An Explanation of the Musical “CATS”
The symbolism and meaning of the Musical “Cats”, explained from a Christian point of view.
Written and interpreted by Mike Fulmer.
T.S. Eliot, the author of Old Possums Book of Practical Cats, the book of poems in which the Musical “Cats” is based, is obviously quite knowledgeable of bible scripture and salvation history. At first glance it may appear as though” Cats” is just a musical about some random cats, with very little or even no theme. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The hidden parallels and symbolism seem to whisper to the subconscious mind of everyone in the audience, a message of salvation. Perhaps the intent of Eliot’s poems was to stir a desire for each of us to better understand our own salvation. This article will attempt to explain just that.
The Jellicle ball. The meeting of one night meeting per year, where one is chosen to enter into a jellical life, hints of the one Day of Atonement in the Old Testament. (A Jewish feast that is celebrated on one day of the year). The High priest enters into the Holy of Holies and atones for the sins of all of Israel. The High Priest seeks forgiveness of the sins of Israel. This “one day” feast is reflective of the one night of the jellicle ball.
Old Deuteronomy is symbolic of Moses the great mediator—as Moses leads the lost Israelite slaves to the Promised Land; Old Deuteronomy leads the cats into their promised land, the heavy side layer. His grey hair and beard, dress, and cat costume appear to look like Moses, without the stone tablets, of course. Deuteronomy is the name of the 5th book of the bible. This book mainly contains the story of Moses, leading God’s chosen people through the wilderness into the Promised Land.
The Heavy side layer is a cat heaven like place in the upper atmosphere, where the chosen cats are reborn into a new and jellicle life. (Angel like) The heavy side layer is an actual name for a layer of gas in the earth’s ionosphere.
Victoria—the white cat—Rev 3 tells us that the Victor must be dressed in white. The Victor is the one that does not suffer the second death, the pool of fire—feminine name for Victor is “Victoria”. Garments are needed to be washed as white as snow to enter heaven. She is Innocent. Queen Victoria.
Grizabella (perhaps Mary Magdalene)—has the “memories” of a sinful, painful past. She seeks forgiveness, and longs to be healed with a “touch”; as in the healing power of the touch of Jesus. Jesus performs many healing miracles as he touches the sinner throughout the Gospels. She pours out her heart as she sings the words “touch me” as she seeks forgiveness. She repents from her sinful past and seeks to be reborn and begin a new life. She is humble. In the end, she is chosen, and is lifted up, up, up into the heavyside layer (cat heaven) and reborn to a jellical life. This being lifted is certainly symbolic of our being lifted to heaven and granted eternal life.
Grizabella goes up the “stairway” into the jellical life, as seen in Jacobs dream in Genesis 28:12, a “stairway to heaven”. In this dream, Jacob sees a stairway that connects earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. It’s the gateway to heaven.
Mistoffelees is the tuxedo cat. Tuxedo cats have existed for thousands of years. They are said to be up to 200% smarter than ordinary cats. Tuxedo cats are an ancient breed of cats widely known for being seen on the walls of the pyramids in ancient Egypt. The mystical and magical Mistoffelees restores the path to a new life by the magical return of Old Deuteronomy to his position of director and mediator of this saving process. His magic is miracle –like, and he is regarded as having great powers and abilities. Like his name, he is a mysterious and humorous, Mistofeelees sounds a lot like Mister Fleas.
The secret name that no one knows is given to each cat. A “secret name” hints to the secret name given to the chosen in Rev 2 in the bible. It is given as a sign of victory and joy. This name can be shared with no one.
Many of the “deadly sins” of the world are visible in several of the personalities of the cats. The “gluttony” of Bustopher Jones is expressed clearly in the rather large spoon the he totes, as well as his obesity. The sin of “sloth” is revealed in laziness and size of Jenny Anydots. The sin of “lust” is a portrayed in the actions and character of Rum Tum Tugger as he seeks the sexual attention of all the female cats. He dances, and sings with an incredible likeness to an Elvis-like tomcat. There may be more of these deadly sins portrayed throughout the musical.
The wisdom of Gus, the theater cat, is reflective of the great wisdom of King Solomon. King Solomon built the temple; Gus helps to build the theater. His age and wisdom allows him to see the radical changes and modernization that has taken place over the years in the Theatre. He is resistant to change, and his memory dwells upon the good old days in the theater. The theater is to Gus, what the Temple is to the Jewish nation. Their whole life revolved around the temple, as Gus’ life revolves around the theater.
The evil one and his demons are refelected in Macavity and his evil helpers.Their desire to interfere and disrupt the saving process is shown by kidnapping Old Deuteronomy. As in scripture, he is successful for only a short while, and good conquers evil in the end.
Jellicle cats, is a form of the word angelical—meaning angel like. Jellicle choirs sing in “jellicle highs” throughout in the musical. Choirs of angels are often mentioned in scripture.
In the end Old Deuteronomy is returned, the kingdom is restored and evil is defeated as Grizabella is chosen and is lifted up and climbs up the stairway to an eternal life in the heavyside layer. All the cats literally rejoice and sing in angelical voices, as Grizabella is lifted up, up, up to the Heaviside layer. The rejoicingis shown as the cats paws are lifted into the air and waved as in a modern Christian praise and worship service.
There are many other interesting cats, not mentioned in this writing. They seem to be random characters that do not have symbolism in their names or meaning to the theme of the musical. Their names or character show no purpose to the attempt at paralleling of the story of salvation as told in scripture, or at least I can’t seem to find their direct meaning.
Because of the great number of obvious parallels to the bible, I believe this symbolic message of salvation in “Cats” is no mere coincidence, but the creative plan of a great Christian writer spreading the message of salvation in a most unique manner. Perhaps through the poems of T.S. Eliot, Andrew Lloyd Weber, the composer of “Cats”, found a subtle way to promote the mystery of the message of salvation on stage to an unsuspecting audience while providing spectacular entertainment in the process. To put it briefly, I believe the musical “Cats” is a classic work of art that goes much deeper than just fantastic singing, dancing, and costume. Perhaps this is why “Cats” has been so popular worldwide and has been performed in 18 different languages. “Cats” is the second longest running musical in the history of Broadway! I invite everyone to sit back and enjoy the musical “Cats” and to keep and open eye for more hidden words and symbols. Maybe you will find a few that we have overlooked.