Last miaow : No lives left for Lloyd Webber's hit feline opera

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Cats, the record-breaking West End show, received its final curtain call last night after an extraordinary 21-year run.

Members of the original cast, including Elaine Paige and Brian Blessed, reunited before the show at the New London Theatre, while thousands of fans unable to get tickets for the final performance, watched on a big screen erected in Covent Garden.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's show has become the longest-running musical production in either the West End or Broadway. But it is it is no longer economical to run it at the New London Theatre, its home since it opened in 1981.

Cameron Mackintosh, who produced Cats, said that he was proud and happy that the show had been so successful.

"To have anything that has run 21 years and to go out on a great high like this is fantastic," he said. "We're very proud and very happy and of course a bit tearful at the same time."

Based on T S Eliot's Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats, the London production has taken £136m and been seen by more than eight million people. It even spawned a hit single with "Memory" by Elaine Paige reaching number six in the UK. Radio airplays of the song in the US went past the two million mark in 1998.

Cats is the second highest-grossing musical of all time, behind another Lloyd Webber production, The Phantom of the Opera. Worldwide, its box-office takings top £1.4bn.

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