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Great Performances | Cats

Posted by WMHT Web Editor on

Clip: The Rum Tum Tugger The Rum Tum Tugger struts his stuff with the cast of Cats.

Watch Friday, November 21, 2014 at 9pm on WMHT TV.

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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, the second longest-running Broadway musical (only surpassed by Lloyd Webber’s own 'The Phantom of the Opera'), and fourth longest-running West End musical, returns in high definition and digital sound to Great Performances where it had its 1998 world television premiere. The special encore presentation airs as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival.

Produced under the personal supervision of Lloyd Webber, the production – winner of Best Musical in both Broadway’s Tony Awards and London’s Olivier Awards --was restaged for video and recorded with a specially augmented 76-piece orchestra. It was filmed at London’s Adelphi Theatre in August 1997, and headlines original London star Elaine Paige as Grizabella the Glamour Cat, the late SirJohn Mills as Gus the Theatre Cat, and original Broadway star Ken Page as Old Deuteronomy.

Lloyd Webber remarked at the time, “There were not many changes made to the show itself for the timing. We’ve been able to keep very close to the spirit of the stage show and that’s been the intention from the beginning. Of course, being close up with cameras we are able to tell the story a little clearer, a little better…Additionally, we had taken the position very deliberately in the filming of Cats not to have an audience, because we want people to come into the world of Cats and then lose themselves in it.”

A new production of Cats – with original director Sir Trevor Nunn, choreographer Gillian Lynne, and designer John Napier again heading the creative team -- is set to open at the London Palladium in December 2014.

Composer Lloyd Webber has become a household name through a succession of tremendously popular musicals including 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,' 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' 'Evita,' 'Phantom of the Opera,' and 'Sunset Boulevard.' Other works include 'The Beautiful Game,' 'Whistle Down the Wind,' 'Love Never Dies,' and 'Stephen Ward.'

Elaine Paige, star of Broadway and the West End, and host of her own TV and radio series in the U.K., created the role of Grizabella when the original production opening in London’s West End on May 11, 1981. She replaced Judi Dench, who was injured during rehearsals, and introduced the show’s signature song, “Memory,” one of the most recorded songs of all time. With John Napier’s eye-popping junkyard design and David Hersey’s striking lighting, it was the ultimate sonic and visual theatrical experience in its day, and set the standard for blockbusters like 'Les Miserables,' 'Miss Saigon,' and 'The Lion King.'

Based on 'Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats' by Nobel Prize-winning American poet T.S. Eliot, Cats has been performed around the world many times and has spawned numerous cast albums.