IT was the West End show that almost bankrupted Andrew Lloyd Webber. But 30 years on, musical Cats has been given a multi-million pound make-over for the big screen.
The live action movie, due out for Christmas, has an all-star cast, including Dame Judi Dench, Taylor Swift, James Corden, Jason Derulo, Rebel Wilson, Ray Winstone, Sir Ian McKellen and Idris Elba.
But as the trailer burst on to the internet on Wednesday night, it baffled and mesmerised fans in equal measure. Kristy Puchko tweeted: “I don’t know what I expected from Cats’ “digital fur technology” but the short answer is not this. My brain has melted. My eyes are bleeding. There is no God.”
Guy Lodge wrote: “I’ve looked at a lot of cats in my life and I’ve never seen one with a tail coming out of its a***.”
Hyu Uchuu added: “Studios must really be out here com- peting for the most terrifying CGI monstrosity in 2019.”
But the 2min 22sec trailer did not completely disappoint. Megan Amran wrote: “Cats is going to be the greatest movie of all time.” While US journalist Perez Hilton added: “I am genuinely shocked! This is not cheesy. Or campy. This looks sophisticated! This looks Oscar worthy! So damn good! Can’t wait to see it now!”
In a behind-the-scenes video, director Tom Hooper — the man behind Les Miserables — said: “We’ve used digital fur technology to create the most perfect covering of fur.”
The film also boasts the choreographer behind hip-hop stage musical Hamilton and introduces prima ballerina Francesca Hayward to the big screen. The stage show, which ran on the West End from 1981 to 2002, has been performed in more than 30 countries and translated into 15 languages.
The original run catapulted star Elaine Paige into the charts with hit Memory. She had only been drafted in to play Grizabella after Dame Judi Dench pulled out injured.
Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, singer Leona Lewis and pop diva Beverley Knight have also gone on to play the role. The stars for the upcoming film were enrolled in “cat school” to teach them how to act like the animals ahead of filming.
Teaser brings fond Memories
Review by Benjy Potter
FELINES with knockers, tails springing out of behinds and some questionable use of CGI, it’s clear the film still requires a few (cat)nips and tucks before the big release.
As the trailer dropped, Twitter was left divided, with some purring in satisfaction and others fur-ious over the special effects.
While supporters heralded a “new dawn” for the musical favourite, critics slammed the “digital fur technology” applied to give actors their glistening coats.
The effects might not please everyone but at the heart of the short trailer was a much-loved musical with an astounding soundtrack that still has the power to stun.
Just a short teaser of Jennifer Hudson’s version of Memory was enough to leave me wanting to see much, much more.
Taylor Swift said: “I had much more fun than anyone else. I had to go to cat school to learn how to move and behave. I was meant to go for three days and I stayed for four months.”
Sir Ian McKellen told Graham Norton last year that he was searching for his “inner pussy” ahead of shooting. Cats is based on poet TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats.
It tells the story of cat tribe the Jellicles, who have gathered for the Jellicle Ball, led by Old Deuteronomy, played in the film by Dame Judi. Over the course of a single night, the tribe have to decide who will ascend to their version of heaven and be born again.
There are rumours the film will feature original tracks from Taylor and Jennifer Hudson — and bosses appear to have tweaked the story to give Luther star Idris Elba his own song.
The only previous film version was a straight-to-video movie of the 1997 London production. In the Eighties, film studio Warner Bros turned down Andrew Lloyd Webber’s approach for financial backing for the stage show. He said: “They told me I was crazy.”
In the end, the composer was forced to take a second mortgage to stump up the last £75,000.
JAMES CORDEN AS BUSTOPHER JONES:
The 40-year-old Late Late Show host and Carpool Karaoke king is set to smash another musical role after starring in Disney fairytale Into The Woods alongside Hollywood royalty Meryl Steep.
He also won several gongs for Broadway and West End hit One Man, Two Guvnors.
Bustopher Jones is a fat cat known for hanging around in prestigious gentlemen’s clubs.
JUDI DENCH AS OLD DEUTERONOMY:
The veteran leading lady takes a role played by men in most productions.
Old Deuteronomy is a soft, loving, senior cat deeply respected by the community.
Dame Judi, 84, can make amends after missing the 1981 West End production due to an injury. She said: “Just before we opened I snapped my Achilles tendon and I thought that was my history with Cats, but it turns out not to be.”
FRANCESCA HAYWARD AS VICTORIA:
A principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, 27-year-old Francesca takes on the show’s most difficult dance role for her first outing on the big screen.
Demur white kitten Victoria is the first character to touch Grizabella when she is accepted back into the clan.
The ballerina has the backing of director Tom Hooper, who said: “Frankie Hayward is one of the best dancers in the world.”
TAYLOR SWIFT AS BOMBALURINA:
Cat lover Taylor gets her dream role as the flirtatious feline – although she didn’t have much time to prepare. Taylor, 29, said: “I came right off a stadium tour and right into rehearsals.” But she did at least attend cat school with her co-stars, where they were taught how to mimic the animals’ behaviour. Rumours are now rife that Taylor and J-Hud will release original songs for the soundtrack.
SIR IAN Mc-KELLEN AS GUS THE THEATRE CAT:
The Lord Of The Rings star Sir Ian, 80, plays Gus, an aged stage actor who worked with the greatest stars of his day.
The cat was once a famous actor himself but is now old and suffers from palsy, which makes his paws shake.
His coat is described as shabby and he can no longer inspire fear in mice.
Sir Ian said he was looking for his “inner pussy” during a recent interview.
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JENNIFER HUDSON AS GRIZABELLA:
The Voice UK judge and 2005 American Idol finalist gets her claws into another musical after scooping a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 2006 hit Dream-girls.
As Grizabella, J-Hud, 37, will belt out the show’s big number, Memory, under the moonlight, putting her in pole position for another gong.
She said: “When I first heard I was going to be in Cats, instantly I felt the pressure.”
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