Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

National Cat Day and the Mega-Musical that Just Won’t Go Away

cats

Fittingly, today is National Cat Day and I’m going to talk about the musical that just won’t die: Cats. Maybe I have a personal bias because I was in a terrible fourth-grade production (yes, you read that right someone thought it was a good idea to have 4th graders do Cats) of the musical, but it just seems that those tiny, green, demon eyes won’t go away.

Over the summer it was announced that Cats would be revived on the West End, complete with rap music. Well brace for impact, because it gets better. In late September, it was announced that Nicole Scherzinger, from the pop band The Pussycat Dolls, would be playing the role of Grizabella, “the glamour cat”.

My issue is not with a pop star taking on a role in a musical production. Scherzinger has a former vocal coach who was a musical director at Auburn for some time, so I know she has musical theatre training. I find this revival interesting for what it means for musical theatre. It’s a limited run (from December to February), but it’s a revival of a mega-musical with a pop star. In musical theatre history, forgive me if my nerd is showing, you have the era of what is referred to as the “mega-musical”. For “mega-musical” think anything with huge amounts of spectacle and an identifying image. Examples would be: Phantom and the mask, Cats and the cat eyes , Cosette’s face from Les Miserables, or the two witches faces from Wicked. You could be shown any of these images, with no text, and be able to identify where it originated. The era of musical theatre we are in now is a complex one. Some of these shows still run, but they run next to musicals like BeautifulCabaretIf/ThenGentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder, and On the Town. All of these shows are not mega-musicals.

Choosing to invest this much in a limited run revival of a mega-musical seems like a message to me. I view it as a testing of the waters to see just what would happen if we reentered the era.

Don’t get me wrong- there’s a magical feeling when the chandelier falls during Phantom of the Opera, but there’s also magic when Sally Bowles sings the title song of Cabaret. It appears that we are about to see which magic wins out.

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3 comments on “National Cat Day and the Mega-Musical that Just Won’t Go Away

  1. torisharbaugh
    October 31, 2014

    Wow. Simply, wow. Honestly, I am surprised that Cats is producing a revival. It was always the ongoing joke with the theater/music people at Gettysburg that Cats was the worst musical to ever exist. Obviously that is an exaggeration, but it is not to be taken with a grain of salt. Cats is not the most popular musical in the world, at least amongst the theater crowd (who usually do not like most of Andrew Lloyd Webber anyway). However, I can commend producers for endlessly presenting it on Broadway. I mean, if seats weren’t being filled, the production would not be able to run so many times.

    I’m interested to hear about the reception of this revival though, especially with rap music. Cats has an edginess to it, so I can see the rap music blending in well. The revival might be limited run because they are testing this reception.

  2. carolynsupinka18
    October 31, 2014

    Let it be known that as a child I was obsessed with Cats, because it was about cats, and I saw it twice and had the VHS set. And a poster.
    Anyway, this is really interesting! I would love to learn more about the transformation of the musical in American history. I think there are a lot more dips and trends than meets the eye. It would be interesting to create a timeline of musical theatre history, alongside trends in the economy, politics, and other art forms. There are smaller musicals like ‘The Fantasticks’ which (not that I know a lot about theatre!!!) which are huge hits and receive critical acclaim and success without fitting the current ‘big musical’ mold. I wonder how these other musicals fit into the spectrum, and, like you said, what the future will hold for big musicals. And Cats. Always Cats.

  3. cayleycarroll
    November 3, 2014

    Ok for the record I generally do not enjoy mega-musicals because they are silly, BUT I am all about a rap version of CATS. I am certain the production will be a financial disaster for the producers because generally speaking, people who love musicals don’t love rap, and people who love rap don’t love musicals. I really just don’t see those demographics colliding on a profitable scale. So, there’s that. But if I happen to be in NYC during its run, please note that I will be purchasing a ticket because I do enjoy hip hop and think this would be an excellent people watching opportunity.

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