Jellicle Dancers is a tribute to CATS, Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber's musical based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. The show centres on a tribe of cats who meet in a rubbish dump (a nod to Eliot's poem The Waste Lands) once a year for the Jellicle Ball and to discover who their leader deems worthy of going to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn. Themes include happiness, redemption and mortality.
CATS was the first of Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber's musicals in which he set music to existing words. All the songs are based on or inspired by Eliot's poems and the lyrics to Memory were written by director Sir Trevor Nunn. Originally the dancing was choreographed by Dame Gillian Lynne, the set designed by John Napier and the show produced by Sir Cameron Mackintosh.
The show ran for 21 years at the New London Theatre, 18 years at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway and also ran for a similar time in Budapest. It has played in every continent, been translated into many languages and there are usually a few productions showing somewhere in the world at any time.
Performers who have appeared in the show since 1981 number in their thousands. Some fulfill a childhood dream when they join the cast and many return to the show multiple times during their career. Marlene Danielle played Bombalurina for most of her 18 years on Broadway and Steven Wayne played George/Rumpus Cat for 13 of his 19 years in London.
The original London cast included Brian Blessed, Sarah Brightman, Finola Hughes, Seeta Indrani, Bonnie Langford, Paul Nicholas, Elaine Paige and Wayne Sleep. Soon after came Danny John-Jules, Sinitta Renet and Marti Webb. Later casts have included Joanna Ampil, Anna-Jane Casey, Richard Armitage, Janie Dee, Rosemarie Ford, Jason Gardiner, Ruthie Henshall, Sarah-Jane Honeywell, John Partridge, Sally-Ann Triplett, Nicole Scherzinger and Kerry Ellis. The video also featured a 90-year-old Sir John Mills.
Those who retire from performing might become choreographers, teachers of dance, yoga and pilates, photographers, massage therapists, police officers and teddy-bear makers.