Production spokesman Michael Borowski said the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical would play a special Thursday evening peformance June 19, 1997 to mark its 6,138th performance, surpassing the current all-time record holder, A Chorus Line.
On that big night, the audience will be filled by former Cats cats, as well as government officials and industry stars. The show will start at 6 PM so that at 9 PM, a special outdoor ceremony can begin. In full costume, the Cats cast will emerge from the Winter Garden with the audience and mount a specially-constructed stage for a salute to composer Webber.
He and the creative team will be on-hand for a special curtain call, fireworks, confetti and champagne toasts. Then the action will move to the Rockefeller Center Hilton Hotel where there will be cocktails and a buffet. (Webber and the shows producers have invited all the casts of all current Broadway shows to join the party after their curtains have come down.)
Plans to celebrate in white tents Seventh Ave. and 50th Street were abruptly cancelled June 18 as the party list grew longer and longer, according to the show's spokesperson. Cats became the second-longest running show in Broadway history in January 1997 when it surpassed the revival of Oh! Calcutta that ran 5,959 performances.
Now in its 15th year at the Winter Garden Theatre, Cats won 1983 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Score, Book (to T.S. Eliot), Director, Costumes, Lighting and Featured Actress (Betty Buckley). Laurie Beechman returns to the role of Grizabella May 16 (through Sept. 15) and will be in the cast for the June 19 performance. Other major performers playing now (and on the special date) are Ken Prymus (Old Deuteronomy), Jacob Brent (Mister Mistoffeles), Richard Poole (Gus), David Hibbard (Rum Tum Tugger), Roger Kachel (Mungojerrie) and Maria Jo Ralabate (Rumpleteazer). Hibbard, by the way, is the cat targeted in the $6 million lawsuit against Cats by Evelyn Amato, who claims he too aggressively jumped on her seat and shook his kitty nether-regions at her.
Cats opened on Broadway Oct. 7, 1982. It has already become the longest running musical in London history. The all-time champ in London remains the non-musical The Mousetrap, which opened in 1952 and is still running. In New York, The Fantasticks opened in 1960 and is still running -- but that's Off-Broadway.
As a special promotion, the four shows leading up to the Thursday gala will institute a "Kids Get In Free" policy. With purchase of one full-price ticket June 16, 17 and 18 (two shows), a child is admitted at no cost. Also just for kids on those days will be free afternoon "Open Houses" (2-4 PM) at the theatre, featuring face painting and instructions on "How To Become A Cat," "Move Like A Cat," and a sing-a-long with the cast that teaches how Eliot's poetry is turned to song.
For a list of all Broadway shows that have played 900 performances or more, see Long Runs on Broadway in Theatre News.