A thing you'll frequently hear people say when they're talking about Cats, the nightmarish Broadway musical soon to become a major motion picture from noted director Tom Hooper, is that Cats has little to no plot. This is a phenomenon I experienced first hand when I saw Cats live earlier this year (I cannot recommend the experience), and I'm still sort of dumbfounded this would turn out to be the case for a musical this successful, this enduring, this iconic.
You know who else isn't entirely sure about the plot of Cats? Idris Elba, who'll appear in the Hooper's film as the shady cat known as Macavity. During a recent Late Show appearance, host Stephen Colbert asked Elba point-blank to explain the plot of the film/musical, and...well, our dude did his best:
“Ah, wow. What a way to throw me under the bus there!"
Strong start. Go on.
"It’s a classic. It’s a big musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I guess it’s about a cat? How am I doing?”
Not great, Idris, but it's okay. Give it another shot.
“It’s one cat’s journey toward what is essentially cat heaven. And the idea is that we all aspire to get [to] cat heaven. There’s this young cat and she gets sort of taken on this story of how to get to cat heaven and what you should do to get into cat heaven. How am I doing? Does anyone know what the story is?”
Elba's got the gist. Cats is, in fact, about one cat (from a pool of many, many cats, all of whom sing interminably long songs as a means for introducing themselves) trying to die and go to heaven. You're thinking, "Well, there has to be more to it than that, given that the musical itself runs nearly three hours in length", but you are tragically, hilariously wrong. That's really all there is to it.
This thing about a younger female cat who gets "sort of taken on this story of how to get to cat heaven" may or may not be a new addition - it's entirely possible I missed this plot thread while staring, bug-eyed and horrified, at the live show as it unfolded before me. But if we are getting a new, audience surrogate character through which we will experience the story of Cats, well, that strikes me as a wise move.
Anyway. Cats. It's happening, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. It'll be here in December. Hug your loved ones.