Though spokespersons have been denying the death knell for several weeks, the New York Times website reported (Feb. 20) that Cats will close June 25, after 7,397 performances at the Winter Garden Theatre.
As late as Feb. 18, a spokesperson for the Nina Lannan general management office told Playbill On-Line, "We're not going anywhere... There's no scoop here." However, the Times reports that the show, which has dipped well below the $300,000 weekly gross mark for several weeks now, will not survive its 18th year.
The Times quotes Andrew Lloyd Webber spokesperson Peter Brown as saying, "Obviously, I am sad that Cats has to close on Broadway at the end of June, but it is also a day of great celebration," he said. "Eighteen is a great age for a cat."
(Cats fans hoping to hear the very last "Memory" or savor the final bump and grind by Rum Tum Tugger may also be out of luck; a Playbill staffer attempted to purchase tickets for the three shows on June 24 and 25 and was informed by a box office spokesperson (Feb. 20) that those final performances are not on sale to the general public.)
Perhaps the most unlikely of all juggernaut musicals, Cats has as its librettist poet T.S. Eliot. Composer Lloyd Webber adapted Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" and, with Trevor Nunn's direction, the show's famous junkyard set design and extraordinarily detailed make-up and costumes, as well as Gillian Lynne's occasionally audience-interactive choreography, the musical became a favorite of families and tourists. In later years, the show became something of a Broadway dinosaur, sneered at for its odd plot (a prostitute cat dies and is lifted to heaven on a hydraulic tire), lack of memorable tunes ("Memory" excepted, of course) and its sheer, almost ludicrous longevity while critically embraced musicals came and went. On the other hand, Cats probably introduced more children to theatre than any other production in history and provided hundreds of chorus singers and dancers with years of steady work (in interviews, Liz Callaway, a many-time Grizabella, made no bones about calling the show her meal ticket). A seven-time Tony winner (including Best Musical), Cats opened October 7, 1982 and, on June 19, 1997, passed A Chorus Line as the longest-running Broadway show of all time.
The Winter Garden Theatre was renovated to suit Cats' unusual set. The house will likely undergo a renovation before hosting another production.
Cats remains Broadway's longest running show, now -- but just maybe -- not forever.