Cats set to prowl in Norwich

Rachel Buller Despite entertaining packed theatres for more than a quarter of a century, the popularity of hit musical Cats shows no signs of abating. Next week, it returns to the stage in Norwich for three weeks.

Rachel Buller

Despite entertaining packed theatres for more than a quarter of a century, the popularity of hit musical Cats shows no signs of abating.

Next week, it returns to the stage in Norwich for a three week spell and if its last run is anything to go by then tickets will be in hot demand.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation of the T S Eliot's 'Old Possum's Book for Practical Cats' first hit the stage at the New London Theatre on May 11 1981 leaving both the audience and the critics spellbound.

It was the start of an incredible run for the all singing all dancing extravaganza which tells the story of the night when the Jellicle Cats meet for the Jellicle Ball. It has been performed all over the world and has broken countless records and scooped numerous awards along the way,

For those who performed in the original production, it was to prove a real leap into stardom, with many of the cast going on to become household names - including Wayne Sleep, Paul Nicholas, Elaine Page, Sarah Brightman and Bonnie Langford.

Most Read

The original West End show was produced onstage by Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'The Really Useful Theatre Company' and was directed by Trevor Nunn. During its run in London it played an incredible 8949 performances before finally closing in 2002.

Even today it is still considered one of the ultimate shows for dancers to perform in due to its demanding choreography and punishing routines.

This weekend, a team of 13 technicians at Norwich Theatre Royal will begin the long task of preparing the stage for the show, working flat out for three days to make sure everything is ready for the curtain raiser on Tuesday.

John Bultitude, the Theatre Royal press officer, said: “It is a very challenging production and means a lot of hard work for our teams backstage and front-of-house but it does give audiences in East Anglia the chance to experience a legendary musical phenomenon.

“Cats has enchanted audiences in over 300 cities around the world and we are delighted to welcome it back to Norwich.”

He said the demand for tickets had been enormous showing the incredible popularity of the musical, and that there were only a limited number of seats left, with the best chance of getting a ticket coming in the second two weeks of the run.

TOP FACTS

t Since its opening in London in 1981, Cats has been presented in over twenty countries and in about two hundred and fifty cities, including such diverse destinations as Buenos Aires, Seoul, Helsinki and Singapore . Within two and half years of the London opening there were productions in New York, Tokyo, Budapest and Vienna as well as US touring productions on the road.

t Eight years after opening it celebrated it's first important milestone: after 3358 performances, Cats became the longest running musical in the history of the British theatre - a record it held until 2006 when it was surpassed by Les Misérables.

t Cats closed in London in 2002, the same year it celebrated its 21st birthday.

t In April 1999 the gross box office for the London production was more than £115,363,000.

t CATS opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on October 7, 1982, and continued to live up to its motto of playing “Now and Forever” until September 10 2000. On 19 June 1997 the show became the longest running musical on Broadway until January 9 2006, when that record was taken by The Phantom of the Opera.

t On October 1, 1991, CATS became the longest, continuously touring show in American theatre history. The CATS four US tours have thus far played a combined total of sixteen years and two months.

t Cats has been translated into ten languages: Japanese, German, (three versions for Germany , Austria and Switzerland ), Hungarian, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, French, Spanish (two versions for Mexico and Argentina ) and Italian. The Swiss production required a bilingual cast who performed in German and English on alternate nights.

t Despite its international appeal, the title of the show has rarely been translated - the Mexican producers did a survey as to whether the Mexican audience would like their production to be called Gatos - the response in favour of keeping the English original was unanimous.

t “Memory” has been recorded by more than 150 artists ranging from Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis to Liberace. Barry Manilow's rendition was a Top 40 hit in the USA.

t A techno/dance version by European singer Natalie Grant topped the European dance charts in 1999.

t The Original London Cast Recording of CATS won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Cast Album . The next year the Original Broadway Cast Recording won the same award.

t A specially filmed production of Cats featuring Sir John Mills and Elaine Page was released by Really Useful Films in 1998 which is available on video and DVD.

t The show has not only been presented in theatres, but also in tents in Japan and Korea, an engine shed in Switzerland and school gyms across America.

t Among the awards it has won are: the 1981 Laurence Olivier award for Musical of the Year; the Evening Standard award for Best Musical; seven Tony awards including Best Musical, the much-coveted Molière Prize for Best Musical in France; seven Dora Mavor Moore awards including Best Musical in Canada; and seven awards in Japan.

t Cats runs from April 1 to April 19 at Norwich Theatre Royal. For information about tickets, see www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.