Cats is a popular musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, taken from the 1939 book "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" by T.S. Eliot, the famous American-born poet who moved to England. In 1997, Cats broke the record previously held by The Chorus Line as the longest-running show on Broadway, attaining 6,138 performances. Later, an expensive movie version was a bust at the box office.
The musical features the goings-on of a group of cats called the Jellicle tribe. They are led by "Old Deuteronomy," a heavy-set cat who has lived long enough to bury 99 wives and has fathered numerous kittens (in one song it is implied that the entire Jellicle tribe, in fact, consists entirely of his offspring, thus explaining their god-like reverence of him). Every year, Old Deuteronomy chooses one cat to go to the "Heaviside Layer," to later be reborn as a new Jellicle member; tonight is the night he will make his decision.
One older female cat, Grizabella, wants to be the one chosen. A one-time glamour cat, her carefree youth has long passed, and she is now ostracized by the tribe. Her character is known for the song "Memory", which is considered one of the classic songs of musical theater.
Old Deuteronomy is made to disappear by one of the Jellicle tribe members, but is returned by the efforts of another, whereupon he begins the process of choosing the cat to go to the Heaviside Layer. Grizabella is able to plead her case to Old Deuteronomy, who chooses her to go.
- In real life, the "Kennelly-Heaviside Layer" is part of Earth's ionosphere, but in the musical it is a metaphor for Heaven.