A month after the first time, and with my brain thoroughly saturated, I saw it again as it left Birmingham. On second viewing, it was even better than I remember, probably because of aforementioned brainsaturation, and that was when I guessed there was no turning back. It was also when the non-stop ficcing began (although this had started somewhat before the show, too, to some degree.) This was the first time I met the divine Faith Brown, and the whole "She read my fanfic!" saga began, which led, in turn, to my making everyone's lives a living hell about it for... well... I haven't stopped. *grin* Faith, of course, was to be the first in a lengthy line of Important People that I was going to meet last year...
On the 11th, "Cats" officially closed. At the time, however, it was also the May Ball and I was having a great time with Lloyd, staying up all night doing… well, nothing ;) Watching movies in a lecture theatre. And eating chips and drinking copious amounts of vodka & coke. That was enough to make me forget about it for a while.
And then, there was news coverage of all the people at Covent Garden, where there'd been a special performance by old cast members. And okay, so it was cold, and wet, and crowded, and Hellish, and people had to sit on the cobbles and it was impossible to see a thing... but God, I would've killed to have been there.
Unlike Sunset, I do not have many happy memories of Cats. I know no cast members (well, I've met one, but she was in something else so it doesn't count.), I've only seen it twice, and I'm not exactly what you'd call completely obsessed. I don't fanfic it (and believe me, enough people do.) I've only just figured out the plot that apparently exists. But it's important to me, on so many levels, and it's about time I tried explaining why.
Cats opened in May 1981, at the New London Theatre. I was born in October of that year. Here, the plot begins. My parents saw it in 1981, with the original cast (which I am incredibly jealous about), and, by default, my mother must have been pregnant with me when they did so. My little foetal brain was initiated at a very early non-age. It's safe to say, I'm not responsible.
At some point when I was a child, at my father's house, I would play the soundtrack. I didn't know what it was. I didn't know it was a musical, or that it was Andrew Lloyd Webber, and, more to the point, I had no idea how much it would come to mean to me. Anyway, I would play it. And I would dance to it. I used to dance a lot as a child. Why I stopped, I don't know. Eventually, like most of my childhood fads, I stopped. Possibly when my father got bored of listening to it, most likely. But whatever the reasons, I forgot about it.
1995, it toured Great Britain, and I saw it at Birmingham Hippodrome with my uncle and my grandmother. I even remember what I was wearing - a home-made, bias-cut, patchworkish skirt in blues and reds, and my mother's 14-year-old Cats tee-shirt. And I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I'd heard about the show, and I knew vaguely what it was, but nothing more. And then, suddenly, I realised that I knew the music... and realised it was that thing I used to dance to as a child only a few years before.
My uncle, at the time, was a piano tuner and had connections at the Hippodrome, and, as such, managed to get us backstage. I still remember going up the stairs and passing the lady who played Victoria giong down them in the opposite direction, and how she smiled at us, politely and slightly confused. I remember being on the stage when everyone had gone (maybe this had something to do with my later ambitions...), seeing the spare masks and the gigantic boot hidden behind the set. I stood in the wings with the Growltiger backdrop behind me, and watched the fire curtain (the old one) come down in front of me, from the other side of it.
From that moment on, I now realise, I wanted to be in musicals. Specifically, I wanted to be in that musical, and it developed into an all-encompassing yearning to be in the shows. Not just the stage, the shows. There's something about musicals. Singing in a cast full of people as passionate about something as you are, or playing an interesting character. And, I'm beginning to notice, less and less musicals these days require large and complicated dance numbers. Anyway, I digress. I wanted to be in Cats. I always have. It comes and goes, but it's always there at the back of my mind.
So, immediately after, I set about trying to learn the damned thing. Call it a personality flaw. I drove my friends and my father up the goddamn wall with it, quoting, doodling, talking about it, playing the soundtrack obsessively until I'd painstakingly learnt the entire thing. It took me months, but I managed it. It's the only thing I've ever learnt without the aid of the lyrics (save possibly The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music because I watched them so many times), except for one small section I could never decipher. I didn't have them at the time. Now, I learn lyrics with the libretto handy, because it saves time; but it was Cats that started me on my quest to Learn The Musicals.
Moving on, it's 1997. Mrs. Slater organises a trip for the Dance Club, but open for all, to see Cats and Riverdance. I went. And if the show was good in Birmingham, it was 10 times better in London, on the stage it was created for. Not only that, I couldn't have asked for a better seat. We were in the Dress Circle, and I was right on the end of the front row. I got Catted at during 'The Naming of Cats'. It was a very scary experience, but I can still smell the stage makeup, and remember Sophie sitting next to me sniggering, until she got Catted at and was as terrified as me. And I still remember finding myself humming along to 'Mr. Mistofeles'. And I remember us all ogling the Tugger, and getting ogled right back.
Needless to say, this didn't help my condition in the slightest. See, what I didn't know was that the front four or five rows of the stalls are attached to the stage, and at the beginning, they rotate with it to align with the rest of the auditorium. Ever since then, it's been a sort of life dream to have a front row ticket to the show.
2001, it celebrated its 20th anniversary. I missed it. I heard stories. I was annoyed. I vowed I would be there for the 25th, and I would be in the front row, and I would be in costume, and it would be the best goddamn costume there. Although the last was probably going to be tricky without losing a lot of weight so as not to look like a whale in shiny lycra and cat makeup. But anyway... now we move on to...
2002, and the show closes. And I failed in my mission. It hurt a lot more than it should have. The most frustrating thing was that I couldn't explain why without explaining a heck of a lot else. So here you go. The explanation, for what it's worth. It probably still makes no sense as to why Cats means so much to me, and why I was in tears for hours when I found out it was closing, and why it felt like my life was over, but it's the best I've got. And my new mission is to see the tour as many times as is physically possible with my available lack of funds. And I will have my front row seats. And I will probably cry like a baby, but my God, it'll be worth it. I never got to say goodbye to it, and if it means travelling to Blackpool, or wherever it ends up, then so be it, but I will be there on the last night of the tour. If I did it for Sunset, I can definitely do it for Cats.
Who's with me?!
Anyway. On that slightly angsty note, we move on to the end of the month, and my trying to organise another trip to Sunset. Replace one obsession with another? Maybe. But that was worth it, too, in the long run, because I wouldn't have missed it for the world.