When ranking the musical numbers in Tom Hooper’s transcendentally ill-thought-out 2019 version of Cats, the candidates for “Biggest Trainwreck” are pretty competitive. (Ironically, “Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat” isn’t one of them, because that song owns.) There’s “The Old Gumbie Cat,” of course, in which Rebel Wilson devours cockroach women and rips off her own cat skin, only to reveal a second layer of cat skin underneath. There’s “Rum Tum Tugger,” which features more milkplay than most audiences are probably comfortable with. And then there’s “Bustopher Jones,” which is actually pretty lively, except for the part where James Corden absolutely cannot resist injecting an allegedly comedic ad-lib every two bars. And hey, guess who hates that sort of thing? That’s right: Cats composer/T.S. Eliot interpreter Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Per Vulture, Webber recently did an online commentary on a very different version of Cats, covering the 1998 filmed stage version of the long-running musical. Webber largely confined himself to comments about the work itself (along with a lot of sitting quietly and enjoying his own work), but he was, apparently, unable to let a little bit of invective leech into the proceedings when “Bustopher Jones” began to play. (If you’re watching along on the video below, the shade starts rolling in at about the 45:45 mark.) “Do not be beguiled by other versions,” he notes. “Other versions with unfunny interpolations which I begged to be cut out.” He goes on to state that “This song is about wit not coarse jokes. It’s also about taking the song at the right speed.” Which, meow, Dame Sir ALW.
For his part, Hooper was apparently enthusiastic about Corden’s riffing—that’s per the Cats (2019) official commentary, where he effuses about the Late Late Show host’s various asides. Webber was involved in the production of Hooper’s film, of course, having penned, with Taylor Swift, a new song for it, “Beautiful Ghosts.” But he apparently was not consulted on whether Bustopher Jones should bounce around the set on a giant seesaw, and is unafraid of people knowing this fact. “I cannot tell you how absolutely un-Eliot it all was,” he unhappily grouses during the stream, noting that, re: Corden’s “unfunny interpolations,” he “did manage to get the worst of them removed.”