I never knew much about the musical Cats. I remember how it took Broadway by storm when I was a little kid and soon enough the Boston and Providence theater scenes each welcomed various Cats productions. As a kid, it seemed strange to me, but so did all musicals. As I grew up, I came to enjoy Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Phantom of the Opera. Cats always remained a mystery and when it bade farewell to Broadway a few years ago, I figured it was all for the best. Fast forward to January of this year and Swedish Girl informed me that she bought tickets to see Cats. It’s in Boston for just one week on its 25th anniversary tour. I wouldn’t say I was excited at the news, but I thought it would be interesting.
That was an overstatement. I thought it was horrible. Actually, more frivolous and foolish, than horrible. As I was crammed into my 1928 era balcony seat at the Boston Opera House before the show, I read the playbil and discovered that Cats is based on a book of poems by T.S. Eliot. That was pretty cool, I thought. It lends the musical instant credibility. Well, by the time I saw nearly two dozen adults prancing around dressed as cats, all credibility was shot. I haven’t done any research pre or post, so I have no idea what, if any, allegory Eliot was shooting for. Who are the jellicles? Who is Old Deuteronomy? What is the deal with that cat ascending skyward in the deus ex machina?
It was all lost on me. I honestly tried to pay close attention and look for the inner meaning, but all I could see was a group of silly adults licking themselves and dancing around. It was torture. Two college-aged ladies three rows in front of us (who had also been at the Hyatt Hotel bar, as we were, before the show) left halfway through Act 1. Around that time, Swedish Girl asked me if I liked it. I rejoiced because I thought this meant that she also hated it. I was already thinking ahead to which bar we could visit while the rest of those suckers were languishing through Act 2.
No dice. She loved it. She couldn’t find the allegory, either, but she loved the costumes, the music, and the lighting. I pleaded my case and tried to get an early release for good behavior by asking if I could leave and head to a bar. Nope. I had to sit through Act 2. The only reprieve I got was that Swedish Girl said I could take a nap. But the half-pot of strong coffee I drank earlier was keeping me wide awake. I flipped through the playbill and found some minor solace in the fact that Act 2 was one scene shorter than Act 1.
Three parting shots:
(1) Why the hell does Old Deuteronomy just sit there on stage during the entire intermission? Is this what was done in the London and New York productions, or did this actor just not have anything better to do?
(2) One thing that put a smile on my face during this debacle was the memory from David Letterman’s very first episode of his CBS Late Show in 1993. The camera cut to Paul Newman in the audience and he angrily yelled out, “Where the hell are the singing cats?” Classic TV moment. I’ll have to look for it on youtube. It’s almost 14 years later and that still cracks me up.
(3) Take my word for it and avoid Cats. It may be coming to a city near you. If it does, you’d be better off going to the cinema to see Road Hogs (which looks like it could surpass Gigli and Glitter as the worst film ever made).