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Veerle Casteleyn as Jemima in the 1998 Cats video.

Jemima is a principal character in the musical play Cats, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber using the poetry of T. S. Eliot. She is the youngest member of the tribe of Cats, the voice of innocence and wonder. She is also a demanding dancing role.

Contents

Character

In the musical play Cats, Jemima is a kitten and, while usually a chorus cat, plays a role in accepting Grizabella; she is among several kittens (the others being Victoria, Electra, and Etcetera) who trust Grizabella and are pulled away in efforts to reject the aging cat. A wide-eyed beautiful innocent cat with an ethereal voice, she truly hears Grizabella's plea for re-acceptance and encourages the older cat for a chorus in "Memory".

She is the youngest kitten, and is attracted to the charismatic Rum Tum Tugger; in particular, Tugger seems to have a soft spot for her as well. She also seems attracted to Alonzo, Pouncival, and Tumblebrutus, and arguably some others and may have a relationship with one of them. She separately dances with the first three, and snuggles with Tumblebrutus after the Mating Dance, even though she is very close to Pouncival and they are seen often with each other. Jemima is very close to Victoria, and the two seem to be best friends. She seems to be the most mature kitten in the pack. She may also have a rare relationship with the moon, the symbol of life for the Jellicles, because she sings to the moon several times and sings of the happiness and new lives that it gives. She might have seen into the past of Grizabella, which could be why she is one of the only cats to accept her. She also tries to help her when she shows up at various moments, when all of the other cats (except Victoria) turn away from her, and don't accept her.

She also has a connection with the leader, Old Deuteronomy. When he sings of 'The Moments of Happiness', naturally, the deep, reflective philosophical verse goes over everyone's heads. So he sends the message again through two cats (they vary; in the film it is Coricopat and Tantomile) and finally to Jemima, who sings the true meaning again for everyone to hear. She distills the essence of Deuteronomy's learning, and all the cats sing with her.

It is unclear who her family is in the musical. Relationships within the show are fluid and dependent on the production. Jemima is possibly the daughter of Demeter and Munkustrap. Her costume bears strong similarities to Demeter and Bombalurina, wearing gloves instead of arm warmers and in the spiked style of collar. It is also a possibility that Jemima is the last born kitten of Jennyanydots and Skimbleshanks. Skimbleshanks' overprotective nature over Jemima is displayed often in the filmed version, especially when a threat such as Grizabella or Macavity appears, he's seen placing himself in front of her, hiding her and pulling her away.

Casting

  • Sarah Brightman originated the role in London
  • Veerle Casteleyn played Jemima in the 1998 video version (although her voice was dubbed for the number 'Memory' by Helen Massie due to her accent). (aka: Helen Massey[1])
  • Ruthie Henshall played Jemima in London in 1988.[2]
  • Aubrey Elson is at the moment portraying the role, known as Sillabub in the Worldwide Tour.

Sillabub

When the show transferred from London to Broadway, the name "Jemima" was believed to carry negative racial connotations, such as mentioned in relation to Aunt Jemima. The character was re-named using another of T. S. Eliot's Jellicle names, "Sillabub". This, he explained, is a mixture of "Silly" and "Bealzebub" - devil-ish. Sillabub's costume is generally slightly paler than Jemima's.

The name "Syllabub" has different connotations in the UK, being the name of a traditional dessert. The name Jemima carries no racial connotations in the UK, however the name is generally recognised as a Victorian girl's name (such as the daughter in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

References

  1. ^ "Helen Massey". Helen Massey Website. http://www.helenmassey.com/home.html. Retrieved 2007-11-08.  
  2. ^ "Official Ruthie Henshall Website". stage work. http://www.ruthiehenshall.com/stage.html#cats. Retrieved 2008-02-28.  
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