Old Possum T.S. Eliot wrote the poems in the 1930s and included them, under his assumed name “Old Possum,” in letters to his godchildren. They were collected and published in 1939 as Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, with cover illustrations by Eliot himself. Cats - Calder Valley Youth Group Sydmonton Festival In 1977, Andrew Lloyd Webber began composing music to accompany the poems that he had been fond of while growing up. The music would later become central to Cats the Musical. The compositions were premiered at his Sydmonton Festival in 1980; Valerie Eliot, the widow of T.S. Eliot, attended the concert and gave her blessing for the songs to be adapted into a stage production. Elaine Paige as Grizabella (Photo: Joth Shakerley) Judi Dench Was Almost Grizabella! Judi Dench was cast as the original Grizabella, but had to withdraw from the 1981 world premiere in the West End due to a torn Achilles tendon. Elaine Paige replaced her. The cast of the 2016 Broadway revival of Cats (Photo: Matthew Murphy) Finola Hughes originated the role of the white cat, Victoria; she went on to star in the ABC soap operas General Hospital and All My Children. Hughes is also known for Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever. It took 7,486 chandelier crashes for Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera to take over from Cats as the longest-running show in Broadway history in January 2006.