What’s a Jellicle Cat?

What’s a Jellicle Cat?

Senior JT Wood analyzes “Cats,” the musical. 

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going to Beef & Boards, a dinner theatre located on Michigan Road, and enjoyed one of the most unique musicals I have ever seen. I wouldn’t usually like this type of musical. I’ve seen it many times, mostly at Beef & Boards actually, but this was the first time I fully enjoyed and appreciated it. The musical was Cats, and it was a celebration of the feline. It takes place in an ally, where a group of cats congregate under the “Jellicle Moon” to celebrate what makes each of them unique. Now this is what I love about this musical: it makes up words and phrases that seem real to cats. These phrases that cats are familiar with, makes the musical so much more interesting. It makes what they’re talking about somehow make sense to the audience. Seeing this production of Cats opened my eyes and made me more open to different types of musicals. Although I’ve seen Cats before, this production helped me realize how unique and special this musical really is.

Although this musical is an original piece, it was inspired by another piece of art. It was based off of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Naming of Cats, and is performed in the musical. T.S. Eliot wrote about how cats actually have three different names and that these names illustrate who they are. Now the first name is normal, like any name a human would give a cat. The second is less normal, names like Plato, Electra and Demeter. The third name is what makes the cat unique, special and dignified. Eliot writes:

“But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,

A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,

Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,

Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,

Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,

Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-

Names that never belong to more than one cat.”

The names are a part of what I love about the musical, so when I read this poem, I noticed that many of the cats took on these names like the characters Bombalurina, Jellylorum and Deuteronomy. And like the poem tells us, the names of these characters are very important. It makes the cats unique. In this case, it makes them unique because they all have a specific personality. For instance, Rum Tug Tugger is a rocker, “bad boy” type of cat. Mistofoles is the magical cat. It’s really cool how they take their characters and use them to make their cats unique in they way that talk, walk, sing, etc. It’s actually wonderful to see these actors take on all the singing and dancing in this musical, but still look like regular cats, just crawling about and minding their own business. And what’s amazing about Beef & Boards is that the cats are always going in and out of the aisles, interacting with the audience, singing and dancing as they go. It really is a fun time when you’re in the audience.

Before I forget, I would just like to mention that, to me, this was a dancing musical. This is the type of musical that all the dancers audition for. But after seeing it again, I can say with certainty that the vocals are just as difficult. They are on par with the dancing. Also after seeing this, I found that the show had a specific story that I didn’t notice when I was younger. The cats are celebrating under the “Jellicle Moon.” They are all there to pick the older cat that will be honored and chosen to go to the Heavy-Side Lair, a phrase that means, most likely, Heaven. In this musical, many of the songs are about the potential cats to go to the Heavy-Side Lair. And there is one older cat named Grizabella, who used to be beautiful and is now a dirty old, grumpy cat. The other cats actually shun her and make fun of her when she is on stage. It’s very sad. That is probably the most important part of the story, which brings me to my conclusion.

Knowing how Grizabella’s story evolves, it really shows how accepting people for who they are, or were, can mean a great deal to people and make us all better people, or cats, for doing so. Accepting other people into our lives is such a wonderful thing; it’s no wonder the cats are celebrating throughout the entire musical. This production really was something special and I just thought it was worth telling someone about. It’s a unique musical that anyone, even people who aren’t into musical theatre, would enjoy.

Image Source: http://asota.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/cats-at-beef-and-boards-dinner-theatre/

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