The first theatrical release of Cats is set to premiere on Dec. 20, but don't think you can get everything out of the experience by just waltzing your way into the movie theater that night. I've got five good reasons you should read the book before seeing Cats, and I hope you'll take the time to enjoy it this fall.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's famous musical, which premiered in London's West End in 1981, is based on T.S. Eliot's 1939 poetry collection, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Pretty much all of the musical's songs come from the feline-based verses in that book, with the exception of "Memory," which is based on another Eliot poem, "Rhapsody on a Windy Night." Now, 80 years after Eliot originally composed Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats for his godchildren, his poems are making their way to the big screen for the first time.
Whether you're already a fan of Cats, or you have no idea what the hell that trailer was about, you should read Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats before you see the film adaptation in theaters. The book is still in print, and is also available in eBook format, so you won't have to look far to find a copy.
Here are five good reasons to read the book before you see Cats in theaters, in case you need a little more convincing.
Read It If You Don't Know the Words, or Don't Remember Them
You know some of Cats, but not all of it. Maybe you've listened to one of the two Cats cast recordings available on Spotify, or you watched the 1998 PBS special recording as a child. If you don't know all of the words to the songs by heart, or if you're having trouble making sense of a few lines, picking up Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is a fun way to prepare yourself to see Cats in theaters.
Read It If You Like Cats in General
One thing becomes clear when you read Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats — T.S. Eliot really understood what our furry companions are all about. Consider "The Rum-Tum Tugger," which says of the eponymous cat:
"When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He's always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he's at home, then he'd like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer,
But he makes such a fuss if he can't get out.
The Rum Tum Tugger doesn't care for a cuddle;
But he'll leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing,
For there's nothing he enjoys like a horrible muddle."
Tell me that's not pretty much every cat you know and love. Cat-lovers who aren't necessarily Cats-lovers should pick up Eliot's poetry collection and give it a read.
Read It If You Want to Enjoy Some Good, Fun Poetry
If nothing else will convince you to read Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, you should at least give it a once-over on the merits of the good fun it offers. Consider this passage from "Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat," which describes a self-important feline who rides a postal train all night:
"You may say that by and large it is Skimble who's in charge
Of the Sleeping Car Express.
From the driver and the guards to the bagmen playing cards
He will supervise them all, more or less."
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is full of these chuckle-worthy moments. At a time when everything is starting to look like a great, big dumpster fire, we need as many chuckles as we can get.
Read It If You Want to Understand What All the Fuss Is About
Did someone tell you that Cats is a bad Broadway musical because it doesn't have a plot? Have you felt confused by the glitz and glamour of spandex-clad dancers pretending to be... well, Cats? If you don't get what all the fuss over Cats is about, now's the perfect time to read Eliot's chapbook. If you don't like the poems, you probably won't enjoy hearing them set to music and performed by talented singers executing feline choreography, so save yourself some time by reading the book before you see the movie.
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