24 August 2014

Guilty pleasures

Everyone has a guilty pleasure. One of mine is musical theatre. Tonight, after playing small daughter a couple of clips from Cats on YouTube, I decided to indulge in the whole thing on Spotify after she went to bed. It was one of the musicals I loved most as a child - the other was Les Miserables, which I still adore. I remember we had a set of tapes (yes, ancient technology, I know!) of the original Cats London cast recording that Dad brought back from somewhere - Singapore, I think - and I played them over and over until the tapes stretched so badly I couldn't play them any more. They were a regular companion on my paper run, along with a tape from Elaine Paige that I had picked up in a bargain bin because it had a couple of tracks on it I liked. That one turned into one of my favourite tapes (in fact, I think I still have it somewhere, even though I lack the machinery to run it!).

What I loved and still love about Cats is the fact that it doesn't actually have a real storyline. It is mysterious and interesting and funny, and a tiny bit weird - just like a real cat - and it does have some wonderful songs. My favourite is actually 'Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat': it's very catchy, it's funny, and I can completely imagine a cat thinking that it is important enough to run a railway. As a show, it's also tremendously demanding on its performers:  all-singing, all-dancing for over two hours, with no dialogue breaks. I remember reading in Brian Blessed's autobiography Nothing's Impossible about how demanding the rehearsal and production process was (he played Bustopher Jones and Old Deuteronomy in the original London cast).

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