Andrew Lloyd Webber
Cats: Original Broadway Cast



by Mathias CONTRIBUTOR (40 Reviews)
August 23rd, 2019 | 7 replies

Release Date: 1983 | Tracklist

Review Summary: We're gonna talk about Cats and you're gonna like it.

There’s a really important fact to know about Cats - It’s much more a spectacle than it is a musical. Is there a plot? Yes, contrary to what many people believe, but it’s so loose that trying to focus on it will ruin the entirety of the show. Are the lyrics good? It depends on what you quantify as “good”. The majority of the lyrics are taken from T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”. While Eliot himself of course comes with pedigree, this short book of poems does not. They’re fun little diddies written for his godchildren and the lyrics definitely come off that way. Incredibly fun but, like the plot, they fall apart if you look too far into them. So then is the music good? Again, it depends on what conventions you’re looking for. It’s very much pop-Broadway, with all of the accessibility of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (of Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar fame, among others) turned up to eleven across almost the entirety of the cast recording. He self-plagiarizes as he often does and there is nothing complex to the music, although it is incredibly catchy and the harmonies are impressive and notable. Of course Cats is also known for its elaborate practical costumes and technical dance, but seeing as this is a review strictly of audio, that doesn’t lend itself to the enjoyment of this cast recording.

So with how hated Cats is, why does it seem to be as equally loved and perseverant? That’s because of the spectacle. Despite Sir Webber having other much more beloved and well-reviewed shows, Cats is perhaps the most consistent. With slight exceptions, every song has the potential to be a listeners favorite song and the argument could be made for all of them. Every number is an undeniable ear worm that is over-the-top, grandiose, and most importantly, fun. Many people would argue that if you take Cats at face-value, the show just isn’t good. This is where I would disagree - The key to enjoying the show is to take it at face-value. The people who overanzlyze it are the ones that aren’t taking it at face value, but looking for something more that simply doesn’t exist and doesn’t need to exist. It’s art without depth, which might not qualify it as great art in many circles, but it serves its purpose incredibly well.

“Jellicle Songs for Jellice Cats” is nonsense, but that’s what makes it so much fun to hum along too. “The Rum Tum Tugger” is perhaps one of the most danceable songs ever created for a Broadway show, whether it be intricate choreography or the driving beats causing someone to unconsciously bop their head. “The Jellice Ball” is nearly ten minutes of beautiful orchestrations that tell a story just in their sound, practically representing a pop-oriented orchestral suite. “Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat” is an incredibly stupid song about a cat that lives on a train, but has vocal harmonies and a chorus that goes on for days. The choruses are what make the whole show successful. Unlike many of Webber’s other shows, every song in Cats can exist both independently or within the context of the show, as opposed to many melody-less interludes being dispersed for the sake of exposition. This is Lord Webber unleashed, unapologetic, and focused on strong melodies, which are his strength. He takes the vapid lyrics and lends them to his melodies. Because the lyrics for many songs, don’t matter except for the purpose of increasing the catchiness of the song. For example:

Because Jellicles are and Jellicles do
Jellicles do and Jellicles would
Jellicles would and Jellicles can
Jellicles can and Jellicles do

Skimbleshanks, the railway cat, the cat of the railway train.

Again, I am not here to argue that Cats is a good musical or a good piece of art. There are songs here that are nothing of the sort. “Bustopher Jones” is relentlessly annoying while “Growltiger’s Last Stand” is fun, but long and uncomfortably dated, wearing out its welcome quickly. But the show is an outstanding spectacle and one that can be appreciated even within the context of simply the audio portion. Even when paying attention to the lyrics, some of the songs are incredibly touching and powerful, even when considering they’re sung by humans dressed as cats. The obvious choice is “Memory”, one of the best power-ballads ever written. But the harmonies and lyrics in “The Old Gumbie Cat” create a delightful story and “Gus: The Theatre Cat” somehow creates empathy for an old cat past its performing prime. And that’s where the beauty of Cat lies. Try to analyze it, and you can entirely miss the point. Simply sit back and listen and you’ll soon be humming along to every cat tale.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Contributing Reviewer
August 23rd 2019


Review number 20! I decided that for every fifth review I do, I'm gonna review a musical cast recording. So of course, I had to start with everybody's favorite. Because if there's anything this site needs, it's a serious review of the Broadway musical Cats.

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August 23rd 2019


I appreciate this.

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Contributing Reviewer
August 23rd 2019


One person appreciating it is all I needed, honestly.

August 23rd 2019


That's the spirit dude! Are you big on musicals then? A housemate of mine is but I really can't stand them mostly

August 23rd 2019


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice to see this have a review!

This is a part of my childhood and returning to it, there's actually a whole lot of variety to it, well arranged and a lot of good melodies. I like it a lot (though nostalgia might be a part of that). The actual performances with costumes and all are really cringy to me though. I appreciate the work that goes into those dances but I can't stand it. One of the few cases where I prefer the recording over the performance.

Not really into the "scene" though, huge Stephen Sondheim fan and like some other stuff, but that's about it.

Contributing Reviewer
August 23rd 2019


@Pheremone Yeah, I’m big into them! Grew up performing in them and still do, they honestly make up about 25% of my listening. Makes for interesting playlists haha
@Rik I’ll be honest, part of my love for it comes from being in a production of it. Made me appreciate the detail and work that goes into the costuming a whole lot more. But the movie - I’m not so sure haha. I feel like it has to be practical effects to try and undo some of that cringe.
And I’m def more of a Sondheim guy myself! Cats is actually my favorite Webber, which is an unpopular opinion.

August 23rd 2019


Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats is cursed because as soon as you hear it its stuck in your head for the rest of your life. Also great review

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