I actually did not have to look this one up – because I knew it already! October 8, 1982 was the opening date of the musical Cats on Broadway. It became one of the longest-running musicals on Broadway, running for 18 years.
I was lucky enough to grow up outside of NY city, so I had access to Broadway with just a 2-hour train ride. Now obviously (or maybe not so obviously but you’re too kind to say so) I’m too young to have seen Cats when it opened. And it wasn’t October 8 when I saw it. But I still remember it because it was my very first musical!
I was just starting to get into musical theater and a friend of mine loaned me a CD of the music. I memorized it and sang it all the dang time. When my grandmother got wind of this, she took me to Broadway. We stood there in Times Square at the discount ticket booth and she managed to get us two seats next to each other in the fourth row back in the orchestra. That’s crazy!
I remember when the lights went down and the music began, and little twinkling lights began to sparkle all over the theater through curls of fog. It was so magical, so surreal, I fell in love instantly. p until then I’d just seen little amateur shows with terrible effects and maybe one poor beleaguered piano teacher clunking out the score. This was something else.
At one point Bustopher Jones came dancing down the aisle, grabbed my grandma’s hands, pulled her up and danced with her for a second or two, and then sat her back down. I was beside myself. And then, of course, was the scene with Mr Mistoffelees, which has remained one of my favorite Broadway bits EVER. I always thought if I were to be on Broadway, that’s the role I’d want (technically my first pick would be Javert in Les Miserables but let’s face it, there isn’t enough testosterone in the world to make my voice get as low as he sings). Besides, Mr. Mistoffelees gets that awesome leap sequence in his dance. Can’t quite see Javert bursting into a round of spins and leaps like Mr. Mistoffelees does. Dance, dance, suicide, dance… no, that wouldn’t work.
Anyway, when the musical was done my grandma took me to this little restaurant that looked like a total dive but served the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten (welcome to NYC – if the place looks like a crackhouse but a billion people are eating there, you want to be one of them). That was the beginning of a life-long love of musical theater.
If you’re not sure why this is relevant, book-ish-ly speaking, it’s because the musical was actually based on a book by T.S.Eliot called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Naturally, I do have the book. I think it’s adorable. It’s a collection of poems – yes, about cats. No deep meaning. Just kitties.
I think I might have cried when Cats stopped running on Broadway. I saw it three times (it was beaten out by Les Mis which I’ve seen 4 times), and each was just as magical as the last. From the costumes to the lighting to the music and dancing… just incredible.
And a priceless memory with my grandma, who is now 86… I’m always going to remember that day she opened my eyes to an incredible new world. Thanks, grandma!