Act One: When Cats are Maddened by the Midnight Dance
At rise, the audience finds itself in a huge junkyard. Onstage, a special breed of cats known as Jellicle cats are making their way to the junkyard (Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats). Suddenly they spot the audience and realize the audience doesn't know what makes Jellicle cats special from ordinary cats. Jellicle cats are each give three names each, one name given by their human owners, one name that is unique and fits only that cat's personality, and one name that is so divine that only the cat knows it and still contemplates over it (The Naming of Cats).
But the most special thing about Jellicle cats is that they are able to have the opportunity to be reborn, which is the reason the Jellicle cats gather together in the junkyard that night. It is the night of the annual Jellicle Ball, where Old Deuteronomy, the eldest Jellicle cat, "through a silence you can cut with a knife announces the cat that is to be reborn." (Invitation to the Jellicle Ball).
The first cat competing for a spot in heaven is Jennyanydots, The Old Gumbie Cat. Fooling her masters into believing she is dormant during the day, Jennyanydots comes alive and useful at night. Instead of chasing the mice and insects, she teaches them music and crochetting so they don't ruin the house with their destructive behaviors.
The next cat is The Rum Tum Tugger, a curious yet suave cat who annoys his masters with his mischief and fickleness. Suddenly, the Rum Tum Tugger is interrupted by an uninvited guest, Grizabella, the Glamour Cat. Grizabella begs the cats to let her come to the Jellicle Ball, but the other cats ostracize the faded beauty, alienated by her "lady-of-the-night" ways.
The third cat in competition is "Bustopher Jones", the sophisticated "cat about town". Fattened by high society living, Bustopher Jones is a well-liked cat among the Jellicle Cats, unlike Grizabella. Suddenly, the cats are scared off into hiding when they hear some ominous noises, frantically whispering, "Macavity!" Two cats don't go off into hiding, the unsavory duo Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer. Both are professional "cat" burglars who cause all sorts of mischief while they burglarize the houses. When the other Jellicle cats come out of hiding to watch the two croon over their stolen goods, they chase Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer out of the junkyard.
Finally, the awaited moment of the Jellicle Ball has arrived. Old Deuteronomy has come to the Jellicle Ball. The old cat is welcome by worship, praise, and kisses. No Jellicle cat has ever been as great as Old Deuteronomy. When Old Deuteronomy is seated, Munkustrap entertains him with the tale of "The Awefull Battle Between the Pekes and Pollicle Dogs". Finally, The Jellicle Ball begins. The cats start to dance the night away while Old Deuteronomy ponders which cat deserves the honor to be reborn.
The ball is once again crashed by Grizabella, who feels she also deserves a chance to compete. The other cats disdainfully leave her alone to find another spot in the junkyard to dance. Unbeknownst to Grizabella, Old Deuteronomy is listening to her cries as she dreams for a second chance to regain her beauty and change her behaviors (Grizabella the Glamour Cat (Reprise)).
Act Two: Why Will the Summer Day Delay--When Will Time Flow Away
At rise, Old Deuteronomy is surrounded by the Jellicle cats in another part of the junkyard. He announces that he will choose the cat who "has found meaning to the happiness he or she has experienced" (The Moments of Happiness).
Jellylorum then introduces the next candidate, Gus: the Theatre Cat. Gus was once one of the greatest actors of his time. As he recounts some of his exploits in the theatre, Gus realizes that theatre today is not what it once was. He relives in his mind one of his favorite plays, "Growltiger's Last Stand." His memory is so detailed that the audience can literally see Growltiger's ship, the leading lady Griddlebone who joined him in the romantic "Ballad of Billy Macaw", and the actors who played his nemeses. Soon the memory of the play fades and Gus finds himself back in the junkyard, with his theatre legacy a fading memory.
The next cat to compete is Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat, who believes in extreme efficiency and reflects that in his work at the train station. As Skimbleshanks entices the Jellicle cats with his daily life at the railway station, the Jellicle cats hear the ominous noise they heard earlier. Macavity, the Mystery Cat has shown up uninvited to the Jellicle Ball. Angered by not being invited, Macavity and his henchman spirit Old Deuteronomy away so he cannot decide which cat will go to heaven.
As Munkustrap and some of the other Jellicle cats look for Macavity and Old Deuteronomy, Demeter and Bombularina whisper about the crimes this wicked cat has committed in his lifetime. He has even defied the law of gravity! His evilness has caused his to be feared by most Jellicle cats. Finally, Munkustrap and Alonso have found Macavity without their leader. They try to fight the answer out of him, but he is too powerful. Macavity tries to make a grand escape only to gets electrocuted from a nearby generator. When the smoke clears, Macavity is gone. And now there's no way to find Old Deuteronomy.
The Rum Tum Tugger suggests that maybe if they conjure up magical Mr. Mistoffelees, he can help bring back Old Deuteronomy. Before anyone can summon this magical cat, Mr. Mistoffelees appears with his smooth moves and magic tricks. With a wave of the cape, he successfully recovers Old Deuteronomy, unharmed. The Jellicle cats rejoice. Mr. Mistoffelees has saved the day!
For the third time, Grizabella comes back to the junkyard, tired of the shabby treatment she has been receiving from her fellow Jellicle cats. She explains how she wants to be reborn for a second chance to live differently--to live like the happy memories she has of when she was beautiful, before her years of prostitution (Memory).
After Grizabella is through, it is obvious to Old Deuteronomy which cat should have the honor of going to heaven. The Jellicle cats finally kneel out of respect to the cat who will be going to be reborn-Grizabella! Old Deuteronomy escorts Grizabella on a flying tire "up to the Heaviside Layer past the Jellicle Moon and the Russell Hotel" when Grizabella is to be reborn (The Journey to the Heaviside Layer).
It is almost morning. The Jellicle Ball is over for another year. As Old Deuteronomy adjourns his fellow Jellicle cats, he reminds them of their special privileges as cats (The Ad-dressing of Cats). Soon all of the Jellicle cats return home and the junkyard is quiet again for another year.
- Eric Field (TrplThrt17@aol.com)