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Release: Immediate

(NOTE TO EDITORS: "Cats" sales have been brisk. When you're ready to publish or broadcast this story, we suggest that you call the box office for the latest ticket-availability information for your readers and listeners.)

'Cats,' now history's longest-running musical, returns to UI Hancher Auditorium Feb. 6-8

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats," now the longest-running musical in history both on Broadway and on tour, will return to the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium for five performances -- at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6; and at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 7-8.

Based on poet T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," "Cats" has become the most popular family musical of all time, treasured for its memorable music, remarkable feline costumes, spectacular special effects and high-energy Broadway dancing.

In recognition of the return of "Cats," Hancher will post Eliot's cat poems on its World Wide Web site, accompanied by illustrations created by elementary-school children at Longfellow and Grant Wood schools in Iowa City.

The address of Hancher's site is: <>. Some of the art will also be reproduced in the "Cats" playbill and will be displayed in the Hancher lobby during the run of "Cats."

On June 19, 1997, "Cats" was given its 6,138th performance at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway, where it has been a fixture since 1982. With the completion of that performance, the show became the longest-running musical in Broadway history. A New York Times headline proclaimed "Cats" the show "with 6,138 lives."

Five months later, on Nov. 18 in Minneapolis, the Fourth National Touring Company surpassed the original tour of "Oklahoma" to become the longest-running tour in history at 10 years, six months and two weeks. The combined tours of "Cats" surpassed the record for longest-touring show several years ago.

In 1989 the original production of "Cats" in London became the longest-running musical in the history of British theater, surpassing Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ Superstar." And on Jan. 29, 1996, the London company also surpassed the U.S. long-running record set by "A Chorus Line."

"Cats" tours have visited more than 200 U.S. and Canadian cities, and Iowa City is one of more than 160 cities that have hosted the show more than once. Tour attendance of "Cats" has now surpassed 10 million in North America. The show-stopping song "Memory" has now been recorded by nearly 200 artists.

Nearly forgotten now is the fact that "Cats" began as a daring venture, both artistically and financially. Setting poems by a serious poet like T.S. Eliot was considered an odd choice for a pop musical. Investors were difficult to attract, and failure was predicted. "We had almost everything going against us," Lloyd Webber says.

Lloyd Webber recalls being warned early in development of the production that half the world loathes cats, to which he replied, "I would be happy to play to half the world." He hasn't quite reached that mark yet, but total world-wide attendance is now approaching 60 million.

The latest in a series of Hancher runs is going to do its part to uphold the "Cats" mystique. Only Zone 2 and 3 balcony tickets remain for all but the 2 p.m. Sunday performance. For that performance only Zone 3 balcony tickets are still available.

Remaining tickets are $43 and $40. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, and tickets for children 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial

(319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Audio description for audience members with visual impairment will be available at both Sunday performances.

Telegroup, Inc., is the major local corporate sponsor of "Cats," through the University of Iowa Foundation, with additional support by KDAT-FM.

More information about "Cats" is available at the show's World Wide Web site: <>.