The musical Cats, currently starring Leona Lewis, has axed one of its famous songs over fears it was racist.
The Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical, which will open on Tuesday (2Aug16), has faced criticism for years over the lyrics in fan favourite song, Growltiger’s Last Stand.
The cat characters perform it using fake Asian accents, and the song in the original 1981 musical featured the lyrics, "With a frightful burst of fireworks the Chinks they swarmed aboard," British newspaper The Sun reports.
In more recent versions, the offending lyrics were changed to, "With a frightful burst of fireworks the Siamese they swarmed aboard."
However, the Broadway show has removed the song altogether over fears the production would be branded as racist.
"It was one of the most notable changes in the new production and shows how much attitudes have changed since it first opened in 1981," a source told the newspaper.
Former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger was due to play the lead role of female cat Grizabella, who performs the famous song Memories. She made headlines earlier this year (16) when it was revealed she had chosen to return to The X Factor as a judge instead of performing in the Broadway musical.
Lloyd Webber blasted Nicole in interviews back in May (16), admitting he was "furious" with her following her decision to drop out of the role weeks before rehearsals were due to begin.
Despite their public spat, Nicole insisted recently they have buried the hatchet and are now on good terms. "I just did a show with Andrew in Austria," she told London's Evening Standard. "I learned a new song for him. Buenos Aires from Evita. So we’ve kissed and made up."
British singer Leona Lewis was drafted in as a late replacement for Nicole, and was panned by tough New York theatre critics for her lack of acting skills in previews of the musical.
The Wrap's Jason Clark wrote, "Although Brit songstress Leona Lewis is blessed with a divine pop belt perfect for the classic 11 o'clock number Memory, sadly she does not have the acting chops to put across Grizabella's tragic arc," while Marilyn Stasio from Variety declared Leona isn't in the "same league" as stage actress Betty Buckley, who originated the role.
Despite the criticism, the former X Factor winner is enjoying her new Broadway role, and recently told London's Evening Standard, “It’s been amazing playing Grizabella. The audience reaction has been greater than I could have hoped for and I’ve really enjoyed it."