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06/25/2003 Archived Entry: ""Cats" as mind control or modern meme"

I FINALLY SAW "CATS" LAST WEEK. I love musicals, but I've avoided everything by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I don't know why, but somehow I was sure I'd see something that was horrible, but compellingly horrible. I'd really like his stuff while wishing like crazy I didn't. And by golly, I could have written that review of "Cats" without watching the show. Seldom has such talent and verve and pizzaz been put to the service of such ... nothing.

At first I was bored silly. Wow, there's not a singable song (other than the syrupy pop-dirge "Memory"), barely even a token plot, and characters that appeal entirely by their style, not their substance. But after about a half an hour I was sucked in SO deep. And now I can't get "Cats" out of my brain.

That's just the thing, though. It's like this. Ten years ago, I heard a certain really clever, but really bad, advertising jingle. I won't even say what it is, because if I even think of it, let alone talk about it, that jolly-horrible jingle will occupy all the space in my skull for the next two days. And even though I swear to you -- swear on the grave of my sainted grandmother -- that I will never, as long as I live, EVER buy that product -- it's still selling itself. Not on a TV set, but right inside my own skull, where it isn't even paying for the time or space.

Well, after "Cats," that jangling jingle is Beethoven. It's Shakespeare. If my brain plays back one more repetition of "JELL-i-cle songs for JELL-i-cle cats!" or "The Rum TUM Tugger is a curious cat!" I'll stick my head in a bucket of wet cement to get some peace.

(And don't tell me the great T.S. Eliot was responsible before Andrew Lloyd Webber was. Even Eliot had a few bad days. And anyway, he just wrote one quiet little book of sappy cat poems, not the magical musical money-making mind-control machine that is "Cats."

It occurs to me that there's some political point to this rumination. There's something about the popularity of a Really Bad, Really Big Hit Musical (by really talented people) that can tell us something about the age we live in. There's something important in the fact that the mere jingles of "Cats" have replaced real songs that helped develop real story lines in the musicals of yore (and no; it's not just that they were better in "my day"; they were better in "my day" ("Cabaret"), my older brother's day ("West Side Story"), my father's day ("South Pacific"), and his father's day ("Showboat")). There is something that must urgently be said about the malign effects of "sound bite" entertainment in a "sound bite" age. Something that must desperately be uncovered about our increasing willingness to be fed pabulum -- and persuade ourselves it's steak.

But unfortunatly, I can't say it. I'm too busy going

OH! Well,
I NEVer!
Was there EVer
a cat so clever
as MAGical MISter

Posted by Claire @ 09:42 PM CST

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