Why I’m Glad “Cats” Finally Closed

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(Entertainment Today, Oct. 27, 2000)

The musical Cats closed on Broadway, September 10, 2000, now and, I sure as hell hope, forever.

Not to seem too curmudgeonly, but should any musical or play run just under 18 years, let alone one as insipid as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s feline abomination? Broadway has long-since ceased to be the showplace for significant American theatre, but it is nice to know, after 7485 performances of this unadulterated piffle, that children and tourists in Times Square will have to find other inane, overpriced stagecraft

Artistically banal, Cats tells a wafer-thin story about this aging hooker kitty who winds up dying and ascending to heaven on a tire. They could have had Firestone underwrite some of their costs.

People who have seen Cats can only remember one song, “Memory,” a dripping, cloying, relentlessly maudlin piece, written to approximate the piercing yowls of real cats.

No less than 50 million people have seen Cats and it has generated $2.5 billion in sales. It has played in Iceland, Korea and Belgium and has delivered folks worldwide a message that is immortal: You can still get into heaven if you charge for sex and it’s okay if women have facial hair.

Just as Spielberg and Lucas eviscerated the future of studio filmmaking with their blockbuster mentalities, so has Lloyd Webber cheerfully helped to disembowel both the popular musical and the variety and depth of material on the Great White Way. As far as I’m concerned, he should have quit after Jesus Christ Superstar and gone out a winner.

Think about eighteen years of Cats. Why the hell couldn’t they mix it up a little, maybe change animals every third year?

Imagine the marquee at the Winter Garden theatre: “From the Genius Who Brought You CatsWombats.” Consider the exciting challenges of the makeup, scenery and pyrotechnics when Lloyd Webber proudly presents Parakeets: The Musical.

I’m thrilled from top to toenail that Cats is gone. I know it is still playing in London. I know it will likely always infest some stage somewhere. There will always be people with disposable income who eschew donating to a worthy cause so they can tell their friends back home about the adorable actors in cat outfits, without ever having heard of T.S. Eliot and thinking “The Hollow Men” is a horror movie.

On behalf of all theatre artists, most of whom struggle to make a living doing what they love most, sometimes for nothing more than a mention in a paper or gas money, I dance a giddy jig on the grave of Cats.

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