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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 11:43 GMT
Record-breaking Cats bows out
Cats won a host of awards after opening in 1981
Cats won a host of awards after opening in 1981
The London production of Cats, the capital's longest-running musical, is come to an end after 21 years.

More than eight million people have watched almost 9,000 performances of the West End show, which is credited with helping transform musical theatre.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said it was a
Andrew Lloyd Webber said it was a "huge risk" when it opened
The run will end on 11 May - exactly 21 years after it opened.

The announcement comes just three days after the curtain fell on the West End production of Starlight Express, one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's other long-running shows, for the final time.

Composed by Lloyd Webber, Cats set verses from TS Eliot's 1939 children's book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats to music.

Cats had been Broadway's longest running show, with 7,485 performances over almost 18 years, until it closed in September 2000.

Judi Dench was due to be part of the original cast
Judi Dench was due to be part of the original cast
When it closed there, Lloyd Webber addressed the crowd, saying the London production was a "huge, huge risk" when it opened.

"People don't believe this but we opened with quite a lot of our capital missing. The only thing I will say is musical theatre has got to continue to take risks."

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

It finally opened on 11 May 1981 with a cast that included Paige, Brian Blessed, Paul Nicholas, Wayne Sleep, Sarah Brightman and Bonnie Langford.

Elaine Paige, who took Dench's place, had a hit single with Memory
Elaine Paige, who took Dench's place, had a hit single with Memory
Paige went on to have a hit single with the song Memory, from the show, and the cast won a Grammy Award.

The original production also won two Laurence Olivier Awards in 1981.

Since then, it has taken 136m at London box offices and a further 1.25bn worldwide.

Global success

Cats is the second highest grossing musical of all time, after The Phantom Of The Opera.

It has been seen by more than 50 million people in 300 cities across the globe including Buenos Aires, Seoul, Helsinki and Singapore.

It is currently on a tour of the United States, which will end in July, and is also still playing in Japan, Germany and Hungary.

It was reported last year that Lloyd Webber was considering transferring Cats and other shows to China.

See also:

09 May 01 | Arts
Cats celebrates 20th year
06 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Cats eye Chinese stage
11 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Last purr for Broadway Cats
01 Oct 98 | Entertainment
Paws and play - Cats goes to video
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