The movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical based on T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” opened in US cinemas on December 20, 2019. While people are sharing their thoughts on the show’s big-screen version, did you know that a dame choreographed the original CATS musical?
Those impressive kicks and flips was conceived and put together by Gillian Barbara Lynne an English ballerina, dancer, choreographer, actress, and theatre-television director. She is probably known for her work in CATS and Phantom of the Opera
She was born in Bromley, Kent, and started dancing when she was very young. She did this to forget the tragedy of her mother’s violent death from a car crash when she was 13.
Lynne was discovered by Ninette de Valois and asked to join Sadler’s Wells Ballet during World War II. Her first major solo was in Sleeping Beauty when she just turned 20 years old. She continued to be an admired dramatic ballerina in the soon to be renamed Royal Ballet, renowned for her Black Queen in de Valois’s Checkmate, Queen of the Wilis in Giselle and in roles created for her by Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann
In her long career as a choreographer and director, Lynne worked on many productions including those from the Royal Opera House, Royal Shakespeare Company and English National Opera, The Muppet Show, as well as many West End and Broadway including CATS, Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, and The Secret Garden.
Lynne was nominated for the Tony Award twice for Choreography, for CATS and The Phantom of the Opera. Her work for CATS also got nominations for the Drama Desk Award. In 1981, she got an Olivier Award in 1981, for Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Musicals, for Cats.
In 1997, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to dance and musical theatre. In 2018, The New London Theatre where the original venue for West End productions, was renamed the Gillian Lynne Theatre, making it the first theatre in the West End of London to be named after a non-royal woman. Lynne died on 1 July 2018 at a London hospital from pneumonia, aged 92.
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