Theatre - Cats - New London Theatre, Drury Lane, London

'Cats': Four Decades of Memories

A star-studded movie version of the blockbuster musical is in the works. Here, a look back at its stage incarnations.

News broke on July 20 that a festival of stars — including Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, and Ian McKellen — are set to headline a movie version of the musical "Cats." Characterizing Andrew Lloyd Webber's theatrical show as "long-running," meanwhile, does it a serious disservice: As of this writing, it stands as the fourth longest-running show in Broadway history and the sixth longest-running on London's West End. (The original Broadway production ran nonstop for 18 years.) Here, FOTO pays tribute to the history of the "Cats" tribe. (Above: Original cast member and star Elaine Paige gets ready for the first preview of "Cats" in London on April 22, 1981.)

THE 'CATS' MASTER David Montgomery/Getty Images THE 'CATS' MASTER The young composer Andrew Lloyd Webber with his cast, circa 1981. The man behind the hit musicals "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita" had turned his attention to an adaptation of T.S. Eliot's light book of poetry, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." The show follows the exploits of a group of cats called the Jellicles over one fateful night. (The lack of an actual story has become something of a joke over the years. As one New York Times critic wrote about the 2016 revival, "I enjoyed the show more than I expected, considering it was all cats and no plot.") SEAL OF APPROVAL PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images SEAL OF APPROVAL Lloyd Webber with Eliot's widow, Valerie, holding a copy of "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" in 1980.

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STAR TURN PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images STAR TURN For the London production, theater legend Elaine Paige played the cat Grizabella, who sings the show-stopping number, "Memory." Another stage legend, Betty Buckley, originated the role on Broadway. FELINE FRIEND Michael Brennan/Getty Images FELINE FRIEND Perhaps Lloyd Webber got some early inspiration from a visitor to his piano in 1978. BROADWAY BOUND Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images/Getty Images BROADWAY BOUND Lloyd Webber holds up the "Cats" score in New York. The show opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater on Oct. 7, 1982. Critic Frank Rich's New York Times review was only backhandedly kind: "Whatever the other failings and excesses, even banalities, of ''Cats,'' it believes in purely theatrical magic, and on that faith it unquestionably delivers." There were a few raves, but most reviews were, like Rich's, lukewarm. Still, the musical became a smash and quickly wove itself into the fabric of New York life. AWARDS SEASON Bettmann/Bettmann Archive AWARDS SEASON Lloyd Webber picks up the Tony for Best Original Score, for "Cats," in 1983. CELEBRITY SIGHTING Time & Life Pictures/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images CELEBRITY SIGHTING Comedian Phyllis Diller got into the spirit while visiting backstage with actor Timothy Scott in 1983. CLOSING TIME New York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News via Getty Images CLOSING TIME Lloyd Webber speaks to the cast after the curtain came down on the final Broadway performance in 2000. By that point, the production had been performed 7,485 times. THE STRONGEST New York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News via Getty Images THE STRONGEST Only one actress — Marlene Danielle, who played Bombalurina — stayed with the show for its entire Broadway run. ''I have an excessive amount of energy and stamina and determination," she told the New York Times (in what might be the all-time theatrical understatement) in 2000. SEND-OFF Dave Benett/Getty Images SEND-OFF Director Trevor Nunn, Lloyd Webber, and original star Paige returned to the West End one last time when the London production closed in 2002. WORLD TOUR Micheline Pelletier Decaux/Sygma via Getty Images WORLD TOUR "Cats" has toured all over the world, including productions in Paris ... WORLD TOUR Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images WORLD TOUR Australia ... WORLD TOUR ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images WORLD TOUR China ... WORLD TOUR Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images WORLD TOUR And Singapore. FLYING LEAP Noam Galai FLYING LEAP A new Broadway revival was mounted in 2016, but ticket sales were only so-so, and the show closed at the end of 2017. MOVIE MOMENT Robbie Jack/Corbis via Getty Images MOVIE MOMENT The Oscar-winning director of "The King's Speech," Tom Hooper, will helm the movie version. Jennifer Hudson will reportedly take on the role of Grizabella. And she knows a thing or two about show-stopping songs.



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