In 1982, an alliance of pop culture titans came together on the Broadway stage. Andrew Lloyd Webber, a man who helped turn Jesus into a rock star and somehow got a musical on roller skates financed, teamed with Cameron Mackintosh, the budding producer extraordinaire who would go on to bring the French Revolution (Les Miserables) and Vietnam War (Miss Saigon) to theater-going masses hungry for big ballads and dazzling spectacle.
Their project: Cats. Its humble beginning: October 7, 1982, the day of its Broadway debut. Based on a book of poetry by T. S. Eliot, Cats demolished all expectations. After winning every known award, it went on to make a zillion dollars and today continues to show up on the boards worldwide. Its influence remains potent. No talent contest, for instance, can take place without someone singing the show-stopper “Memory” (see above) and we can probably give the show credit for paving the way for the current feline dominance of Internet memes.
I feel about cats the way others do about babies: I like them, but only when they belong to someone else. It’s a minority position, admittedly, and no offense intended to the many cat lovers out there. In fact, if you dig on Felis catus, I’m here to tell you that the UI Press stands with felines. ‘Tis no greater expression of our loyalty to the cause than UIP’s championing of Norman R. Shapiro’s new book Fe-Lines: French Cat Poems through the Ages. In yet another of his masterful translations, Shapiro lionizes the cat’s limitless allure, bringing us tales of she-cats and toms as immortalized by an honor roll of French poets who served as their devoted champions. Shapiro also reveals the remarkable range of French cat poems, with most works presented for the first time in English translation.