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Dynamic shape: the dramaturgy of song and dance in Lloyd Webber's Cats

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

When Valerie Eliot, the widow of poet T. S. Eliot, presented Andrew Lloyd Webber with old drafts and discarded fragments from the writing of her husband's volume 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats' at a production workshop in 1980, one abandoned poem prompted the composer to declare, "What you've just given me is the difference between a song cycle that could be done by children in school and a musical" The rejected draft in question was in fact originally intended to conclude Eliot's collection of feline poetry, and contained ideas that centred on aspects of the physical, and the dance of the cats. This idea of physicality and movement so galvanized Lloyd Webber that it formed the basis upon which he shifted his attention from the song cycle he was creating based on Eliot's poetry, to the idea of a staged project; ultimately, that discarded draft shaped the work's form into what is often credited as the progenitor of the "megamusical": Cats . The reason for this may now appear obvious, for as choreographer Gillian Lynne notes, "there is no limit to what cats can do with their bodies, if you watch".
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGestures of music theater
Subtitle of host publicationThe performativity of song and dance
EditorsDominic Symonds, Millie Taylor
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Pages54-70
ISBN (Print)9780199997152
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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