When I was a little girl growing up in rural South Carolina, two things were on my bucket list:
- Live somewhere where Chinese restaurants existed and get food delivered so I could eat right out of take-out boxes with chopsticks, just like the families on my favorite Friday night sitcoms.
- Visit New York to see Cats on Broadway. Just who was this Andrew Lloyd Weber fellow and why were all the 80s morning talk shows abuzz about these live-action, dancing tabbies?
With regards to eating from Chinese take-out containers, I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams – seven-year-old Kathy would be pleased to know that I now own several sets of chopsticks. But my goal of seeing Cats on Broadway has proved to be, much like actual felines, elusive.
“Jellicles are and Jellicles do.”
In the 80s, the Cats were everywhere. Oh, there they are celebrating the Statue of Liberty’s 100th anniversary! Hey look – there’s Rum Tum Tugger dancing with Joan Lunden on Good Morning America! Even Steven Spielberg got in on the action, developing – and abandoning – an animated version of Cats that was to take place during the London blitz of WWII. The Cats were cultural icons, as well as the biggest Broadway jokes around. If you wanted to denigrate the entire genre of musical theatre, the go-to sitcom move was to throw out a reference to Cats and smirk as you waited for the laugh track. But I remained undeterred. To me, Cats was the embodiment of sophistication and worldliness. It was not the southern-fried, one-stoplight town where I lived or the small Minnesota farm community where I came from. It was New York City where cats pranced among humans. And I was going to go there one day.
“These modern productions are all very well. But there’s nothing to equal, from what I hear tell.”
When I moved to civilization (i.e., suburban Illinois), I suddenly had access to Chicago and all the hit musicals of the late 1990s/early 2000s – Phantom of the Opera! Les Miserables! Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat! Rent! I gained a roommate who’d sing with me the praises of Magical Mr. Mistoffelees, complete with kitty choreography. But, alas, that was as close as I’d get to Cats – until now.
“If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is.”
That’s right – after almost 20 years, Cats is back on Broadway for all the people who missed it the first time around and for oddly-obsessed theater goers like me. And by sheer coincidence I just happen to be traveling to New York in time to see it. I’m sure it won’t live up to my childhood expectations, mostly because they included actually dancing with the cats. But I also never expected to have food in take-out boxes available for delivery to my door 24 hours a day via a tiny, pocket-sized computer. So I still count it as a win.
Here’s to hanging on to your dreams – and hoping that your fellow theater patrons don’t mind you softly cry-singing along to Memory.