Yesterday, Universal Pictures gave the first little peek inside their big-budget adaptation production of “Cats,” the iconic musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber based on the poetry collection by T.S. Eliot. It was actually a behind-the-scenes preview of the production, with the cast rehearsing their catlike choreography in some fairly impressive sets that evoke the characters as cat-sized in a large human world. It also included short interviews with the principal stars giving their piece on their participation in this momentous film. All this was but an appetizer for an actual first trailer. We will not have to wait for it any longer; here it is.
The first cinematic teaser for the “Cats” musical film came out well before the weekend release that Universal initially promised. At last we get to see the cast, composed of actors of film and stage plus recording artists aplenty, as they would if they were Jellicle cats of the London streets. And from the looks of the comments on the YouTube video version, the reactions are roughly split down the middle, due perhaps to some reasonable reservations from the viewers.
As theater buffs would know, the “Cats” musical easily stands out due to the performers being dressed in skintight cat costumes with colorful patterns invoking cat coat markings and elements of musical design. Director Tom Hooper has opted to use motion-capture on the film cast to superimpose CGI cat costumes on them as they move in the screen, with the inclusion of animated and independently moving CGI tails. The result is both impressively smooth and a bit unsettling for even members of the “furry” fandom.
We can also thank the trailer for finally tying down each cast member to the roles they portray, seeing as the individual “Cats” characters stand out in musical theatre themselves. Taylor Swift is the flirty Jellicle Bombalurina, Jennifer Hudson is the aged “Glamor Cat” Grizabella (singer of “Memory”), Judi Dench is the gender-swapped Jellicle leader Old Deuteronomy (finally getting her “Cats” debut after missing out in the initial 1981 production), Idris Elba is the feline criminal Macavity, ballerina Francesca Hayward plays Victoria the dancing white cat, Rebel Wilson is the Gumbie Cat Jennyanydots, Ian McKellen as Gus the Theatre Cat, James Derulo is Rum Tum Tugger (the Jagger/Bieber cat depending on production date), and more.
Tom Hooper has solid experience turning stage musical to musical film, having directed Universal’s earlier conversion “Les Misérables” in 2012. Choreography is overseen by Andy Blankenbuehler, who worked on “Hamilton.” Steven Spielberg executively produces with Andrew Lloyd Webber. “Cats” is up for a holiday season premiere this coming December 20.
Image courtesy of E! News