I had somehow missed the news that there’s going to be a film of the musical Cats this year. (Prefatory comment: if you’re one of the haters that doesn’t like it, please don’t come into my comments to say so. I imprinted on this thing around the age of six.)
I’m . . . wary, but cautiously optimistic? The cast looks excellent, even if I’m a little nonplussed by casting Idris Elba as Macavity. (The lyrics describe that character as “very tall and thin,” and while he’s got the height covered, in terms of build I’d envision someone more like Mahershala Ali.) But Gus the Theatre Cat will be played by Ian McKellan, which sounds perfect, and I love love love that they’ve cast Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy. I agree with the reservation Alyc expressed to me, which is that many of the people cast are good singers but not necessarily good dancers, but a lot depends on how they’re going to stage things; it may be that the bulk of the dancing is done by a backup corps rather than the lead characters.
A lot also depends on what they’re doing story-wise. Some of the people who dislike Cats as a musical do so because they went in expecting a full story, and instead got a series of song-and-dance numbers connected by a tenuous thread of plot. Are they going to beef that up for the film? If so . . . how? There isn’t a lot to work with, and I’m leery of any attempt to invent new material wholesale to create a bigger story. It makes me think of all the crap that got added to The Hobbit so they could stretch a very short book out to three films — I don’t want the same thing to happen here.
And I’m also crossing my fingers that they’ll make a couple of revisions to the lyrics. I may love Cats, but T.S. Eliot’s poems used a couple of unfortunate words for the Chinese characters, and there’s no need to carry those over to the film. But they’re single words and easily swapped out without breaking the scansion, so I hope they make that fix. From a different direction, I’m also wondering if they’ll do anything with the line about how Old Deuteronomy has “buried nine wives” — are we at the point as a society where we’ll just shrug and say, sure, Dench-eronomy had wives? We’ll see.
Ultimately, I just hope it doesn’t suck.