Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
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 Beautiful, Cabaret, If/Then, Gentlemen’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.