The very, very starry cast of Cats are making their feline debut across silver screens up and down the country today. From Judi Dench to Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson to Ian McKellan and even Taylor Swift and Jason Derulo, the credits are just a long roll of celebrity after celebrity.
While Tom Hooper’s new film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s beloved musical has garnered… mixed reactions, there’s one thing for sure – everyone’s talking about it.
So we thought what better time to take a look back at some of the famous faces of Cats in the West End over the years, if you can even recognise them underneath all the make up and the fur!
Zizzi – real name Sylphide Charity Vaigncourt-Strallen, who knew! – played Demeter in the West End revival in Cats back in 2014. Alongside her three sisters, Scarlett, Summer and Saskia, Zizi has been acting from a young age. Since Cats, she’s appeared in Follies and Strictly Ballroom and is currently wowing audiences as legendary nanny Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre.
British comedy legend, Brian Blessed was already well on his way to becoming a national treasure when he starred as Old Deuteronomy in the original 1981 West End cast of Cats. Best known for his booming voice and huge presence, you may recognise Brian from his comedy endeavours in Flash Gordon and Blackadder but he’s also quite the Thespian and has appeared in many Shakespearean roles including four of the five Shakespeare films directed by Kenneth Branagh. Les Mis super-fans may also recognise him as the voice of Jean Valjean in the 2001 Radio Theatre adaptation of the classic story!
The Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger played faded star Grizabella in the 2014 West End revival of Cats, a role which earned her an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Since then, Nicole has turned back to TV, judging singing reality TV shows The Masked Singer, Australia’s Got Talent and The X Factor as well as presenting and even starring in the 2017 TV remake of Dirty Dancing.
Musical theatre icon, Elaine Paige was in the original 1981 cast as Grizabella, singer of perhaps the most famous song from the Cats score – Memory. Her version of Memory even went on to be a top ten hit! Elaine reprised her role as the former glamour cat and Jellicle outcast nearly two decades later for the 1998 film alongside Susan Jane Tanner, who reprised her role of Jellylorum. Elaine actually came to the role late in the rehearsals, taking over the part from Judi Dench, who had to withdraw from the role due to a torn Achilles tendon. She didn’t miss her chance entirely though; nearly 40 years on, Judi is now playing wise leader Old Deuteronomy in the newly released film!
Bonita Melody Lysette Langford began life as a child star in TV series Just William, the 1974 Broadway revival of Gypsy and Bugsy Malone. Cats was her first appearance on stage since Gypsy, and Bonnie originated the role of Rumpleteazer when she was just 17! She’s gone on to have a career too long to list on both screen and stage, including 2 seasons as Doctor Who’s companion, 3 years on EastEnders, the West End run and US tour of Chicago and several different runs of Spamalot. She’s currently starring as the hilarious Roz Keith in 9 to 5 at the Savoy Theatre alongside none other than David Hasselhoff himself.
Paul Nicholas has been singing, dancing and acting for nearly 60 years now. Beginning as a singer in the 60s, he went on to star as Claude in Hair; the first Jesus in the London production of Jesus Christ Superstar; and Danny, opposite Elaine Paige’s Sandy in Grease. After a bout of films, including See No Evil, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Jazz Singer and Nutcracker, he originated the role of Rum Tum Tugger in Cats. While Rum Tum Tugger started out as a ladies-man rockstar, he has been re-imagined many times on the stage and has been re-worked in recent years to a breakdancing street cat, with his musical number re-written as a rap. We can’t wait to see what new twists Jason Derulo brings to the role!
We just can’t get enough of Beverley Knight’s voice. Also playing Grizabella, Beverley’s powerful voice afforded her a spot at the 2015 Royal Variety Performance, singing songs from the musical. In 2017, she teamed up with Cassidy Janson and Amber Riley to form a musical theatre supergroup called the Leading Ladies. Their debut album included songs from Bats, Beautiful, Rent and many others. Beverley recently announced a return to the West End Stage in The Drifters Girl, a brand new musical about the world-famous vocal group and the woman behind the scenes who made them.
So these are some of our favourite famous faces who’ve performed in Cats in the West End! The film of Cats is out today but if you’re craving that live musical hit, check out our list of new musicals coming to London in 2020!