Cats Stars Beam into Covent Garden for Last ShowDate: 8 May 2002
When Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, the world's longest-running musical, gives its last-ever West End performance on its 21st birthday this Saturday, 11 May 2002, it will be witnessed by many more than those lucky enough to get tickets at the 1,100-seat New London Theatre. A live video relay will be beamed onto a giant screen set up in the Covent Garden Piazza in central London, where thousands are expected to gather for the free performance featuring many of the musical's original stars.
The Cameron Mackintosh-produced show first opened in London in 1981 with a cast that included Elaine Paige, Brian Blessed, Paul Nicholas and dancer Wayne Sleep, all of whom will be joining some 150 other stars from the production's past this Saturday. For the final performance, the current cast will perform as normal and then be joined on stage by the celebrity guests for a mass finale that has been in the works for four months.
Festivities in the Piazza, hosted by GMTV’s Ben Shepherd, will start from 3.00pm on Saturday afternoon, with competitions, cast appearances, onscreen interviews with the show’s creators, feline face painting for children and other activities. The live feed from the New London Theatre will begin at 8.30pm, when the curtain goes up.
Since 1996, Cats has held the record for longest-running musical on the both sides of the Atlantic. Before closing in September 2000, the Broadway production had clocked up 18 years. Worldwide, the musical has taken in excess of $2.5 billion, been performed in 11 different languages in over 300 cities in 26 countries and been seen by over 50 million people in total.
Based on the 14 poems of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by TS Eliot, Cats is set to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose score includes now-classic songs such as "The Jellicle Ball", "Old Deuteronomy", "The Magical Mr Mistoffolees" and, most notably, "Memory". The West End production is directed by Trevor Nunn, with associate direction and choreography by Gillian Lynne, design by John Napier and lighting by David Hersey.
Cats also holds a place in musical theatre history as being a catalyst for the remarkable partnership between composer Lloyd Webber and producer Mackintosh, who today are two of the most powerful figures in international theatre. Though the two no longer work together, their productions - which have also included The Phantom of the Opera have enjoyed huge success around the world.
- by Terri Paddock