The musical CATS had the longest running history on Broadway thanks in large part to its marketing scam. The musical was directed to families, most specifically children, due to the fact that it entailed a whole bunch of adults dressed up in strange fur costumes, whiskers, and wild make-up, all to appear like life-like gutter cats. Despite this seemingly child-friendly ploy, the musical itself is abstract, vague, and wildly obtuse.
For adults to make sense of it they must have a knowledge of abstract art, T.S. Elliott poetry, British royalty, theatrical allusions, and, most difficult of all, the use of religious symbolism in popular work. All of these elements add up to a strange and difficult theatrical experience not recommended for the general audience.
Musical CATS’ Plot is Loose and Vague
One of the most difficult elements of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical CATS is its bizarre, strange plot revolving around the death of one of these cats. The whole idea is that all the cats have so many lives that they are never capable of entering heaven (here called the “heavy-side layer”) so that they must prove their worth for death.
Not only is this concept somewhat disturbing, but it also recalls ideas of cultism and strange cult leaders brainwashing their kin into being “chosen” for death (here the cult leader is the old, apparently wise Deuteronomy). What really seems to be the message has something to do with Andrew Lloyd Weber’s deep-seated Christian philosophies as seen in his other musicals Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar. Either way, the concept itself is too difficult for a family just looking to hear some good songs and watch some adults meow.
Memory Alone Does Not Make the Musical Worthwhile
Of course the most famous element of the musical CAT is the over-played, yet admittedly beautiful song Memory. Popular as all get out in the 1980s, Memory is a gorgeous song sung by an old Glamour-Puss whose days as a happy, beautiful cat have vanished with age. The song itself is a call for death for Grizzabella, the cat. As beautiful as the song is, though, the concept is entirely inappropriate for children. Here is an old woman, who’s beaten and worn down by the harshness of life, singing about her old happiness, in the hopes that some cult leader will let her die. And people think Rent is too adult.
Despite its intense popularity throughout time (CATS…Forever), the musical CATS is a very adult, difficult theater experience recommended for only the most finicky, astute scholars of drama. For the general audience, though, especially children, a night out at Cats may leave you scratching your paws to your head in exhausted confusion.