1998 Munk vs 2016 Munk part 1
Welp, here’s something I promised a long while ago, 1998 Munk vs 2016 Munk! When I first made that post asking if anyone would be interested in a post like this, I thought it’d be something that i’d just write up in like an afternoon and then be done with. I was wrong. I was so very wrong. In fact, I ended up having SO MUCH to say about these two, that I decided to split this analysis into parts just to get this thing out! This post is part one, and the others will be coming in the future. I know that probably sounds like bullshit, but trust me, I have got a LOT to say about Munkustrap! And I have every intention of forcing you all to listen to it!
Anyways, here we go!
Munkustrap is really the story-teller. He's entrusted with giving the information to the other, maybe younger cats who have not been to the Jellicle Ball before. He gets up and says exactly what they're here to do. He's also the caretaker of the kittens. He wants to make sure everybody's safe; in all the Macavity scares, he's there to protect the tribe. So he is the protector.
-Michael Gruber, 1998
Munkustrap is Old Deuteronomy's son and is next in line for the throne. So his leadership was inevitable, but over the course of the show he learns that true leadership is about understanding and forgiveness, and not just a right of birth. In trying to clarify relationships with everyone onstage, Tyler Hanes and I decided to commit to the idea of Munk and Tugger being half brothers. I am the Rob Stark to Tyler's Jon Snow. Without the Red Wedding.
-Andy Huntington Jones, 2016
I’ll be starting the analysis off with Invitation to the Jellicle Ball, which means skipping over Jellicle Songs and The Naming of Cats. While these songs are fine, they’re more for the audience benefit than for the story, so they don’t have many individual character moments to analyze.
Invitation to the Jellicle Ball
This number comes right off the heels of The Naming of Cats and takes place right before the ball officially begins. Victoria, the pure white kitten, is alone onstage, and begins to perform what’s known as The White Cat Solo, one of the shows most famous moments of choreography. Quaxo soon rushes back onstage and calls all the jellicles to ball! This acts as both the invitation, and official opening to the ball, as everyone rushes back onstage. Once the twins are finished with the opening, Munkustrap takes over and explains to the jellicles what they’re here to do, in a manner similar to a sermon!
-In the 1998 version, Munkustrap is one of the first cats to come back, but he doesn’t actually take center-stage until Quaxo is done with his solo! This is because his main priority is the other jellicles, whom he can be seen checking up on in the background. It’s only once he’s confirmed to himself that all the others are present, that he makes his way center-stage. And when begins his part, the jellicles immediately turn their attention to him. He’s such a strong presence that all the others react to even the slightest shift in his tone! He may be singing about Old Deuteronomy in this scene, but he is the absolute authority here.
As soon as he’s done with his sermon, he’s swarmed with attention! Electra and Sillabub paw at him for attention, Mistoffelees gives him a respectful nod, Jellylorum quickly checks up on him, Skimbleshanks gives him the most honorable of bows, Demeter gives him a loving nuzzle, Etcetera practically jumps on him for play, and Alonzo shares another quick nuzzle with him before the ball. And despite the fact that he has a lot to do, Munk acknowledges every cat that comes his way and is sure to give them his full attention, even if it’s just for a moment. This quick, twenty-second scene establishes Munk as a calm, genial, and caring presence within the tribe. For the kittens he’s an affectionate father-figure, for the elders he’s a leader they both respect and love, and for the cats his own age he’s a close, caring friend.
-2016 Munk takes a moment or so to come back onstage, and when he does, he’s not terribly concerned with the others. In fact, he’s far more concerned with the fact that Victoria and Quaxo are opening up the ball here. The way he runs up to him- before he’s even finished with his solo-implies that opening up the ball is typically his job and he doesn’t appreciate Quaxo taking over. Once he’s back in the spotlight, though, he revels in it! He delivers his part less like a sermon and more like a solo, keeping an air of power and prestige about him throughout the entire thing. Regardless, Munk here can’t hide his excitement for the ball, nor his wonder at the thought of The Heaviside Layer. The other jellicles pick up on his energy, and react in turn.
His verse soon ends and the jellicles all scramble. A few cats run up to Munk afterwards, namely Quaxo, Mungojerrie, and Rumpleteazer. While the twins apparently just want to annoy him, Quaxo seems to genuinely want his attention. He does a rather impressive little dance number, before standing at-attention to show respect. However, Munk shoos them all off, he’s got important grown-up things to be doing! This seems to be a rather common occurrence, as no one else really comes up to him afterwards, they all stay with their own cliques rather than bothering the leader. The only exception is Alonzo, whom Munk takes aside to give some quick, last-minute directions as they set-up for the next number.
The Old Gumbie Cat
Munkustrap opens up this number by introducing us to Jennyanydots, the titular Gumbie Cat. She’s very clearly his preferred candidate, outright saying that she’s the one he has in mind for the jellicle choice! The song outlines Jenny’s many good deeds, teaching the mice and beetles to be upstanding citizens of society, since we do in fact live in a society. The show accomplishes this by having the kittens dress up as mice and beetles to pantomime her students, before launching into a big dance number, allowing Jenny to show off her tap skills!
-The 1998 version opens with a quick, humorous scene of Misto assuming that Munk is going to be singing about him, and retreating in embarrassment when that doesn’t happen. While Munkustrap seems a bit embarrassed on Misto’s part, he keeps going nevertheless. As he’s addressing the younger cats here, he does his best to keep the slow opening exciting for them, enthusiastically pantomiming her “tiger stripes and leopard spots” as well as her favorite places to nap. As does this, Quaxo gets the idea to use his magic to open up the car that Jenny’s sleeping in. Munk quickly gives him permission to do this, indicating that he’s already aware of Misto’s magic on some level.
Once Jenny arrives, he lets her take over. He’s still there narrating, but takes the lead from here on out. She can be seen pointing the kittens to their places, giving them directions, and is quick to assert her authority when they start messing around during the tap number. When Munk does come back into the number, it’s either to provide narration, or assist Jenny. He may be the leader, but he knows who the star is! As a result, his role in this number is rather minimal.
-The 2016 version opens this number with Munkustrap telling the others about Jennyanydots, much like the ‘98 version! However, Munk here is, once again, not terribly concerned with the others. He knows that they’re there and is clearly singing to them, but he’s paying more attention to how he’s coming off. He’s clearly directing the number here, and wants Jenny to look good, so he’s more focused on how the song is going than if the others are invested. Much like before, Quaxo uses his magic to reveal Jenny, however this goes entirely unnoticed and unremarked upon by Munk. It’s possible that he doesn’t even know that Quaxo was the one doing it.
Jenny takes center-stage from here on, performing her famous tape number while the others pantomime her chores. No longer do they dress up as beetles, instead they use props like toothbrushes and balls! Munk takes on the director role, giving directions to the dancers and keeping things running smoothly, which lessens Jenny’s role in the song somewhat. While the song is about Jenny, Munk is very much running things behind the scenes. Even so, he’s nothing but admiring towards Jenny, and ensures the song shows her in the best possible light!
The Rum Tum Tugger
Just as the cats are congratulating Jenny on her number, who should burst in but Munk’s very own younger brother? The one, the only, The Rum Tum Tugger! He sets the entire ball off-course, by interrupting the night’s scheduled events with a big, self-aggrandizing number about his indecisive, rebellious nature. Reactions from the others vary, with the younger cats adoring him, while the older cats consider him a nuisance.
-’98 Tugger pops up just as Jenny has finished her number, and just as Munk was congratulating her on a job well done! As Tugger begins his own number, Munk helps Jenny offstage, effectively giving Tugger center-stage! His little brother wastes no time getting the kittens riled up and pissing off every adult he can! Of course, as the leader it falls to Munkustrap to fix this situation, right? Surely he can just step in and tell Tugger to cut it out, right?
Well, I don’t know. Because he never does that. In fact, he never even comes close to doing that! He’s clearly not happy with his brother; if you look at him during any point in the song, it’s obvious he doesn’t approve! But he never actually moves to stop Tugger. The closest he comes to that is just trying to gesture to the other cats to come back, which obviously doesn’t work. It seems that Munk is, for whatever reason, not comfortable trying to discipline Tugger here. In fact, there’s a number of times that one of the older cats goes up to him and gestures that he should do something...but he still doesn’t. And this hesitation effectively gives Tugger free reign in this scene because, as the standing leader, Munk is the highest authority at this moment. So none of the other cats can stop him because the one person he might listen to, if only out of obligation, won’t step in. Thus, Munk doesn’t participate in this scene much. He mainly sticks to the back, tries to calm down his elders, and just waits for the whole thing to be over.
-After Jenny’s number is over, ‘16 Munk leads the jellicles in another chant of “jellicles ask because jellicles dare!” Presumably to remind them why they’re there. And it’s at that moment that Tugger pops up! He mockingly echoes Munk’s words, before strutting right over to him and laughing in his face! Munkustrap is immediately horrified, and joins up with Alonzo to try and get things under control. Irritated by his intrusion, they both mockingly call Tugger a “terrible bore,” causing him to take a swing at Alonzo. Munk can be spotted in the background several times during this song, pulling away the kittens, commiserating with the elders, and generally trying to put a stop to this whole thing! Though Munk’s disapproval is clear, Tugger in this scene essentially acts like an annoying younger sibling, absolutely reveling in his brother’s irritation! He even uses a dance with Mistoffelees as a chance to antagonize Munk! While every version of Tugger loves the spotlight, ‘16 Tugger is clearly at least partially-driven by a desire to get under Munk’s skin as much as possible.
Of note in this scene is the character Demeter, who in both the ‘98 version and ‘16 version is implied to have a romantic relationship with Munk. In the 1998 version, Demeter is present for this scene, but doesn’t really participate in it. It’s implied that the loud party incited by Tugger’s entrance in some way triggered her PTSD, and she hisses at him when he comes near. But ‘16 Demeter is enthralled with Tugger’s entrance! While she never hits on him like characters such as Bomba or Cassie do, she’s clearly attracted to him, and Tugger singles her out for a dance early on. This seems to cause some additional stress for Munk, as the sight of her happily dancing along with the others visibly throws him off. If Demeter is aware of that, she seems entirely unconcerned by it, as she continues happily participating in the song. Even pulls out a camera to take pictures of Tugger with the audience! At that point, Munk seems to have reached the end of his patience, as he can be seen throwing up his hands in resignation.
Grizabella the Glamour Cat
Tugger’s song draws to a close, but he seems to have no intention of leaving, as he continues to bask in the glow of his fan’s adoration while they dance along to a musical reprise of his song. But all of that comes to a sudden stop with the appearance of a mangy, disheveled cat by the name of Grizabella. Her appearance immediately puts everyone on-edge, as they aren’t happy to see her and don’t want her around. Some of the younger cats try to reach out to her, but are quickly stopped by their elders, while Demeter and Bomba explain just who she is. Neither of them really say what it was that caused Griz to be hated by the tribe, but they say just enough to give the impression that she’s someone disgraceful to be avoided.
-98 Munk leaps into action the second he sees Grizabella, pushing away Mistoffelees before he can touch her, and assuming a protective stance. He hovers near her during the introduction, never once dropping his protective stance. Now, Grizabella’s not a villain. She’s not violent, nor malicious, nor physically intimidating. She’s just a sad, old queen who wants to come home. She’s not a threat, but Munkustrap sees her as one. It’s clear that she did something to upset not only the tribe, but him specifically. Enough for him to see her as something that he needs to protect the others from. While not as mean towards Griz as some of the others are, his actions hold far more weight than theirs, as he’s the standing leader. And while he doesn’t actively prevent the kittens from reaching out to her like the elders do, nor mock her like the younger toms, he makes it clear through his body language that Grizabella is NOT to be accepted! When Demeter attempts to reach out to her, Munk doesn’t stop her...he just stares intently at her while keeping his protective stance, silently making it clear that he doesn’t approve. Grizabella eventually grows frustrated with this, and angrily calls him out for looking down on her, causing him to look away in shame. Munk hesitates for a moment as Grizabella sings, briefly being forced to reconsider his attitude. But ultimately, he doesn't let up.
With that, Grizabella finally gets the memo that she’s unwanted here, and begins to leave. Munk watches her intently as she does, keeping alert in case she tries anything, while Demeter begins her verse. Demeter clearly feels a great deal of sympathy for her and wants to do something, but doesn’t have the courage to go against the tribe like that. Bombalurina soon joins her, and the song takes on a far more venomous tone, especially as the other jellicles join in. Munk stands center stage amongst the rest of the tribe as Grizabella hobbles off. Of note here is that Electra, the kitten who adores Munk the most, can be seen cowering between his legs, but he doesn’t seem to notice her at all. Munk is shown to have a very affectionate relationship with her, as she often goes to him for comfort and attention, which he readily gives! The fact that he fails to notice her unhappiness here is actually quite out-of-character for him, and indicative of how much Grizabella’s appearance upsets him.
-16 Munk initially hesitates in reacting to Grizabella’s entrance, leaving Alonzo to pull away the kittens in his place. Munk is slow to react here, neither welcoming nor rebuking Griz as she comes in. While he’s clearly made uncomfortable by her presence, he’s uncertain what to do with her. He doesn’t see her as a threat nor someone he needs to protect the others from, rather, he’s more saddened by her presence than anything else. The others, however, very much see her as an intruder, and are quick to reject her as she comes near. And while Munk isn’t really sure what to do about Griz, he’s very quick to reprimand the younger toms who scratch at her, which is something his ‘98 fails to do. During her solo, Grizabella calls out Munk specifically, never once breaking eye-contact with him. Munk struggles under her gaze, clearly uncomfortable with being put on the spot, and looks for an out. That ‘out’ comes in the form of Demeter. It’s easy to miss, but you can see Munk noticing Demeter inching closer to begin her verse, giving him the chance to leave.
Demeter here has absolutely no sympathy for Grizabella. She sings her verse with a sneer and a wicked smile, she seems to almost enjoy the sight of Grizabella’s shame. By mockingly recounting her story to the other jellicles, Demeter and Bomba reaffirm to the tribe that Grizabella is someone they should stay away from. In addition, this takes the pressure off Munk to make a decision. He’s clearly uncomfortable with the public shaming, to the point where you can still see him standing nervously off to the side during the duet, but he doesn’t want to go against the tribe. So, he gives Demeter and Bomba the spotlight, and doesn’t intervene. As the standing leader, Munk has the power to officially let Grizabella back in the tribe and end the shaming, so his inaction allows it to continue. Munk is tense, apprehensive, but also uncertain as he watches Grizabella leave. He’s ready to jump into action if she tries anything, but she doesn’t. And while he intently watches her leave, the other jellicles hang back in the yard, leaving Munkustrap as the only one who sees her off.
Once Grizabella’s been shooed out, Bustopher Jones the cat-about-town comes in! His visit immediately livens up the atmosphere, as everyone scrambles to tidy things up to his liking. Bustopher is a cat who frequents several gentlemens clubs across London for fine dining, which the others take as a sign of wealth and status, and treat Bustopher accordingly. The majority of the song consists of Bustopher recounting the many clubs he frequents during this polite social visit.
-When Butstopher arrives in the ‘98 version, Munk very much still has his focus on Grizabella’s departure. He’s so focused on it that he fails to notice Bustopher’s entrance, as Jenny tries to give him a bit of reassurance as the kittens scramble to catch a glimpse of Griz as she leaves. Once they do notice Bustopher, they immediately change gears! Misto takes the lead in Munk’s absence, immediately directing all the toms in the area to stand at attention to greet Bustopher. While Jenny regroups with the other queens, Munk runs back to the tire where Misto is waiting. The tuxedo tom is clearly proud of himself for handling this so well and reaches out to Munk for approval, which he quickly receives. Though he’s trying to re-orient his focus back to the ball, he hasn’t failed to notice Misto’s efforts, and appreciates him. Possibly in an attempt to make-up for lost time, Munk puts himself right in front of Bustopher’s way, giving him a smile and a salute. This is the only cat he ever gives an outright salute to, implying that Bustopher is, in some way, of a higher status than he is. Not high enough to be revered as Old Deuteronomy is, but high enough that he needs to show proper respect.
Once respect has been paid, Bustopher indicates that he wants to leave, to which Munk obliges. However, Misto rushes in to try and prevent him from leaving so early, which causes Munk to change gears completely! He urges Bustopher to stay for just a bit longer, prompting the other toms to ready a place for him to sit so they can gather around and hear about his clubs. Munk shifts back into his leader role as he guides the others, and acts as a calm foil to Misto’s eager-to-please self without undermining him. He recognizes that this is an important guest, but that Misto clearly has some emotional attachment to Bustopher, and so lets him take the lead here. Even lets Misto guide him and the others on standing at-attention, an indulgent smile on his face the entire time. As the song ends and Jones bids the audience “Toodle pip!” Munk can be seen in the background giving one final salute.
(This analysis was helped in part by @sevenkittensinatrenchcoat‘s Bustopher Jones posts)
-Just as Grizabella the Glamour Cat fades out, the kittens all scramble to get a look at Griz as she leaves, and right as Bustopher Jones comes in! Munk, still shaken from the last number, is caught completely off-guard by the new arrival! At first his attention is split between the kittens and Jones, but Jenny and Jelly swoop in to gather the kittens, giving Munk a chance to greet their guest. Good thing too, as he’s able to pull away Mungo and Rumple before they did something to upset him! He and Alonzo immediately start tending to Bustopher, apologizing for the twins, and greeting him properly. While Jenny and Jelly handle the kittens, he and the other toms get into formation to salute their important guest, before heading off-stage to give Bustopher the spotlight. When Munk finally does come back on-stage, he and the others have prepared several dishes of food for Bustopher’s enjoyment!
Unfortunately, I don’t really have as much to say about this version of the number as I did the ‘98 version. As Munk is off-stage for much of this number, there’s not much in the way of character moments that can really be analyzed. Munk ultimately leaves much of this number to Jennyanydots and Jellylorum, who are shown to be quite fond of Bustopher. When Munk does reappear, it’s mainly just to be part of the choreography.
-2016 Munk on the whole seems younger than his 1998 counterpart. While they both occupy the position of standing leader, ‘16 Munk is more self-centered in his leadership. He’s not terribly attentive to the others, can micromanage at times, but is uncertain of himself in stressful situations. 1998 Munk, on the other hand, fits the leadership role near-perfectly! He’s attentive without being smothering, confident but not arrogant, and is quick to act whenever danger occurs! He’s clearly been acting as a leader for a while now, and has settled nicely into the role. ‘16 Munk is still finding his footing as a leader, and has that youthful self-centeredness holding him back somewhat.
-2016 Munk has fewer personal relationships in the tribe than 1998 Munk. While both of them are shown to be close with Alonzo and Demeter, ‘16 Munk lacks connection to younger cats like the kittens, while ‘98 Munk is quite close with them! While he’s still close with Alonzo, ‘16 Lonz is more deferential to Munk than his ‘98 counterpart, implying a more work-based relationship. And while he’s implied to be romantically involved with Demeter, they don’t share the same gentle affection with each other as ‘98 Deme and Munk. ‘98 Munk is quick to give and receive physical affection through nuzzles and pets, while ‘16 Munk has yet to do anything of the sort.
One relationship that’s notably different between productions is his relationship with Misto. ‘98 Munk is very patient with and caring towards Mistoffelees, sensing his desire to prove himself, and giving him little opportunities to do so throughout the ball! But ‘16 Munk’s interactions with Misto is limited to shooing him away and briefly standing between him and Tugger. It’s hard to tell how he regards Mistoffelees here because their interactions up to this point have been pretty impersonal! While 1998 Munk serves as a mentor figure to Mistoffelees, the best that can be said about 2016 Munk is that he’s aware Misto exists.
-Something to note is that the 2016 revival has noticeably less kittens in the show than the 1998 version. The 1998 version had about eight kittens, four toms and four queens, with characters like Plato and Victoria being on the cusp of adulthood while still being taken care of by their elders. The revival had about three, with Victoria and Plato no longer being characterized as among them. This greatly reduces the number of kittens for Munk to interact with, and as such, reduces Munk’s protector/caretaker role. Bring back Etcetera you cowards.
-1998 Munk is defined by his role as a storyteller and a protector; his top priority in any scene is making sure his tribe is safe and happy. 2016 Munk is defined by his role as a leader and prince; his top priority in any scene is to uphold the traditions and keep things running smoothly.
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