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'Cats' is still cool, crazy and definitely the cat's meow

THE musical "Cats" comes to town in September and fans are lapping up tickets for the fabulous fable of fantastic felines. It's absolutely the cat's whiskers, purrs Nie Xin. The award-winning musical "Cats" was first staged in Shanghai in 2003 and the audience couldn't get enough of the cavorting kitties, their garbage-can set and their soaring song "Memory."

"Cats" kicked off its 2009 world tour in May in Hong Kong and returns to the Chinese mainland from September 8-12, with eight performances in Shanghai at the Majestic Theater.

During the first couple of days since tickets went on sale nationwide on June 1, daily tickets sales reached 100,000 yuan (US$14,625).

The show last toured China in 2008.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's show, first performed in London's West End Theatre in 1981, is based on "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" by T. S. Eliot.

It ran for 21 years until 2001, and the Broadway production ran for 18 years, both setting records at the time.

"Cats" swept the Tony Awards in 1983, winning Best Musical and other honors. It also won the Laurence Olivier Award.

It has been performed in 26 countries and regions, and translated into more than 20 languages.

Elaine Page was the original Grizabella in the London production; Betty Buckley took the role on Broadway. The upcoming tour is put together by the original onstage production team. Even the back alley and garbage-can set is imported.

Six years ago, Zhou Jia, a fresh college graduate, watched "Cats" with her boyfriend and remembers it fondly.

"I loved it and I'll see it again," says the 32-year-old.

"I remember when the cats gather on stage and explain the Jellicle tribe," she says, "and when the cats spot the human audience and explain how the different cats of the tribe are named. When glamor cat Grizabella sang 'Memory,' I was so excited."

Theater-goers may be surprised that the show will be staged in the classical Majestic Theater, built in the 1930s, not the modern Shanghai Grand Theater with its state-of-the-art staging, lighting and acoustics.

The Majestic Theater was second choice, as the Grand Theater had already been booked.

The cast and crew are up to the challenges.

"The Majestic has a long history and precious culture and is known for its good acoustics," Zhu Huijun, general manager of the Shanghai International Culture & Art Exchange Co, one of the organizers.

"We are very confident we can overcome all the difficulties, and expect both performers and audience to appreciate the special cultural atmosphere in the Majestic."

"Cats" has toured China four times, but missed Shanghai in its second and third tour.

"We hope to put on a perfect show in Shanghai," says Zhu.

In the last China tour of "Cats" in 2008, the highest known ticket price was 10,000 yuan for two in Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan Province.

This time, prices are more reasonable. The show later moves on to Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing (Jiangsu Province), Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province) and Chongqing.

Date: September 5-12, 7:30pm

Venue: Majestic Theater, 66 Jiangning Rd

Tickets: 180-1,680 yuan


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