You ever have one of those days where you’re exhausted even though you didn’t do anything? 2020 is shaping up to be a full year of them. The Murder Hornets were merely a distraction from mosquitoes spreading EEE! This week both Denny O’Neil & Sir Ian Holm passed away.
Last week I proposed not writing something topical, which is why I’m not going to do the sensible thing to draw in readers by reviewing Kipo & The Age Of Wonderbeasts season two. (It may technically be the back half of season one based on production windows.) You should be watching this delightful series anyway. If only Karen Fukuhara could speak as much in live action roles as she gets to in animation! Apparently it began as a webcomic. Why must its merch be so pricey?
Now, because no one demanded it, Cats cold takes!
When I saw Cats in the cinema, I’d neither read Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats nor seen the stage version. Since then I’ve done both! I was waiting until the clamor around the movie adaptation to expire before spewing forth my extended thoughts from left field. Then because the pandemic kiboshed seeing new theatrical offerings for the foreseeable future, the Interwuzzle decided not to stop talking about Cats! In other circumstances I’d be happy for my obscure blog to piggyback onto the conversation. Now I’m annoyed it’s not my own esoteric surprise topic. (I hear the video essays are good.) Also by the time I finish editing this with all the new tidbits dropping, the world will be back to not caring so I won’t reap the benefits. So yay for me spiting myself?
The tagline for the Cats stage musical DVD is “As you’ll never see it again!” Although it’s supposed to be the definitive version, it omits “Growltiger’s Last Stand” just like the movie. There have been productions that include this as a song, so it’s not like it was never part of the musical. It’s not even available as a deleted scene.
One reason for this cut is that the poem is problematic. It ends with Growltiger, an ostensibly white British cat, being slain by rival Siamese cat pirates. There are many instances of turf wars between rival ethnic crimesters, however, so I don’t think this piece is necessarily unsalvageable. This is the poem that has the most story & action in a musical that’s light on both. Growltiger is a nefarious blackguard, so he had it coming rather than being a wronged victim. He’s openly racist to other breeds, but his demise is celebrated so it’s not an endorsement of his views (regardless of what Elliot’s were). The productions that bring boats onstage are impressive stagecraft. The caricature accents of the Siamese cats could easily be dropped. Dressing them like Thai temple guards armed with tridents as toasting forks makes them particularly striking compared to the rest of the costumery. Some versions have this scene be a flashback to Gus’s theater heyday, so it could be further distanced as a musical from bygone years within a musical.
I don’t know why Growltiger sings opera in the middle. I suppose that’s why some would think he’s supposed to be a sympathetic character. Being multi-lingual doesn’t make you noble. The Siamese cats also deserve extra credit for singing in what is presumably not their native tongue.
Another way to make it less racist is to redesign the makeup & wardrobe of cats in other sequences, particularly main roles, to be Siamese cats. This can represent Asians are normal facet of Britain’s populace. Ideally you’d also cast more Asian performers.
The DVD does include “The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles.” I didn’t care for this in the book & was not bothered the movie excised it. Until The Great Rumpus Cat appears at the climax as a superhero with light-up eyes, this is doggerel about dogs. The musical has cats dress up in cinine costumes to reenact this inter-breed skirmish, but that’s still too much pup! Just as Jellicle broadly describes cats, Pollicle is the dog equivalent. Notice how Pekes (Pekingese) & Pugs (another Chinese breed) don’t fall under the Pollicle umbrella. (Pomeranians are also held separate as an un-English breed.) TS Elliot wrote some racist poems! If you’re going to include one poem with Yellow Peril vibes, it ought to be the one with pirates!
In the stage show, Mr. Mistoffelees has lightning paws so he’s a Sith. Star Wars is fiction; Cats is real!
Tom Hooper’s Cats is not a well directed musical. No one would think Cats was bizarre, however, if David Lynch made it. The underrated Guy Maddin would make the best Cats of all. The Saddest Music In The World slaps.
Elegant Bustopher Jones isn’t supposed to eat out of trash like an alley cat. Likewise Jennyanydots is supposed to be maternal to mice & roaches not predatory. Way to undermine their only personality traits!
This time they have the kitty noses they should’ve had from the start! I’m glad The Visual Effects Society stood up for its animators in response. #ReleaseTheButtholeCut was popular for a brief moment. Here is some clarification about it for those of you reading from the distant future (providing these links still work). Somebody made it! Cats are very proud of showing off theirs, so this still isn’t weird to me.
Why doesn’t Scotland Yard hire the feline Sherlock Holmes counterpart to thwart Macavity?
Skimbleshanks could be the character who bridges Cats to Starlight Express in the Andrew Lloyd Webber movieverse! Was this the role Hugh Jackman turned down? Dirt the railway cat is like a real life Skimbleshanks.
What happens when you correctly guess a cat’s ineffable name?
Somebody needs to produce catnip that glows like fireflies in real life.
I was originally going to include more random cat observations, but then I realized I should probably ration content this year. Feel free to send this article to all your enemies, as it’s sure to be unpopular.