Joan Marcus
Broadway's musical "Cats" is inspired by poet T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats."

"The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,

It isn't just one of your holiday games;

You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter

When I tell you, a cat must have three different names." — T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" is the basis for what became a Broadway phenomenon — Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, "Cats."

The show won seven Tony awards in 1983, held the title for Broadway's longest-running show in 1997, ran for 18 years, and in 1991, it became the longest continuously touring show in American theater history. Not bad for a handful of alley cats.

Tuesday night, "Cats" prowls onto the Capitol Theatre stage for eight performances — taking audience members back out to the junkyard.

If you're a "Cats" novice, or if you need a refresher course, the plot is simple: It's Eliot's poetry set to music. Through the evening we're introduced to different cats with exotic names, as they all vie for a chance to be reborn, getting a second chance at another life.

Some of the cats include Old Deuteronomy (the patriarch of the pack), Mr. Mistoffelees (a young tomcat with magical powers — and incredible dance moves), Macavity (an illusive and mysterious cat), Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (notorious cat-burglars.)

"It's not this deep-rooted story line, but it transports you," said Melanie Brower, a self-proclaimed Broadway-lover from Utah County who is planning on taking the whole family, "The reason it's one of my favorites is that it was the first show I ever saw. I feel it's everything that Broadway is. It adds costumes, makeup and an incredible set."

The infamous junkyard set designed by John Napier (he is also responsible for the barricade in "Les Miserables") is lined with oversize tires, a broken-down stove and other oversize pieces of trash, giving you a feline perspective.

"My kids absolutely love it," Brower said. "They know the personalities of each cat. And these people get up there in just unitards and they look so catlike."

"The way I approach 'Cats,"' Brower explained when asked how she introduces her favorite play to novices, is "if you love dancing and you love amazing music and you just want to go and enjoy yourself — this is it. It's not a thinking show," she said.

Brower can hardly contain herself for the return of her favorite musical.

"I'm taking my kids to see it, and for my younger ones, this is their first Broadway show. It's everything that Broadway is — we're just so excited!"

"When you notice a cat in profound meditation,

The reason I tell you, is always the same:

His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation

Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name." — T.S. Eliot

And it might even help you see your cat in a whole new light.

If you go ...

What: Cats national tour

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

When: Tuesday through Sept. 21, times vary

How much: $30-$57.50

Phone: 801-355-2787

E-mail: [email protected]