It can be surprising how one can create a full narrative story out of a book collection of poems, but that is exactly what happened T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” transformed by Andrew Lloyd Weber into the iconic long-running musical “Cats.” From its West End opening in 1981, the musical has exploded in productions around the world, and even the most casual fan of musicals will know of “Cats” through one of its memorable songs, “Memory.” A “Cats” musical production has already been made into a video-only film in 1998, but this year, Universal is due to premiere a real big-budget adaptation.
With the “Cats” musical movie from Universal Pictures coming out this holiday season, the promotion has already begun in earnest as CNN tells it. There is actually a first trailer scheduled to be released this coming weekend, but Universal believes this production is major enough to warrant a behind-the-scenes look. That preview came out first this Wednesday, July 17, and it features footage of the movie being filmed with some short words from the principal cast. They include a mixture of acting veterans like (Dame) Judi Dench and (Sir) Ian McKellen, as well as recording artists like Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba (DJ/rapper), and Taylor Swift.
The interviews with the “Cats” cast make for some interesting, inspirational and at times heart-warming listening in anticipation for the film itself. Both Swift and Hudson relate their singing background and how it has prepared them for being in a movie version of one of the most popular stage musicals ever. A very powerful moment was the segment with Judi Dench, who recalled how she was supposed to be part of the inaugural 1981 cast, only to bow out because of a torn Achilles tendon. She sounded especially pleased to realize her “Cats” experience did not have to end there.
Under the direction of Tom Hooper, the film takes on a unique visual take on the song-filled storyline about a gang of cats living in a London alley. The sound stage designs range from nostalgic to breathtaking, such as a scene where they dance on top of a giant table (for cats, not humans). So far the performers are only seen rehearsing their choreography, so it is not yet certain how Taylor, Jennifer, Idris Elba and all the rest will look as their cat characters, but the film really serves to heighten the fans’ anticipation.
“Cats” from Universal, Amblin, and Webber’s Really Useful Group label, will premiere this December 20. A trailer is expected to be unveiled as early as this coming Friday, July 19.
Image courtesy of Billboard