Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

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Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is a collection of whimsical poems by T. S. Eliot about feline psychology and sociology, published by Faber and Faber. It is the basis for the record-setting musical Cats.[1]

The poems were written during the 1930s and included by Eliot, under his assumed name "Old Possum", in letters to his godchildren.[2] They were collected and published in 1939 with cover illustrations by the author, and quickly re-published in 1940, illustrated in full by Nicolas Bentley. It has also been published in reillustrated versions by Edward Gorey (1982) and Axel Scheffler (2009).



The contents of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, along with the name of the featured cat when appropriate, are:


In 1954 the English composer Alan Rawsthorne set six of the poems in a work for speaker and orchestra entitled Practical Cats, which was recorded soon after, with the actor Robert Donat as the speaker. At about the same time period another English composer, Humphrey Searle, composed another narrator piece based on the poems, using the flute, piccolo, cello and guitar. This work, Two Practical Cats, consisted of settings of the poems of Macavity and Growltiger.

Probably the best-known musical adaptation of the poems is the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats. This musical premiered in London's West End in 1981 and on Broadway in 1982, and went on to become the longest-running Broadway show in history, until it was beaten by another Andrew Lloyd Webber show, The Phantom of the Opera.

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