Commentary 26 Feb 2009 07:36 am
The cat on the left, Bombalurina, is my daughter, Malori. Below is my print column from today, Feb. 26. I hope it’s not too self-serving.
I’m writing about “Cats” because Alliance High School is staging Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famed musical for a second weekend.
That’s not really the reason. I’m writing about “Cats” because many of my students are involved in the production, and I’m proud of them all.
But that’s still not quite accurate. I’m writing about “Cats” because my daughter, a senior, is part of the production.
That isn’t completely it, either, because actually I’m not writing about “Cats.” I’m writing about dogs.
See, I’m thinking about petitioning Webber to write a musical about man’s best friend, so sorely underrepresented on the Great White Way. I mean, if animals that people joke about drowning can be part of one of the longest-running productions on Broadway, then canines would have to be the closest this flat-lining economy could come to a sure thing.
Who doesn’t love a dog? They’re sweet and friendly and they eat table scraps that nobody else wants. Unlike cats, which are our friends only until the tuna supply runs out, dogs are loyal. They mourn at our gravesides, howling piteously over the loss of their masters. Cats sleep on our headstones, but only as long as the sun warms them.
Some of our most popular celebrity animals are dogs. Think Buck from “Call of the Wild,” or movie star Rin Tin Tin, whose official Web site claims he received 10,000 fan letters a week during the height of his fame. Or Krypto, Superman’s dog, who has his own spiffy red cape with yellow “S” on the back and who answers his master’s call even when playing fetch with a meteor out beyond Orion somewhere. (Yeah, Superman also has Streaky the Super Cat, but outside a few geeks who live in their parents’ basements, who remembers Streaky at all, let alone fondly?)
Mickey Mouse has Pluto, a dog. We can speculate about whether Minnie has a cat and whether Mickey ever pets it, but Disney is silent on the matter.
Then there’s Lassie, the collie who is always pulling little Timmy out of a well and traveling long distances to rescue somebody or other. When’s the last time you saw a cat haul a kid out of a well? Never, that’s when. Cats are just as likely to push you into a well, especially when the aforementioned tuna runs out.
I admit dogs would be difficult to write a musical about. They don’t do a whole lot, and they don’t live secret lives. The “Cats” production is filled with songs about felines doing what felines do — prowling around, having multiple names, coming back to life nine times, and basically just wallowing in the ineffable, mysterious joy of being cats.
If Webber penned any songs about dogs, they would have boring titles like “Sniffing There is How I Say Hello,” “Passionate for Pants Legs,” “Walk Me, Please,” “Barking at Nothing (All Night Long),” “Sprayed by a Skunk,” and the showstopper, “Memories (of the Day I Bit the Mailman).”
And the ultimate doggie romance song has already been written, the beautiful “Bella Notte (This Is the Night),” from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp,” a song I insist on serenading to my wife every time we eat spaghetti and meatballs. Who says romance is dead?
So maybe Webber was right to stick with his adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” instead of a musical version of Jack London’s “White Fang.” The traits that make dogs superior pets are the same ones that make them unsuitable for headlining on London’s West End or Broadway.
So go see “Cats” this Friday, Saturday or Sunday at Alliance High School. It’s a great show, filled with singing and dancing and fun surprises. Did I mention my daughter’s in it?
Just don’t tell your dog where you’re going. He’ll get all jealous and tear up the trash while you’re gone. Or, more likely, your cat will, and the poor mutt will take the blame.