Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber On His Lifelong Passion For Cats

With the recent opening of Cats, legendary composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber now has three shows running simultaneously on Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock and Cats. Fiercely devoted to the arts in education, at this year's Tonys, it was announced that the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation is giving a $1.3 million grant to support theater education opportunities for underserved young people in public schools throughout the United States.

At the star-studded Cats opening, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber talked to about his deep affection for felines. These creatures helped inspire the musical based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. That original Broadway production, which opened in 1982, ran for 18 years and 7,485 performances. It went on to be presented in over 30 countries, was translated into 15 languages, and seen by more than 73 million people around the world.

"I've always loved cats ever since I could remember. My mother read T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats poems to me when I was very small. My first cat was a Siamese cat called Perseus. I don't know why he was called Perseus because it's not a very Siamese name. It's a Greek name, really. But he was a lovely seal point cat. A very, very intelligent cat. Now I have four marvelous Turkish Van cats, who are the swimming cats. They come from a place called Lake Van in Eastern Turkey.

In one sense, the heart of this beast is actually T.S. Eliot's view of Cats. It's the extraordinary way that he wrote these poems for his godchildren. But, of course, he had an eye on the parents who were going to read for the godchildren. So, they're brilliantly observed and very witty, and yet, he understands the cat."

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Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber with his three leading players: (From left) Tony Award nominee Alex Brightman (Dewey Finn in School of Rock - The Musical), James Barbour (Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera), and Broadway's newest leading lady, Leona Lewis (Grizabella in Cats).

Photo used with permission. Photo credit: Nathan Johnson