‘Cats’ laps up success with strut down B’way

NEW YORK — Times Square traffic was in a knot for the second time in a week June 19, this time to mark the ascendance of “Cats” as the longest-running Broadway show in history.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, the tuner’s composer, persuaded the city to shut down Broadway from 50th to 57th streets for a gala celebration, though his thunder was stolen to some extent by the Disney “Hercules” parade that drew a million-plus crowd to the area the previous weekend.

Following the night’s performance of “Cats” — No. 6,138, edging out previous longest-runner “A Chorus Line” — Lloyd Webber took the stage, accompanied by director Trevor Nunn and producer Cameron Mackintosh, to address an audience of invited guests that included former “Cats” cast members Betty Buckley (who won a Tony as the original Grizabella), Ken Page and Terrence Mann.

Lloyd Webber thanked his collaborators on the tuner, which opened in 1982, paying special tribute to choreographer Gillian Lynne, also with him onstage, saying, “In a sense, this is your night, Gillian.”

After concluding his remarks, Lloyd Webber sat down at a miniature piano brought out for the occasion, and sang “Cat Morgan Introduces Himself,” a song that was cut from the musical’s original score. At the finish, he laughingly gave himself a thumbs-down.

The crowd then filed out of the Winter Garden, where the show has played for the last 15 years, and filled the street to watch as mayor Rudolph Giuliani proclaimed June 19 “Cats Day” in New York. Lloyd Webber gave an emotional response, saying “This is a dream for me, I really can’t believe it possibly happened.”

A brief laser light show followed, spelling out significant dates in “Cats” history on the billboard above the theater’s marquee and outlining the green cat eyes that are the show’s trademark. The crowd of about 1,500 revelers then walked four blocks to the Hilton’s Grand Ballroom for a party, to which the casts and crews of every Broadway show were invited.

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