Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Cats

Go To
The cast of the Broadway production.

If you came here looking for tropes about cats, see This Index Meows.

There's a man over there with a look of surprise.
As much as to say well now how about that?
Do I actually see with my own very eyes,
A man who's not heard of a jellicle cat?
What's a jellicle cat? What's a jellicle cat?
— From the opening number, "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats."

Andrew Lloyd Webber's other most famous musical. It's a show about cats. More precisely, it's about a tribe of cats, the Jellicle Cats, and the once-a-year event where the Jellicle Leader, Old Deuteronomy, announces the cat who can now be reborn and come back in a different Jellicle Life, after the cats spend time introducing themselves, and their fellow cats, through song. It's based, pretty much, on T. S. Eliot's book of poems Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The Trope Codifier for the sub-genre of "megamusical" (musicals focusing heavily on special effects, highly choreographed song-and-dance numbers, elaborate setpieces, and massive ensemble casts as opposed to shows with a higher emphasis on memorable characters, dialogue, and scenes in part due to their tighter budgets), the musical was a Long Runner in both Broadway and the West End, with a Broadway revival running in 2016.

After decades stuck in development hell, a film version of the musical was released in December 2019. Prior to the film, a video version of the stage musical was released in 1998.

Now has a character page that needs some love.

Jellicle Tropes for Jellicle Cats:

  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: In "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats," the stressed syllable is either JEL-li-cle or jel-li-CLE depending on the needs of the meter. Other words also get lightly tortured to fit, e.g. "magical" keeps switching between normal pronunciation and "ma-GEL-i-cal."
  • Aerith and Bob: Some cats with normal-sounding names (Victoria, Alonzo, Bill Bailey, etc.) share the stage with the likes of Grizabella, Macavity, and Mistoffelees. Gus falls into both categories; his full name is Asparagus, but everyone finds that too hard to pronounce and shortens it to Gus.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: In this case, an adaptation of a poetry book.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: The Cats don't really like Grizabella. Allegedly she used to be a rather snobbish diva, but we never really see that side of her onstage, so one must take their word on it.
  • All-Star Cast: Invoked in the Video Version, which cast notable cast members throughout the show's history in both Broadway and West End (And John Mills). The film adaptation takes this up to eleven.
  • All There in the Script: Anything pertaining to Griddlebone, save her few lines in Macavity's Villain Song. Some productions include "Growltiger's Last Stand", which features Griddlebone heavily, but many do not.
  • All Witches Have Cats: Inverted. A couplet in the "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" goes "Can you ride on a broomstick, to places far distant?/Familiar with candle, with book and with bell?" and refers to cats being traditionally associated with witches, demons and magic.
  • Amalgamated Individual: Old Deuteronomy is kidnapped by rogue cats. Demeter and Bomburalina sing about a cat named Macavity, whom they describe as "the Napoleon of Crime." He's infamous for many instances of larceny and subterfuge, yet cannot be pinned to any crime because he never leaves any evidence and always makes sure to have an alibi. It's left unclear how many crimes in the song are Macavity's doing, engineered by him, or simply accredited to him so that the true culprits evade justice.
  • Amusement Park: The Swedish version takes place in one closed down for the winter.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The cat chosen at the end of the Jellicle Ball will ascend to the Heavyside Layer, though the real prize is that they get to return and begin a new jellicle life. Grizabella is the winner of this particular night.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Macavity has broken every human law and can allegedly defy gravity at will. When he kidnaps Old Deuteronomy, partially by temporarily pacifying all the cats with mass hypnosis, the Rum Tum Tugger suggests to the cats that an even more impossible solution to Macavity's dastardly deed does exist — asking for the help of a cat who can conjure seven kittens from out of a hat. Mistoffelees, who has spent the entire show demurely wiggling his fingers in the background to magically open car boots and change the stage lighting, rescues Old Deuteronomy by simply teleporting him home from wherever it is Macavity has imprisoned him. While two other cats are implied to have a psychic sixth sense, it's implied only Macavity and Mistoffelees are capable of supernatural feats.
  • Big Finale Crowd Song: The musical concludes with the many cats attending the Jellicle Ball, where Old Deuteronomy will choose which cat ascends to the Heavyside Layer, and from thence to a renewed life as a kitten. The cast sing a reprise of "Mister Mistoffelees" before exiting the stage.
  • Break the Haughty: Grizabella has fallen hard from grace, but even when she humbly approaches the Jellicles, they won't accept her.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • The Jellicles, after their opening number, notice the audience's presence.
    • Munkustrap helpfully explains the plot to the audience and Old Deuteronomy addresses the audience during the final song.
  • Cat Concerto: Basically the whole show; there's even a boot thrown at the singing cats!
  • Cat Girl: All female Jellicles, by default, since they are human actors dressed like cats.
  • Cats Are Magic: Mr. Mistoffelees, the original conjuring cat. Coricopat, Tantomile and Macavity are also implied to be magical.
  • Cats Are Mean: Macavity is a jerk of the first magnitude and everyone assumes this about Grizabella. Cats, however, are ultimately not that different from people, according to the final number.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Bombalurina, Munkustrap and Mr. Mistoffelees bring the snark.
  • Cat Stereotype: Most of the cats don't fit any colour stereotypes but, in the video version, there are three cats who do.
    • Victoria is the only all-white cat. Her role is performed mainly through dance, where she's implied to be a symbol of grace and innocence, and is extremely sensitive to the moods around her. Her coming-of-age moment sends all the cats into a frenzy. In the filmed stage production, her dance and reaction scenes are often paired with the black Mistoffelees for colour contrast.
    • Skimbleshanks is a ginger tom. He's an engaging, cheeky cat who has a reputation for being the hero of the railways; the cats believe the trains only run smoothly because Skimbleshanks is there to keep the humans in line and on the job by either fixing all the problems that crop up or alerting the humans to issues so that they can fix the problems in time. His one flaw is described as being his temper, which gets triggered by disorder; he can be quite draconian about ensuring everything and everyone is kept in order so that the trains can run smoothly.
    • Mistoffelees is the only all-black cat, described as being black from his ears to the tip of his tail. He is the most mystical cat, capable of manipulating light, telekinesis and producing electricity from his paws. He is implied to have some hypnosis, illusion and voice-throwing abilities, he does possess a psychic sixth sense, and is revealed to be capable of teleporting others or himself. In the Invitation to the Jellicle Ball, his dance is paired with the all-white Victoria for colour contrast. The realities of stage and film production, where lighting tends to wash out all-black costumes, means that the Mistoffelees cat is usually portrayed as a tuxedo cat to bring the costume to life, even though his description as an all-black cat rarely changes. In these cases, his tuxedo appearance mimics that of a stereotypical stage magician to emphasise his mystical nature.
  • Composite Character: Gus recalls his playing Growltiger, while both are separate cats in Eliot's text. The 2016 Broadway revival replaces Growltiger with the Rumpus Cat (who was a separate character in previous productions) and Gus's song instead segues into "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles".
  • Dances and Balls: The musical takes place during the annual Jellicle Ball.
  • Decomposite Character: From the video production; on stage, the character of Gus is usually depicted as a young cat but becomes an older cat for his big number. This number usually segues into another number with the younger version, "Growltiger's Last Stand". The older version was played by Sir John Mills, who was far too old, and blind, to do the required singing and dancing. So, they split both versions into two characters, with the younger Gus now named Asparagus.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity. He's basically the feline version of Professor James Moriarty. His description was lifted almost word-for-word from "The Adventure of the Final Problem". Both characters are tall and thin, with domed foreheads, sunken eyes and heads that sway in a reptilian way.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • The Rum Tum Tugger's butt-shake apparently has a hypnotic effect on female cats, considering that he usually has a gaggle of them staring at it.
    • The fascination with Bombalurina and Demeter's crotches the cameraman suddenly has when they're singing "Macavity".
  • Down in the Dumps: The main setting is in a dump, with giant-sized objects so that the actors appear cat-sized.
  • The Dreaded: Macavity. When he's mentioned there's sirens, thunder, lightning and that disembodied laugh.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Memory" was written specifically because director Trevor Nunn felt the musical needed one of these.
  • Ending by Ascending: The climax of the show is Grizabella ascending the stairway to the Heavyside Layer.
  • Ensemble Cast: An ensemble cast with no main character. Featured characters: Munkustrap, Rum Tum Tugger, Gus, Bustopher Jones, Bombalurina, Demeter, Griddlebone, Grizabella, Growltiger, Jellylorum, Jemima, Jennyanydots, Macavity, Mistoffelees, Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer, Old Deuteronomy, Skimbleshanks, Victoria. Plus a couple more named cats.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Rum Tum Tugger does a bagpipe solo during "The Pekes and The Pollicles". It gets funny when he does it during Munkustrap's dance with Rumpus Cat.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Macavity. It's the only sound we ever hear him make, and is accompanied with flashing lights and thunder.
    • In any production where Gus gives another performance as Growltiger, he inevitably does this at the start of "Growltiger's Last Stand".
  • Excuse Plot: The threaded-needle plot that is the Jellicle Ball really only exists as a means of weaving together what would be best summarized as one-to-two-and-a-half-hour sequence of random vignettes, themselves based on a collection of thematically-related poems.
  • Expy: According to Lloyd Webber, the Rum Tum Tugger is intended to be an expy of Mick Jagger. In the years after the play was originally produced, this has been 'upgraded' to Justin Bieber. The Australian 2016 tour, at least, featured Rum Tum Tugger rapping his solos, wearing a backward baseball cap (with cat ears sticking out!), and 'fur' patterned with tribal tattoos.
  • Fantastic Racism: Growltiger hates Persian and Siamese cats.
  • Faux Paw: Part of the cast's cat mannerisms, though not all the time.
  • Female Gaze: Rum Tum Tugger sure gets quite a lot of these in his big number.
  • Food as Bribe: Food is needed to gain a cat's respect, as described by Old Deuteronomy at the end of the show.
  • Foreshadowing: Mistoffelees possessing magical powers is foreshadowed before Rum Tum Tugger reveals it. The opening songs state mystical cats exist; when Munkustrap asks Mistoffelees to open the car boot hiding the Gumbie Cat, he does so with magic; Macavity possesses powers of levitation and hypnosis, and vanishes by using electricity as if teleporting; and whenever there's a change in atmosphere symbolising something mystical (such as the approach of Old Deuteronomy), Mistoffelees is always the first to sense it. Mistoffelees ends up showing that he can teleport cats, control light, produce electricity, vanish in a burst of magic as if teleporting, and cats watching his Conjuring Turn get similar shakes to Munkustrap's hypnosis shakes during the Macavity fight.
  • Formally-Named Pet: The Magical Mr. Mistoffelees (the only one of all the cats in the musical to be named that way).
  • Funny Background Event: Watch closely and you see some pretty surprising stuff...
  • "I Am" Song: Mainly, it's a show of "S/he Is" Songs. The opening number is a collective "We Are."
  • Harmless Villain: Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, who act less as devoted servants of Macavity and more as a pair of literal cat-burglars.
  • The Ingenue: Jemima, who tries to accept Grizabella and seems to tap into the truth of Grizabella's state of mind by joining her in song, becoming the first cat to finally accept her when she helps the struggling Grizabella to finish her climactic song.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Grizabella used to be beautiful but now she's old and ugly.
  • Karma Houdini: Macavity has "broken every human law", terrorized the Jellicles, and kidnapped Old Deuteronomy. He never pays for any of his crimes in the course of the musical, and his theme song suggests that he never has.
  • Long-Runners: Both Broadway and West End! In fact, the Broadway production was the longest-running musical there until another Lloyd Webber standard caught up.
  • Long Title: "Of the Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles, Together With Some Account of Participation of the Pugs and the Poms and the Intervention of the Great Rumpuscat".
  • Male Gaze: The cameraman for the 1998 VHS release loves zooming in on Demeter and Bombalurina's shapely butts during their dance numbers. It's particularly blatant during "Macavity the Mystery Cat".
  • Mature Animal Story: While a largely family-friendly musical about cats, the play isn't specifically intended for children.
  • Meaningful Name: The main point of the opening poem. The name is secret, though.
  • Melancholy Moon: Just turn your face to the moon, Grizabella...
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The rock'n'rollin' "The Rum Tum Tugger" is followed by the somber "Grizabella: The Glamour Cat," and that is followed by the peppy "Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town." The musical score hangs a lampshade on this fact at the opening of "Bustopher Jones" with notes about how to play the piece: "A little hesistantly, as though the orchestra is changing the subject."
    • In the 1990s filmed production, "Gus: The Theatre Cat" has an extremely sad ending that immediately segues into the happy, fun "Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat". This stems from Sir John Mills' poor health not permitting him to perform the follow-up songs to Gus. In older performances, the song led into the energetic Growltiger, and then Skimbleshanks. In other productions, it builds into Gus performing "The Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles".
  • Musicalis Interruptus: During the opening number, someone throws a boot at the singing cats; afterwards, the Jellicles pick up where they left off.
  • Mythology Gag: A list of types of cats starts with "practical cats."
  • No Fourth Wall: A few of the songs, such as "The Naming Of Cats" and "The Ad-Dressing of Cats" involve the characters singing directly to the audience. The original production also had the cast coming out into the audience and interact with them (and like real cats, they tended to have No Sense of Personal Space, sometimes going so far as to crawl on top of patrons and sit on their laps).
  • Noodle Incident: Gus' grandest role, Firefrorefiddle the Fiend of the Fell. We never actually find out what it was.
  • Obviously Evil: There's an entire passage in "Macavity" that describes how evil Macavity looks.
    Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin
    You'd know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in
    His brow is deeply lined in thought, his head is highly domed
    His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed
    He sways his head from side to side with movements like a snake
    And when you think he's half asleep HE'S ALWAYS WIDE AWAKE!
  • Only Sane Man: The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles features Munkustrap trying to lead the cats in a performance to honour Old Deuteronomy. However, Munkustrap has to deal with a constant stream of rebellious and over-excited cats all the way through the performance. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser keep messing up their barking lines; Skimbleshanks and Mistoffelees get too into their dance moment for Munkustrap's liking; Rum Tum Tugger keeps trying to play the bagpipes at random moments; the Great Rumpus Cat screws up his entrance and keeps taking potshots at Munkustrap for constantly trying to rein him in; when the cats all begin barking madly at each other, Munkustrap eventually has to scream "NOOOOO!" just to get everything back under control. Despite that, Old Deuteronomy appears to enjoy the performance immensely.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • Demeter's accent when she says 'Macavity!' varies between French and American, and it's all over the place during the Villain Song. It can be considered a bit of an enhancement to the song, given how nice her voice sounds in the first place.
    • Rumpleteazer's voice as a chorus cat and in the introduction completely drops the cockney accent she bears in her own song. This aided people thinking she was dubbed, though her vocal credit was only for dubbed giggles.
  • Plot-Irrelevant Villain: Macavity only appears so that the musical can have something of a major conflict. Macavity himself never talks, his motivations for kidnapping Old Deuteronomy and attacking the other cats is never elaborated on, and nothing he does affects the overall story.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Mistoffelees and Victoria are intended to be, respectively, an all-black and an all-white cat. However, a pure black or white costume would wash out all details under stage lighting, so Mistoffelees is portrayed as a tuxedo cat and Victoria has light gold, tan or grey markings on her costume.
  • Revenge Ballad: "Growltiger's Last Stand", about the pirate cat Growltiger being finally taken down by his enemies, the Siamese.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer brag in their song about how they broke one of these (and probably others like it).
  • Pulling Your Child Away: Grizabella is an old cat who is being collectively shunned by the Jellicle tribe, apparently for being a diva when she was younger. Some of the kittens curiously try to approach her, but are held back by the adult cats.
  • Random Events Plot: Less a liner story constructed out of a series of thematically related poems and more a collection of thematically related skits about various characters.
  • Rapid-Fire Descriptors: The bridge to the prologue song, "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats", bombards the listener with a list of all the types of cats:
    Practical cats, dramatical cats, pragmatical cats, fanatical cats, oratorical cats, Delphic Oracle cats, skeptical cats, dispeptical cats, romantical cats, pedantical cats, critical cats, parasitical cats, allegorical cats, metaphorical cats, statistical cats and mystical cats, political cats, hypocritical cats, clerical cats, hysterical cats, cynical cats, rabbinical cats.
  • Reincarnate in Another World: The Jellical Cats are competing to see who will be reborn with a new life on the Heaviside Layer.
  • Relative Button: After Macavity kidnaps and then impersonates Old Deuteronomy, Munkustrap and Alonzo, two of the old cat's sons, are the first to face off against the fiend in feline shape.
  • Sexy Cat Person: Although in the context of the show they're meant to be Nearly Normal Animal cats, the actors' costumes (cat-patterned skin-tight spandex and cat makeup) and sensual dance moves make some characters (especially Bombalurina and Rum Tum Tugger) look like this trope.
  • Show Within a Show:
    • "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles"
    • "Growltiger's Last Stand".
  • Species Title: It's about singing cats.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Was it Mungojerrie or Rumpleteazer? Or Rumpelteazer, or Rumpleteaser, or Rumpelteaser? The original poems use the -el spelling, but the 1998 DTV film writes it with an -le.
  • Stairway to Heaven: Or, more precisely, a tire to heaven. Other productions have their own version, including a ferris wheel gondola in the Swedish version.
  • Sung-Through Musical: To the point where there's hardly any dialogue.
  • Thieving Pet: Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer are two mischievous cats that cause all sorts of trouble. Their song mentions such things as winter vests and Woolworth pearls going missing because of "that horrible cat", but their owners can't quite figure out which of them did it. They dance the song as portraying the thieving being caused by both of them working together.
  • Totally Radical: The short-lived and critically panned hip-hop "street cat" version of Rum Tum Tugger. He refers to himself as the "Jelli-coolest Cat" and calls Old Deuteronomy "Old D".
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: After the great Rumpus cat's number, he doesn't really have a choreographed exit. So once it finishes, he just sits down among all the other cats and attempts to discreetly make his way offscreen.
  • Villain Song: "Mungojerie and Rumpelteazer", where the titular duo sings about their crimes.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: "Macavity, the Mystery Cat". It would be a Villain Song if he himself had sung it.
  • Walk the Plank: Growltiger's final fate, when his story is included.
  • You Don't Look Like You: The new iteration of the Rum Tum Tugger as introduced in the 2014 revival. He is now a cheeky young rapper complete with snapback as opposed to a camp 70s rockstar in his prime. This was received pretty poorly, and he's back to his old Mick Jagger-y version for the 2016 Broadway version.
  • You Monster!: An indirect variant; Macavity is described as "a fiend in feline shape" and "a monster of depravity" in his Villain Sucks Song.


Video Example(s):


Grizabella the Glamour Cat

All the other cats despise of Grizabella during most of the first act of Cats.

How well does it match the trope?

4.29 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / AllOfTheOtherReindeer

Media sources: