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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Cats lap up 20 years of applause
Andrew Lloyd Webber
The composer among his Cats
Most tourists arrive in London with a "must-do" list - and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats is likely to be on it.

Based on TS Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the 20-year-old show is not just London's longest-running musical - it is one of the world's major theatrical successes.

The production has been translated into 10 languages and performed in more than 26 countries and 300 cities.

Cats facts
Seen by 8m people worldwide
Earned 1bn
Spawned hit song Memory
One of the first stage shows released on video

The show's American production on Broadway closed last year after more than 18 years.

It was the longest running show in US theatre history.

Cats became London's longest-running musical in 1989 with its 3,358th performance - beating another Lloyd Webber classic - Jesus Christ Superstar.

Lord Lloyd-Webber, who added his score to TS Eliot's 14 poems, has a personal fortune estimated at 550m ($800m).

The hit song Memory has been played more than 50,000 times on British radio and television and recorded more than 100 different times.

Rubbish dump set

The show's original first night at the New London Theatre had to be postponed when Oscar-winning actress Judi Dench suffered a torn achilles tendon and Elaine Paige took over the part of Grizabella.

Members of Cats cast
Purrfect: Cats has become a theatrical institution
The New London Theatre was partially rebuilt to to create the ground-breaking Cats set.

Designer John Napier created a revolving stage area in the round with hidden entrances and exits.

The "playground cum rubbish dump" - as the original theatre programme puts it - was constructed to a cat's scale with huge rubbish bins, an abandoned car, massive tyres, and bicycles among the garbage.

The distinctive costumes are a blend of feline and human, but were designed to the allow the flexibility required for the show's dance routines.

The original cast of Cats included Brian Blessed, Paul Nicholas, Wayne Sleep and Sarah Brightman.

See also:

28 Feb 01 | Entertainment
West End crisis 'near'
06 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Cats eye Chinese stage
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