ASK PLAYBILL.COM: A Question About the Prevalence of Cats on Stage

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25 Mar 2013

Vito Vincent, who plays Breakfast at Tiffany's.">
Vito Vincent, who plays "Cat," backstage at Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Photo by Monica Simoes/Breakfast at Tiffany's

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it doesn't stop us from asking why plays and musicals seem to be populated more often with dogs than cats.

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With the arrival of Breakfast at Tiffany's on Broadway, and the many colorful news accounts about the various felines that were hired (and fired) to play Holly Golightly's famously unnamed cat, "Cat," Playbill.com's staff got to thinking. We could think of many instances when dogs have been in Broadway shows. But when's the last time a cat had a major part on Broadway? And what are the differences in handling dogs and cats on stage?



Dogs are no strangers to Broadway. You need only look as far as this season's revival of Annie to find a prominently placed stage pooch. Other titles that have featured hounds come easily to mind. A few include the musical Legally Blonde; A Christmas Story, The MusicalThe Will Rogers Follies (which included an entire dog act); Oliver!; Camelot; Gypsy; Nick and Nora — the list goes on. But cats?

"In my research, the only big theatre piece that had a cat was Bell, Book and Candle," said Tony-winning animal trainer Bill Berloni, who has worked on 23 Broadway shows and countless regional and touring productions. John Van Druten's 1950 comedy about modern witches had, among its characters, a black cat called Pyewacket. "From what I've read, whatever the cat did was great. And it ran for a long time. It was a big hit."

Berloni works with all sorts of animals, including dogs, cats, mice, birds, sheep and pigs. But dogs make up "99.8 percent" of his business. He has done a total of three shows that have featured cats. "The first was a musical by Martin Charnin called The First, about Jackie Robinson. The second was a play directed by Eva Le Gallienne, starring Kate Burton, called Alice in Wonderland. And most recently, The Lieutenant of Inishmore."

In the latter, Martin McDonagh's black comedy about a man too crazy for the IRA, the suspected death of a black cat called Wee Thomas results in several gruesome murders. "On that, because it was a key to the story, they asked me not to have credit in the program." (The audience yowled with laughter at the feline's appearance in the play at Off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company; the production moved to Broadway.)

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