Okay, so now you’ve seen the trailer for the “movie” titled Cats and maybe you have some questions. Why are the cats singing? Why are the cats wearing fur coats? Why … any of it at all? Well, sit down little kitty because Old Vulture is here to explain it to you. Now the problem with trying to explain the plot of Cats is that even once someone does it, you’re not really going to believe them. You’re going to assume that they left out some element that would give the whole thing some motivation, would help explain why exactly any of this is happening. But no. There is none, and even though this post is now going to explain to you roughly what Cats is about right now, the truth is that it’s hard to even accept until you see it.
There are a bunch of cats all running around in an alley. Many of them have personalities and names, names like Rum Tum Tugger and Grizabella and Macavity, and together they call themselves the Jellicle Cats. But this designation means nothing, really, and has little impact on the plot. The main takeaway is that they (a) are cats who (b) have names. Then a really big cat shows up named Old Deuteronomy (played by Judi Dench in the movie!) who tells everyone that on this very night one cat gets to go to heaven. Old Deuteronomy calls it the Heaviside Layer, but most of the potential metaphors in Cats make no sense and this is the only one that’s pretty clear. It’s heaven.
So then there’s a big dance (the Jellicle Ball, of course), where all the cats sing songs introducing themselves, and then a big fight, neither of which … really does anything, plot-wise. Then Old Deuteronomy announces which cat gets to go to the Heaviside Layer, and it turns out to be SPOILER ALERT Grizabella, the oldest, scruffiest cat of the bunch who’s obviously desperate to be put out of her misery and who sings the only song in Cats that became a breakout hit (“Memory”).
And that’s … it? Cats! As the key art for the movie explains, “You Will Believe.” In what? No one knows.