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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with P.J. O'Rourke, Faith Salie and Paula Poundstone. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you so much.
SAGAL: Right now it's time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAITWAIT to play our game on the air.
Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
ANN LU: Hi. This is Ann from Fort Collins, Colo.
SAGAL: Fort Collins in northern Colorado. That's a great place. What do you do there?
LU: My family and I just moved here about six months ago.
SAGAL: ...Wow. So you're coming up in your first Colorado winter.
LU: Yes, it was 38 degrees today and freezing.
SAGAL: And - OK.
SAGAL: Hold on.
LU: I'm from California.
SAGAL: Are you from some place habitually warm year round?
LU: Yeah, I was from Southern California.
SAGAL: Yeah. Well, this - OK.
LU: So 38 is freezing.
SAGAL: Yes, OK.
LU: I mean, it's wonderful. You know, it just takes getting used to. And, you know, it takes getting used to wearing a coat when I have to go outside.
SAGAL: The nation bows its head in pity.
SAGAL: Ann, it's nice to have you with us. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Ann's topic?
KURTIS: Cats now and forever.
SAGAL: "Cats" is a Broadway musical that's been running on and off so long that the original cats are now way past their ninth lives.
SAGAL: This week, though...
SAGAL: ...Theater audiences got a new reason to go see "Cats" after all these years. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the real one, and you'll win our prize, the voice of your choice on your voicemail. You ready to play?
SAGAL: All right. First, let's hear from Faith Salie.
FAITH SALIE: A lot of weird things happen in bizarrely mesmerizing musical "Cats." Grizzled cats ascend to feline heaven on a dilapidated tire. A bisexual tomcat named Rum Tum Tugger struts in a way that leaves you disturbingly turned on. And you exit the theater humming "Memory" against your will. But nothing in the show's 36-year history has ever compared to what happened this week during a Broadway performance when a real, live dog started chasing a real fake cat during the show's opening number. The service dog took a liking or perhaps wanted to take a licking to the character of Bombalurina. If your "Cats" wiki is rusty, it's worth reminding you that Bombalurina is a very sensual, kittenish red cat with a bright white chest who wears a black-spiked, jeweled collar. In other words, she's irresistible, even if you're a service dog who should be on best behavior because you're extremely lucky to be attending an Andrew Lloyd Webber revival.
SALIE: During the opening song "Jellicle Songs For Jellicle Cats," the pooch, like many folks who attend "Cats" for the first time, couldn't control its enthusiasm for feline people dressed in unitard, singing the poems of T.S. Eliot. It leapt on stage. A fast-moving usher pulled the dog off the stage, preventing it from humping Bombalurina's legwarmers. The mutt was then returned to its mortified owner. The show went on, and every audience member must have said of the dog's performance, I laughed. I cried. It was better than "Cats."
SAGAL: An actual dog goes after one of the fake cats in "Cats" this week in New York. Your next story of why "Cats" all of a sudden became a must-see show comes from P.J. O'Rourke.
P. J. O'ROURKE: On December 27, three days before the musical "Cats" closes after a record run on Broadway, there will be a unique and extraordinary performance, a special production of "Cats" where the cats are actually played by cats. A one-night special guest appearance of performers from Budapest famed trained Hungarian cat circus with Tiggery-a, a genuine Bengal tiger in the role of Old Deuteronomy. New York Times theater critic Blake Hammerstein writes that she's anxious to witness this unprecedented example of the theater returning to its primal roots and making amends for centuries of exclusionary focus on the dominant human-centric culture.
SAGAL: A performance of "Cats" with actual cats playing the roles. Your next story of why that old Broadway wars became fresh and new comes from Paula Poundstone.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Animal rights organizations have asked that, particularly at Christmas time, the production of "Cats" present cats more realistically so that fewer cats are returned to shelters because the owners weren't prepared for some of their not-so-cute behavior. The Broadway revival production at the Neil Simon Theatre has embraced the request with a variety of creative modifications. The velvet is shredded on the pricey orchestra seats.
POUNDSTONE: The stuffing is scattered across the floor. And when the show opens, the curtain rises on a stage full of actors portraying cats that look as if they have no idea what could possibly have happened.
POUNDSTONE: Some audience members seemed put off by the faint smell of urine that permeates the air...
POUNDSTONE: ...All the way into Times Square.
POUNDSTONE: Jennyanydots, known in the original production for trading the mice and bugs late at night, now leaves their entrails around the floor each morning, just waiting for a bare human foot.
POUNDSTONE: Old Deuteronomy, the elderly Jellicle leader, drips pee with every step.
POUNDSTONE: And Rum Tum Tugger throws up repeatedly throughout the show...
POUNDSTONE: ...For no reason. It's not the food. It's not stress. He just does it.
SAGAL: All right. So recently at a performance of "Cats," something happened. Was it from Faith Salie that a guide dog - or service dog - in the audience got all excited and went after one of the, quote, unquote, "cats" on stage? Was it from P.J. O'Rourke, a special performance of the show performed by actual felines or from Paula Poundstone, a special performance in which the actors were instructed to act and smell like actual cats? Which of these was the real story of "Cats" in the news?
LU: With the amount of number of people bringing service dogs to everything nowadays, I think the first story is more possible and more real.
SAGAL: So you're going to go with Faith's story...
SAGAL: ...Of the service dog...
LU: The service dog.
SAGAL: ...Chasing a cat at "Cats," which is what dogs do. Well, all right. To bring you the story, we spoke to a reporter who covered this thing.
IAN MOHR: During a performance of "Cats," a service dog escaped and started chasing one of the performers around.
SAGAL: That was Ian Mohr. He's a deputy editor from Page Six of the New York Post talking about the service dog that went after a cat in "Cats" this week, making it the best performance of "Cats" ever.
SAGAL: Congratulations. You got it right. You've earned a point for Faith Salie, and you've won our prize. You can have the voice of anybody you hear here on your voicemail. Congratulations.
LU: Thank you.
SAGAL: Buh bye (ph).
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEMORY")
BIG DADDY: (Singing) Memory. All alone in the moonlight, I can smile at the old days. I was beautiful then. Yeah, you was pretty pretty good, not too bad.
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