I can't believe it's show week! Opening night is this Thursday, October 4th. Both that performance and the next one on Saturday, October 6th, are sold out. We have been in full costume and makeup rehearsals since Sunday, which puts a whole new spin on doing the show. Imagine you've been rehearsing in sweats or yoga attire, and now all of a sudden you have to dance in a tail. I'm just sayin'.
I have two different "looks" for the show: my character, Grizabella, as a young cat, and then the old, sad, beat-down, haggard version of Griz.
This is young Grizabella.
I'm wearing a unitard with a tail and various other cat-like additions. I wear this for the opening number and the follow-up "Naming of Cats."
Then, when I reappear on stage, I have become Old Grizabella.
"Completely freaking me out. Seriously, I'm gonna have nightmares."
Ah... so nice to inspire fear into the heart of my child.
SPOILER ALERT! I'm about to give a brief synopsis of the musical. So if you don't want to know or understand the storyline before you see it, then stop reading now. (This is a warning for my handsome husband. He said he didn't want to hear or read anything about it until after he watched it the first time.)
The show is based on T.S Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, set to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Eliot's work is poetry, with each character having his or her own poem, or in the case of the show, his or her own song. The show begins by introducing you to this particular "tribe" of cats, called the Jellicle Cats, and then goes on to The Naming of Cats, which explains that cats have three different names. Here are a few pieces of that song, which is spoken in unison by all of the cats together.
First of all there's the name that the family use daily
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James...
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter,
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar and more dignified.
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular
Or spread out his whiskers or cherish his pride...
But above and beyond there's still one name left over
And that is the name you never will guess.
The name that no human research can discover
But the cat himself knows and will never confess.
When The Naming of Cats is concluded then individual cats are introduced and their stories told. When the leader of the tribe, Old Deuteronomy, is introduced, he explains that the cats all come together once a year for him to choose which of them will be given the opportunity to "go to the Heavyside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life." I guess based on the saying that cats have nine lives, Eliot created this cat heaven where they can go to be reborn to a new, better life. Many commentaries have been written on CATS, and one I read said that when each cat is introduced in song, he is actually explaining why he should be the one chosen. Most of the stories/songs are happy ones, with the whole tribe affectionately supporting and cheering for each character introduced.
But that's when my character comes in. Grizabella the Glamour Cat left the tribe years ago to explore the outside world, but now wants to return home. She has lived a very difficult, isolated life, one that was not at all what she envisioned, void of any love, gentleness, touch or understanding. The other cats shun and ridicule her, not only because of her abandonment, but also because of her disheveled and withered appearance, no more the proud, carefree, beautiful dancer of her youth. She is embarrassed to learn that they already know where she's been and the kind of life she's led.
She haunted many a low resort
Near the grimy road of Tottenham Court
She flitted about the No-Man's Land
From The Rising Sun to The Friend at Hand (note - the Rising Sun and Friend at Hand are actual pubs in England)And the postman sighed as he scratched his head,
"You really had thought she ought to be dead
And who would ever suppose that that
Was Grizabella the Glamour Cat!"
After several attempts to gain their acceptance, Grizabella humbles herself and gives one last emotional appeal through the song "Memory." The tribe, seeing how much she is suffering, finally accept her and Deuteronomy chooses her as the cat who is to be reborn.
Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale, cold smell of morning.
A streetlamp dies, another night is over
Another day is dawning.
Touch me, it's so easy to leave me
All alone in the memory of my days in the sun.
If you touch me, you'll understand what happiness is.
Look, a new day has begun.
Some interesting background... T.S Eliot did not include Grizabella in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, although he originally intended to. Eliot thought the poem written about Griz, "Rhapsody on a Windy Night," was too sad for children to read, so he didn't include it in the finished work. After his death, however, his widow, Valerie Eliot, brought the poem to Andrew Lloyd Webber as he was working on the musical version, and thus became the addition of Grizabella as the main strand to the plot of the show.
When Andrew Lloyd Webber was asked by a reporter years ago what the show was about he simply replied, "What is it about? It's about cats!"
But it's really about so much more than that. It's about redemption and forgiveness. It's about the importance of having a home and a place where you are accepted, flaws and all. And it's about the need for and the power of a touch.
So there ya go! On with the show!!!