The Duke - March 18, 2015

Cats is slinking back into Blackpool for the 2015 Opera House summer season''Copyright: RUT 2015. 'Photograph of London Palladium Company by Alessandro Pinna
Cats is slinking back into Blackpool for the 2015 Opera House summer season''Copyright: RUT 2015. 'Photograph of London Palladium Company by Alessandro Pinna
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I can’t tell you how delighted I am that the memorable musical Cats is heading back to Blackpool for the third time.

No, honestly I am delighted – a word I perhaps don’t use often enough and clearly not as often as councillor Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for tourism and leisure, who is quite rightly delighted every time another show is confirmed for the cavernous Winter Gardens Opera House.

I was pleasantly surprised when Tommy was booked in for its premiere run, I was a little bemused to see that Baywatch and pantomime star David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff is to headline as an “extrovert party going disc jockey and night club owner” in the new 90s-based musical Last Night A DJ Saved My Life and I was relieved when the recent visit of Jesus Christ Superstar was as good as it was.

But such feelings are all beaten into a cocked hat when it comes to the delight of seeing old favourite Cats back for an eight-week summer run.

It’s a little scary to recall that its first visit here was way back in 1989 – when it stayed for a six-month run and smashed all box office records.

Nobody spoke then of it “putting Blackpool on the map” because the resort had never (and still hasn’t) been off the map

It was its first time out of the West End and the first time a major musical had taken over the Opera House for the entire season.

Marti Webb starred as Grizabella – the role recently played by Nicole Scherzinger (sadly not heading to Blackpool), and in the cast was a young Rosemarie Ford, who went on to become quite a TV celeb.

Such was the excitement surrounding the show’s arrival that hardly a dissenting voice was raised about having to move (ie demolish) the venue’s Royal Box to accommodate the innovative set (well, at the time nobody realised the Queen might require it again years later for the Royal Command Performance visit to town).

My delight at the time was added to by the fact that, prior to its May 25 Blackpool opening, I was invited to the New London Theatre in the West End to attend the celebrations marking the show’s eighth year on May 12.

I’ve still got the commemorative “Now And Forever” sweatshirt somewhere at home – though whether it still fits is not something I want to put to the test.

To say I remember the night well would be an exaggeration but I can recall that for some reason (probably the evening suits, bow ties and copious supply of Champagne) at the after show bash my male companion (Mrs D couldn’t get time off work) and myself were mistaken for a rather camp cabaret duo!

My attire for the opening night in Blackpool was a little less formal – though the after show party was still pretty good.

I even made a point of returning to see the last night of the show’s run. Front row seats and a then five-year-old son who is still suspicious of all things feline since one of the cast took him by surprise by crawling over his feet.

Despite the reservations of one Blackpool landlady who complained to me she hadn’t realised it would be “all about cats” (a bit like being surprised that Oklahoma! is set in the USA?), the show was an unqualified success. It returned in 2003 for another successful three-week run.

I was reminded of the landlady’s reservations when in the interval for this month’s JC Superstar visit someone who shall remain nameless remarked in the interval: “It’s very good but I don’t get what’s going on.”

I suggested he either read the programme notes or Google the Bible.

Far be it from me to have spoiled things for him by revealing the ending.

Looking into the information from the researchers

Apart from scaffolding companies and the makers of those horrid orange roadwork cones, the only growth industry at the moment seems to be that of 
researchers.

Ignoring the brouhaha surrounding what they are predicting daily for the forthcoming general election, the last week or so has seen them informing us the happiest age of our lives is 34 (it’s no good telling me that now), eating peanuts is good for the heart (especially if you are Chinese or American) and sitting down all day is bad for the same organ (and the gym doesn’t help).

The best news though is that it seems men grow out of binge drinking at the age of 25 only to become regular boozers again in “middle age.”

Obviously I’m not advocating we should spend all our pensions on alcohol but I take some solace in the fact they class “middle age” as 65 when I’ve been led to think I was on my last lap (or pint).

I think I’ll raise a glass to the new “middle age.”

PS my recent belated birthday visit to watch Bamber Bridge play Scarborough Athletic (£4 admission for senior citizens, what a bargain!) in the admirably efficient and extremely friendly Sir Tom Finney Stadium ended as a spirited nil nil draw. Roll on next season.