Can you hear that? It’s the sound of the internet screaming over the new Cats trailer, apparently…
Ah, Cats. When I was very young, myself and my sister used to visit with my nan a lot – and her favourite way to keep us quiet (everyone needs a break, I suppose) was to stick us in front of the TV with a video. Unfortunately for her, she only had one kid-appropriate video: an official recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End show, Cats.
We watched it… ooh, about 1,000 times? We loved it. We loved it. And so we dedicated hours to learning every single word. We attempted to mirror the complex and beautiful choreography. And, when we were ready, we set our ever-smiling grandparents up with a video camera and had them film us as we lip-synced our way through the entire musical.
They applauded us politely at the end. Of course they applauded us at the end. And then my nan, very kindly, said we could take the video home and keep it for our very selves – which was, let’s face it, a very tactical decision on her behalf.
Now, some 20-odd years later, and Oscar®-winning director Tom Hooper (oh he of The King’s Speech, Les Misérables, and The Danish Girl fame) has attempted the impossible.
He’s taken Webber’s record-shattering stage musical, he’s ignored the fact that the show’s entire plot is pretty much just cats introducing themselves to the audience over and over again until one of them gets permission to die, and he’s turned it into a movie.
Check out the latest trailer for the musical bonanza below:
That’s right: Hooper has turned Cats into what looks set to be a breakthrough cinematic event. One with drama, and intrigue, and smoky neon-lit bars, giant chairs, and pristine “digital fur technology” (whatever that really means). One with haunting melodies from Jennifer Hudson – who, incidentally, makes the perfect Grizabella. One with incredibly memorable performances from the likes of James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson and Royal Ballet principal dancer Francesca Hayward in the cast.
And it’s a breakthrough cinematic event featuring cats that look like humans that look like cats (resulting in a curiously unsettling blend of both anatomies) – because, after all, half the fun of the stage show is the outlandish costumed hybrids prancing through their feline dance moves.
“OMG!!! Taylor looks so good! Can’t wait for the movie,” exclaimed one excited viewer.
Another added: “Well, it looks EXCITING. I can’t wait for them to start singing all the beautiful songs from the musical too… it will be lit.”
And still one more said: “THIS makes me excited.”
It’s a far cry from the… well, the less than positive response the teaser trailer had when it was released earlier this year.
That’s right: unfortunately for Hooper, initial reactions to the teaser trailer made it seem as if – well, other than myself and my sister, maybe – the savage meme-loving folks of Twitter had never seen Cats before. They’d never even listened to the music. And so, when the (admittedly batshit fever-dream of a) teaser dropped online, the internet collectively lost its mind.
There were those who couldn’t help but scream.
There were those who weren’t down with the CGI effects. At all.
There were those who disapproved of the fact that the female cats had breasts.
There were those who couldn’t help themselves clawing at low-hanging fruit.
There were those, like our own beloved Anna Fielding, who knew that Cats preceded its musical format in the form of a book (aptly titled Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) by TS Eliot.
There were those who hated it but STILL wanted to watch it, because oh my god how could you not?
There were the odd few, like myself, who couldn’t quite understand the furor (I mean, it’s Cats, guys – what the fuck did you expect?).
Now, things are different. The people are excited for Cats, both the movie and the endless meme possibilities. And they just don’t know what to do with themselves…
Of course, it’s worth noting that Cats isn’t for everyone. Myself and my sister went to see the stage show recently and my mum, not wanting to be left out, came along with us. When I turned to her in the interval, she was pale.
“Are you OK?” I asked her, all concern.
“I just…” she replied, pressing a hand ineffectually against her forehead. “I just don’t understand anything. What’s happening? Who are the cats? What are they singing about? What’s a Jellicle? What is happening?”
I had no answers for her, because even I don’t understand the plot of Cats (you can find my attempt of a summary here, if you’re really interested). Maybe there doesn’t need to be a plot. It’s more like… it’s more like a state of mind than a show. You have to let go of logic, switch off the ‘sense’ part of your brain, and allow it all of the nonsense to wash over you – just as Alice did when she entered Wonderland.
All this aside, though, there are a LOT of reasons to watch this movie.
Featuring Lloyd Webber’s iconic music and a world-class cast of dancers under the guidance of Tony-winning choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton, In the Heights), the film reimagines the musical for a new generation with spectacular production design, state-of-the-art technology, and dance styles ranging from classical ballet to contemporary, hip-hop to jazz, street dance to tap.
And, alongside its all-star cast, Cats also brings us the talents of Robbie Fairchild (Broadway’s An American in Paris), Laurie Davidson (TNT’s Will), hip-hop dance sensation Les Twins (Larry and Laurent Bourgeois), acclaimed dancer Mette Towley (featured in videos for Rihanna and Pharrell Williams’ N.E.R.D.), Royal Ballet principal dancer Steven McRae, and rising-star singer Bluey Robinson.
Plus, Steven Spielberg (oh he of Jurassic Park fame) is producing. What’s not to love there, eh?
Will Cats match the majesty of stage-to-screen musicals that have come before it? We guess we’ll have to wait until December to find out.
Cats will be purring into cinemas on 20 December 2019. We’ll see you there, yeah? If only for the Twitter memes…
Image: Universal Pictures