Special Reports

5 Stars Who Should Play Grizabella in Cats

Mamie Parris will follow Leona Lewis in the role after the ”X-Factor” star flies away for the last time on October 9, but who will be next?

Leona Lewis stars as Grizabella in the Broadway revival of Cats.
Leona Lewis stars as Grizabella in the Broadway revival of Cats.
(© Matthew Murphy)

Last week, Leona Lewis announced her impending final performance with the Broadway revival of Cats, which will take place Sunday, October 9. Lewis received less-than-glowing notices for her performance as Grizabella, the Memory-singing "glamour cat" who is arguably the show's protagonist. She is slated to be replaced by Mamie Parris (School of Rock), but even if this revival lasts half the run of the original, Parris will be far from the final Grizabella at the Neil Simon Theatre. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of 5 stars who we would love to see in cat suits.

1. Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga's inevitable stage debut may be the most anticipated in recent memory, but no one can be certain which vehicle will carry the honorable Lady to Broadway. For a number of reasons, we suggest Cats: She's got the pipes, she is not afraid to wear ridiculous costumes, and her habitual embrace of Christian iconography meshes well with the show's thematic thrust (a cross that Grizabella, the shunned prostitute cat, must carry on her own). Gaga has already played the role of Mary Magdalene in the music video for Judas, so Grizabella shouldn't be much of a stretch.

2. Barbra Streisand

When Barbra Streisand appeared at the 2016 Tonys (after a 46-year absence) to present the Best Musical Award to Hamilton, was it just a nostalgic visit to her Broadway past or a signal of her desire to return to the Great White Way? We like to think the latter. What better way to make her Broadway return than headlining Cats, arguably the second most famous entity to come out of Broadway in the second half of the 20th century? We already know she can sing the song. Granted, Trevor Nunn might have to restage the entire show to highlight only Babs' "good side," but it would be worth it to see such a living legend ride a giant tire to kitty heaven eight nights a week.

3. Eartha Kitt

We recognize this one is completely impossible barring an act of Sean Hayes. Still, no one could deny that the late Miss Kitty would have made a fabulous Grizabella. A two-time Tony nominee (for Timbuktu! and The Wild Party), Kitt had the acting chops for the role and a pitch-purrfect voice to match. Just thinking about the commitment she would have brought to the first-act closer, we can only sigh at the missed opportunity.

4. Taylor Mac

Few contemporary performers are as tenacious as cabaret luminary Taylor Mac, as he's proving this month with his 24-Decade History of Popular Music at St. Ann's Warehouse. Mac dedicates an hour to the popular songs from each of the 24 decades since the American Revolution, all of which will culminate in a marathon daylong performance on October 8…just as Lewis wraps her run in Cats (the producers have not announced a starting date for Parris, but it likely won't come directly on the heels of Lewis' departure). After performing for 24 hours straight, I'm sure Mac has it in him to sing one more song on Broadway at the start of the following week (Cats performs Mondays). We would also like to see Mac's alternative take on the typical Grizabella costume, which we're sure he would insist upon before assuming the role.

5. Betty Buckley

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That seems to be the driving ethos behind the Broadway revival of Cats, which is remarkably faithful to the first production. Why not go all the way and bring back members of the original cast? We would love to see Betty Buckley reprise her Tony Award-winning performance as Grizabella, which has almost certainly aged like a fine wine over the past 34 years. Sure, we can dream of the old days, but a new day has begun and it's clamoring for Betty Buckley.

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Closed: December 30, 2017