Last year Andrew Lloyd Webber's T.S. Eliot-based, Tony Award-winning musical about frisky felines became the longest-running show in Broadway history, and the 11-year-old Fourth National Touring Company (the one that'll be at Jones Hall this weekend) pushed Cats to the top of nationwide record books as well. The plotless, and some would say pointless, production has long outlived its nine lives, but simply refuses after 16 years to retire with old Grizabella to the "Heavyside Layer" of musical history. Performers and the public alike cling to the fuzzy-wuzzy family affair: Two members of the original Broadway cast (Marlene Danielle and Susan Powers) still report for work at the Winter Garden Theater.
For its 5,000th-show Broadway birthday, the folks at The Really Useful Company (the musical's presenter) did something really useful. They calculated just how many G-strings and "Fanni-Panties" the show's 36 performers had gone through in the long run (3,456, if you must know). They also offer other fodder for pre-show cocktail conversation: The Broadway cast used 5,184 knee pads, 23,580 make-up brushes, 1,248,000 pounds of dry ice, 2,240 pounds of yak hair, and 40,136 condoms ("Used only to protect body microphones").
Divide by 5,000, extrapolate by about four years, multiply by 800 American touring engagements and another 5,000 or so London Company performances, add tours in Argentina, Austria, Australia,East Germany, Finland, France, Holland, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland, and you've got -- well, uh -- one heck of a furball.
Even if the show ever closes, the "Memory" won't die: The song has been caterwauled by 170 superstars, including Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Judy Collins, Liberace, and, of course, Barry Manilow. European singer Natalie Grant even cut a techno/dance remix.
There's no sense in trying to buck a 47- millionperson phenomenon. If you can't hum along, this Houston stint is your chance to learn... and to contribute your fair share to the show's $2 billion gross.
-- Lauren Kern
Cats cavorts at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, November 38. Showtimes: Tue.Sat., 8:00 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. matinees, 2:00 p.m. For tickets, $22.50$45, call Ticketmaster at 629-3700. Check out The Really Useful Company's website at www.really useful.com.