cool


- @TheAliciaKraft on Twitter

so powerful the way that most of the plot of Cats is the cats introducing themselves

- @ayoedebiri on Twitter

Example Fanworks





Links & Resources

Notes and References


  1. ^ This fact appears in several official biographies for her, but actual sources are hard to find.


  1. ^ US Cats The Musical Tour Website. Accessed 30 Sept 2019.
  2. ^ List of the longest-running West End shows on Wikipedia. Accessed 30 Sept 2019.
  3. ^ List of the longest-running Broadway shows on Wikipedia. Accessed 30 Sept 2019.
  4. ^ 'They told me I was crazy': Andrew Lloyd Webber on Cats. Posted 10 Dec 2014. Accessed 6 Mar 2023.
  5. ^ Tom Hooper to milk Cats musical for movie version. Posted 6 May 2016. Accessed 30 Sept 2019.
  6. ^ 'Cats' Movie Adaptation Sets December 2019 Release Date. Posted 31 Aug 2019. Accessed 20 Sept 2019.
  7. ^ Review Roundup: CATS Hits The Big Screen - See What The Critics Are Saying!. Posted 18 Dec 2019. Accessed 28 March 2020.
  8. ^ Mysterious Ways. Posted 21 May 2011. Accessed 7 Mar 2023. Archive Link.
  9. ^ COVER STORY; Broadway's 'Cats': Restaged for Eternity (And We Thought They Were Kidding!). Posted 1 Nov 1998. Accessed 30 Sept 2019.
  10. ^ CATS - Official Trailer [HD]. Posted 18 July 2019. Accessed 30 Sept 2019.
  11. ^ Macavity (Taylor Swift) | Cats 2019 | TUNE. Posted 1 Sept 2021. Accessed 6 Mar 2023.
  12. ^ Cats Is Still Big, Weird, and Furry in Japan. Posted 30 July 2019. Accessed 30 Sept 2019.
  13. ^ Mr. Mistoffelees/Rum Tum Tugger tag on the Archive of Our Own
  14. ^ Demeter/Munkustrap tag on the Archive of Our Own
  15. ^ Bombalurina/Demeter tag on the Archive of Our Own
  16. ^ Tumblr Post. Posted 15 Feb 2023. Accessed 6 Mar 2023.