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'Cats' to be revived in London's West End, this time with a rap twist

Everything old is new again, as the saying goes, and when it comes to musical theater it’s pretty standard practice to bring back popular shows every so often for a whole new audience to see. It was announced on Monday that Cats, one of the most popular and longest-running musicals of all time, is making a comeback of its own, only this time it’s getting a bit of a modern twist.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has reportedly tweaked parts of the Tony Award-winning show, which will hit London’s West End later this year. The revamped version will feature a “hip-hop flavor,” specifically the character Rum Tum Tugger, who will return to the stage as a rapping street cat.

Why a rapping street cat, you ask? If you ask Lloyd Webber himself, rap is the perfect genre to weave into the production, given its origins in T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

"I've come to the conclusion that ... maybe Eliot was the inventor of rap," Lloyd Webber said, later adding that "I'm not changing what Eliot wrote, but if you read that poem and you get a rapper to do it - don't ask me to do it - it's quite interesting."

As for what else fans might expect to see differently in this production, Lloyd Webber has also rewritten the song “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” as it was “never [Lloyd Webber’s] favourite moment of the show."

Cats first opened in the West End in 1981 and ran for 8,949 performances through 2002. In 1982, it opened on Broadway with the same creative team and clocked in at 7,485 performances of its own to become the second longest-running show in Broadway history, surpassed only by The Phantom of the Opera. As for the West End, Cats is its sixth longest-running show ever. In the meantime, the beloved musical has been seen in more than 30 countries by over 50 million people.

This one won’t have quite the longevity that the original had, however; the production is scheduled to run for a 12-week limited engagement starting December 6 at the London Palladium. The original creative team, which includes director Trevor Nunn, choreographer Gillian Lynne, and designer John Napier, is reuniting to put the updated show together. Tickets for the revival went on sale today.

“It’d be great to have it for another generation,” Lloyd Webber said.

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