11 May: The Opening Night Of ‘CATS’

At a cost of £2m, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical ‘Cats’ premiered at the New London Theatre on 11th May, 1981 – and the world had never seen anything like it. 


With a cast including Brian Blessed and Elaine Paige, the original production was innovative, sexy, creepy, bizarre – and an enormous gamble for the impresarios who backed it.


In this episode, Olly, Rebecca and Arion look back at the original reviews for the show, consider whether John Napier’s award-winning costume design was actually incredibly lazy, and reveal how the show’s signature song, ‘Memory’, nearly didn’t happen at all…


Further reading:

• Elaine Paige performs ‘Memory’ in the original production:

• Sue MacGregor interviews the cast and crew for Radio 4’s ‘The Reunion’:


• ‘Cats’ – a timeline from London’s Evening Standard: