1981 KIDS Gala Performance of CATS
In April 1981, KIDS founder John Mulcahy discovered a new musical based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possumís Book of Practical Cats. Although now remembered as a sure-fire hit, CATSí success was far from guaranteed at the time - and not just because of the show's unusual theme.
It had been 10 years since Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber had enjoyed cult success with Jesus Christ Superstar. Meanwhile, the show's producer Cameron Mackintosh was still waiting for his first big hit on the London stage, despite well-received productions like Me & My Girl and My Fair Lady.
Mulcahy arranged a meeting with Mackintosh, by the end of which he had generously offered a gala performance of the new musical in aid of KIDS. This was swiftly but brilliantly organised by an all-female team of supporters and took place at the New London Theatre later that year.
The event proved a resounding and significant early success, not only raising around £25,000 for the charity but attracting a healthy turnout of potential new supporters and securing KIDS its first national media coverage. Over the years other gala events followed, including a variety concert at the London Palladium featuring performances from Spike Milligan and Julie Felix as well as many other opera, ballet, theatre and musical performances.
CATS went on to enjoy a record 21-year run in the West End. It had been the right show at the right time for KIDS and its supporters.