Hey there Internet.
It’s been a hot minute since we last had one of our little chats. Life got crazy. My time got hijacked. Something had to break, and I guess it was our relationship. I didn’t stop thinking about you, though. I’m assuming you probably forgot all about me. It’s okay. It happens. I don’t blame you. You’re so busy all the time with your memes and your influencers and our wack-ass president’s hijinks. It didn’t feel so much like we were on the brink of a global catastrophe when I started writing this, and well, thoughts on musical theater didn’t feel so frivolous in that moment.
But, this is what I’ve got for you, and—appropriate or not—I am going to power through with this.
So, let’s just dive in. Let’s do this thing. Let’s talk about Cats. Yes, Cats. The world’s most boring, pointless, creepy-ass manifestation from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s imagination that refuses to die.
I need you to know that I know that this is NOT a good musical. It is NOT a good movie. And I’m still going to write positive things about it. Wrap your head around that for a second.
Here’s a not at all creepy GIF to set the mood.
Okay. Deep breath.
You should probably know that I went to see this beast of a movie with my daughter. She’s six. Her dream is to sing. She often pretends that she’s a cat. She does her own face paint to look like a cat. A 6 year-old’s cat face paint looks a lot like what those original Broadway performers were doing. She loves animals, and we adopted a cat for the holidays. Please enjoy this gratuitous new pet-in-portrait-mode-pic.
And the Cats movie was a cinematic spectacle that spoke to her soul. That’s an accomplishment. It’s a piece of art that connected with someone. That’s hard to make. I respect that kind of thing when I see it.
If you don’t know by now, the premise of Cats is that there’s this gang of Jellicle Cats that live in some dingy back alley in London. And these Jellicle Cats have a special ceremony every year where they sing songs about how rad their names are and how pretty they are so that this really old cat can decide which one of them is going to be lucky enough to die, perchance to be reborn into a different cat life.
Yup. It’s a musical entirely about cats singing about their names to see which one is best and therefore gets to die at the end. Literally nothing else happens in it. Cool?
It’s based off a book of poetry by T.S. Elliot. And when I say based off, I mean they took the poems word for word and set them to music. The source material is Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. To be honest, it’s pretty good. The way this guy uses language is delightful. The names are silly. They’re great to read out loud. Rum Tum Tugger? It’s fun to say and sounds dirty as fuck. Jennyanydots? Bustopher Jones? Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer? Way to play with sounds, Mr. Elliot, you’re doing poetry right.
Now we’re going to layer songs on top of that. Maybe musical theater isn’t your thing, but there was a long-ass time in the history of Western culture where this musical was everyone’s favorite. It made some serious cash. It ran forever. And it’s basically because Webber wrote one bomb-ass song.
Strong enough to make you forget about everything else about this show and convince you that you really liked it. That one song had the power to carry this entire thing. Like it or not, that’s also an accomplishment. Before you judge, internet, let’s see you write a song like that.
Oh, the movie. You’ve probably heard all the bad things. They’re pretty funny and also pretty true. Maybe you heard the pussy jokes Ricky Gervais made on the Golden Globes. I’m trying to highlight the good here, so do your own googling if you need to check in on those opinions.
Maybe you should know that in my younger days I went to a fancy-pants art school. I went to the California Institute of the Arts. I was in the theater school there. I’m a costume designer, so I work closely with actors. I’ve taken their fancy-pants method acting classes. I’ve read the books. I’ve even performed on stage using these techniques.
It is my expert opinion that the performers in this movie committed 2,000 percent to being those cats. They did a good job of it. They brought this bizarre world with this ridiculous premise to life and made a loosely connected grab bag of songs about cat names feel like a story. And my daughter was FEELING IT. All the way. She believed those performances. She fell in love with those cats. She saw past the CGI nightmare and saw the performers put their hearts and souls into being cats.
I’m going to close with this thought, internet. There are many forces out there that want to keep us separate. They want us to focus on fear and division. They want us to fight with each other. To focus on what we don’t like about another group of people and shout those things back and forth.
But what if we didn’t do that for a second?
What if we took the time to find the good, the things that we can agree on, the places where we are connected and go from there. What if you complimented somebody instead of making fun of them? Like, what if you really looked at something that makes you uncomfortable and found something that you genuinely liked in it and celebrated that for a second? How does that make you feel?
Take a risk. Do something just to make another person feel good. Write back and tell me how it goes.
Over and out, internet, over and out.