A very long time ago, the Jellicles gathered together for the Jellicle Ball: A macabre celebration of their fleeting lives. One would be chosen as the ascendant Jellicle transported to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn. This particular Jellicle Ball was besieged by the scheming Macavity, who waged war with Old Deuteronomy. It was also the inspiration for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s CATS, a musical you’ve probably never seen except in television shows hinged on outdated pop culture references. Unfortunately, our general lack of knowledge on the depth of the Jellicle-verse extends to the famouses chosen by fate to recreate its wonderment with CGI, cat school training, and “digital fur technology.” Speaking to Stephen Colbert on Monday night’s The Late Show, Idris Elba was asked about the deep history of the Jellicles. The actor’s face when asked the question explains at least half the plot:
His response weaves together a completely different tale:
“It’s a classic. It’s a big musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I guess it’s about a cat? How am I doing? [...] It’s one cat’s journey towards what is essentially Cat Heaven. The idea is we all... you know, we aspire to get towards Cat Heaven. It’s this young cat... and she gets sort of... you know... taken on this story about how to get to Cat Heaven. Or what you should do to get into Cat Heaven. How am I doing? Does anyone know what the story is?!”
As for the hotly discussed “cat school,” Elba explained that a peculiar woman with an incredibly niche skill set banished them to a sensory deprivation chamber for a millennia until they emerged with the shoulder movements of a feline. From the brief glimpses in the trailer, the damaging effects of cat training are evident in the body language of every performer featured. If you’d like to practice yourself, Elba shared some tips from the mononymous Sarah: “It’s all in the shoulders!”
Thankfully, Elba’s explanation of the Lovecraftian nightmare unleashed by Andrew Lloyd Webber is mildly more helpful than James Corden’s summary in the behind-the-scenes featurette released alongside the Cats trailer. “These are people but these are cats, and it’s kind of blowing my mind.” The Jellicles, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment on either their anatomy or yearly bacchanal.
You can watch his full appearance on The Late Show below.