Cats and T. S. Eliot

Which Broadway musical was inspired by a book by T. S. Eliot?

And the answer: Cats.

Published in 1939, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is a collection of whimsical poems by T.S. Eliot. Several of the poems inspired Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1981 musical Cats, including "The Song of the Jellicles," "Mr. Mistoffelees," and "Old Deuteronomy."  

Photo credit: fair use. 

What began as silly poems soon grew into a worldwide phenomenon that continues to mesmerize audiences today. Cats the musical comes in just behind The Lion King as the fourth-longest running show on Broadway, and has been adapted to the screen as recently as 2019. The show is performed entirely in song, and the set is constructed to appear 2 to 3 times larger than its performers — surely a show told entirely in the world of whimsical cats requires its quirks. Over its decades of existence, Cats has amassed seven Tony Awards, and has been translated into 15 languages. The cat's meow, indeed.

Interestingly, the musical's best known song "Memories" is based off of a T.S. Eliot poem that was never completed. When Webber approached Eliot's widow to request her blessing for the project, she provided him not only a resounding "yes," but plenty of notes and letters left behind by her late husband. In them, Webber discovered a half-finished poem called “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat.” By combining the poem with lines from another Eliot poem, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” the famous melancholic ballad we know now as "Memories" was born. Thankfully, Eliot received a posthumous Tony for his contributions to this project.

Watch Elaine Paige perform "Memories" below.


Question of the Day Mobile App

Subscribe

Learn something new everyday. Get the Question of the Day delivered to your inbox each day!

You've successfully subscribed to Question of the Day
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Question of the Day
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.