British pop star Leona Lewis will make her Broadway debut in the upcoming revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hugely successful musical, Cats.
Lewis will star as Grizabella the “Glamour Cat” — who sings one of the show’s most memorable songs, “Memory” — replacing former Pussycat Doll singer Nicole Scherzinger.
“I will never forget seeing [Cats] as a little girl and how blown away I was by the magical experience of it,” Lewis said in a statement. “I am beyond thrilled for my Broadway debut to be in such an iconic show.”
Cats will play at the Neil Simon Theatre, with previews set to begin July 14th and the official opening scheduled for July 31st. Based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the musical opened on London’s West End in 1981 and arrived on Broadway a year later. Along with scooping up a host of awards — including the Tony for Best Musical — Cats went on to become the longest-running show in Broadway history when it closed in 2000 (it now ranks fourth behind The Lion King, Chicago and another Webber opus, The Phantom of the Opera).
Lewis’ casting comes amidst some controversy. Earlier this month, Scherzinger dropped out of the production just as rehearsals were about to begin so that she could serve as a judge on the British X Factor. Scherzinger had played Grizabella when Cats returned to West End for a 12-week run at the London Palladium in 2014, and her exit from the Broadway revival drew the catty ire of Webber.
“I’m furious because I really believe she’s the most fantastically talented girl and I went out on a limb to get her for the London Palladium here, and it makes me look like an absolute twat with them all,” Webber told Economist Radio. “But never mind, there’ll be another girl on Broadway and Nicole will not get her Tony Award.”