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Fun Lesson on Cats, the poetry of T.S. Eliot and musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber:
Today’s lesson is a really fun one in studying a whole book of poetry that was used to create an award-winning Broadway musical! T.S. Eliot published Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats in 1939. It’s a collection of poems all about cats! If you haven’t read them before, get it from Amazon or your library.
T.S. Eliot originally wrote the poems in letters to his godchildren. Some of the poems included are “The Naming of Cats,” “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” “The Rum Tug Tugger,” “Old Deuteronomy,” and “Macavity: The Mystery Cat.”
They also have the Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats audio CD available.
If you’d like to study the poems a little deeper, grab the Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats – Literature Study Guide from 7 Sisters Homeschool by Sabrina Justison. It’s for high school students and focuses on drawing “attention to the poetic devices, literary references, and commentary on culture and personality which Eliot so masterfully weaves into his poems.”
If you’d like more to this lesson, plus lessons for 9 other musicals, check out my online course called Intro to Musicals!
Cats, the Musical
Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats inspired Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats: The Musical which premiered in 1981. All the characters in the musical are “cats” and are amazing singers and dancers. I love how they actually take on the mannerisms of cats.
You can watch the entire musical on this DVD:
Or see some individual scenes from YouTube:
Questions to discuss with your kids
As you watch the musical versions of the poems, follow along in your poetry book. Are the words exactly alike? Did the composer add another character and song that wasn’t in Eliot’s original version? What else is the same or different? Which do you like better–just the poems or the musical? Would you like to see the musical live? Which was your favorite character and why?
Let me know if you did today’s lesson and what you thought of it!
Download a free 3-page Printable Pack to use with this 15-Minute Music Lesson:
Composer Sheet, Listen and Write (Tempo, Mood, Like it?, and Instruments/Voices), and Listen and Draw