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Royal Ballet Principals Francesca Hayward and Steven McRae to star in Cats

UPDATE: Steven McRae is to be replaced by Alexander Campbell in his scheduled performances of Don Quixote.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

10 January 2018 at 1.00pm | 20 Comments

Francesca Hayward and Steven McRae, Principal dancers of The Royal Ballet, have joined the cast of Universal Pictures and Working Title’s film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, directed by Academy Award-winner Tom Hooper. Olivia Cowley, Royal Ballet Soloist, will also play a role in the film.

Director of The Royal Ballet Kevin O’Hare comments: ‘I’m delighted that Francesca has been asked to take the leading role in Cats which promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and one which showcases her fantastic talent to a whole new audience. I have no doubt that she will shine in this role as she has done in so many productions with The Royal Ballet and look forward to her returning to the Company next spring.’

He adds: ‘It’s really exciting that Steven is joining the cast, alongside fellow Royal Ballet Principal Francesca Hayward, allowing him to showcase his fantastic versatility and theatrical flair on film.’

Based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, the film adaptation will be produced by Working Title Films in association with Monumental Pictures and The Really Useful Group and executive produced by three-time Oscar-winner Steven Spielberg, Lloyd Webber and Angela Morrison.

McRae is replaced in his scheduled performances of Don Quixote by Alexander Campbell.

[This article has been amended to reflect the announcements that Steven McRae and Olivia Cowley will also take part in the film, and amended to include Steven's replacement casting - there are no further Royal Ballet dancers scheduled to take part]

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

10 January 2018 at 1.00pm

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cats, Cats film, Francesca Hayward

This article has 20 comments

  1. Simon Smith responded on 7 November 2018 at 7:33pm Reply

    Congratulations to Francesca Hayward - what a fantastic opportunity for her and also also to introduce new audiences to her talents and to ballet/dance. It's great that Kevin O'Hare and the Royal Ballet provide such support. Whilst disappointed not to be seeing Francesca on stage over the Winter, I'll be even more pleased to see her Juliet in the Spring.

  2. Sheila J responded on 8 November 2018 at 1:24pm Reply

    Congratulations to both Steven and Francesca. Can’t wait to see them on the big screen.

  3. Simon Smith responded on 8 November 2018 at 6:54pm Reply

    When posting last night we hadn't had Steven McRae's news and I hear Olivia Cowley is also cast in Cats. Congratulations to all - and again many thanks to Kevin O'Hare and the Royal Ballet for extending such support.

  4. jjulia responded on 8 November 2018 at 6:56pm Reply

    What about my visi t to see nutcracker on Dec 7th - now no cast confirmed - I want to know WHO I will be seeing. ??

    • Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media)) responded on 9 November 2018 at 3:45pm

      Hi Julia,

      We're sorry for the inconvenience here - we understand it's frustrating not having the casting details in this case. We'll be announcing their replacements as soon as we can.

      Many thanks,


  5. Stephanie Burgess responded on 9 November 2018 at 4:06pm Reply

    I agree with Julia, it's hugely frustrating, especially as we booked for that date for a production we have seen many times specifically to see that particular cast!

  6. Stephanie Burgess responded on 9 November 2018 at 4:09pm Reply

    I agree with Julia, we booked for this particular date, for a production we have seen many times, specifically to see this cast!

    I'm delighted the dancers have this opportunity but it is hugely frustrating for the people that have bought tickets.

  7. R.a. responded on 9 November 2018 at 5:46pm Reply

    Is it true that Olivia Cowley is also dancing in cats? Could you let all of us enthusiastic ballet goers have a complete list of all those from the royal Ballet who will be appearing and not just the principals? Many thanks

  8. Brett responded on 9 November 2018 at 6:50pm Reply

    will Francesca be back for Juliet ?

  9. Anne responded on 11 November 2018 at 5:04pm Reply

    I wonder, which is Francesca's role? And, Olivia's?

  10. Stevie responded on 11 November 2018 at 7:31pm Reply

    Good news about the opportunities for involvement in a new film and all the credits that go with it. It will not be difficult to find replacements, with the high standards and levels of performance within this company. To avoid frustration, it is best not to have favorites. In any case favoritism implies giving unfair advantage and this company is about giving opportunities. It is good to see new performers and rising stars given such opportunity and for us to see them in a debut performance gives added interest.

  11. Lenore responded on 13 November 2018 at 5:08am Reply

    This casting in the movie couldn't have been a surprise. It must have been in the works for months. Why would you cast and announce McRae in the Don Q cinema relay only to let people down? Its one thing for a regular performance but for those of us around the world who rely on the cinema to see our fave dancers its kinda not nice. Especially when your theater does not give refunds.

    • Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media)) responded on 13 November 2018 at 10:34am

      Hi Lenore,

      We always announce cast changes as soon as possible, as we understand people will have booked tickets to see specific casts for performances, or cinema tickets. In this case, we made the announcement as soon casting was confirmed, in conjunction with the film production company.

      Sorry to disappoint on this occasion,


  12. Alex responded on 13 November 2018 at 4:56pm Reply

    Can the person responsible for updating the RB casting on the ROH website please PLEASE communicate with those in the know of the actual casting. Hayward is still listed as dancing Winter's Dream, Two Pigeons etc etc whereas we have read she won't be dancing with the RB until late Spring 2019. Who will be dancing Nutcracker Sugar Plum/Prince on 7th December? Who will be dancing Irina in Winter's Dream on 18th December? Yes it is important for us paying members of the audience to know who we'll see on the dates we have booked for. Also, it is about showing respect towards those dancers who have to take over extra shows because some dancers have joined as Cats dancers.

    • Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media)) responded on 13 November 2018 at 8:30pm

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your comment and for your patience here. We will announce the casting as soon as it is confirmed, and communicate with ticket holders as soon as we have replacement casting secured - at the moment, the replacement casting is still TBC so we have not updated the website (although, I agree it is confusing to have Francesca and Steven listed when they will not be dancing). We understand the importance of letting you know in advance who you will be seeing, and giving the dancers performing the credit they deserve.

      Many thanks,


  13. Susan Woolcott responded on 14 November 2018 at 7:46pm Reply

    I too am delghted that Francesca and Steven have been 'released'from the Royal Ballet to star in 'Cats' and will look forward to that.
    However, would also be pleased to have it confirmed from the RB that Francesca and Steven will be back for the Spring season, in particular as Juliet and Romeo ? Do we have dates yet as booking opens early in December ? Thank you in advance

  14. Neil Trotman responded on 20 November 2018 at 9:52pm Reply

    You people need to realise that things happen even though it may be disappointing. You’ll just have to get over it. I wish the dancers all the best in the upcoming film of the musical Cats.

  15. Kevin responded on 22 November 2018 at 2:37am Reply

    Would it be possible to replace McRae as Romeo with Benjamin Ella opposite Takada? He definitely has the looks for the part. More importantly he was very touching and moving opposite Takada in Giselle. He could really do the tragedy of R&J well!

  16. James Bentley responded on 10 January 2019 at 12:50pm Reply

    What a disgrace that RoH are only telling us now.I suspect RoH knew about MacRae ducking out of Don Quixote on 23 October (when we bought tickets) as it was publicly announced in early November. If so, this is dishonest and RoH is guilty of mis-selling. RoH should have told us right away. RoH should apologise, tell everyone what they have done and give us our money back.James

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 10 January 2019 at 2:18pm

      Hi James,

      Sorry to disappoint you on this occasion. We announce cast changes as soon as we are able to.

      As detailed our terms and conditions of sale, tickets cannot be refunded except on the cancellation or substantial alteration of the performance, or unless exchanged or re-sold by the Box Office. A change of cast does not constitute a substantial alteration. In addition, tickets are sold subject to the Theatre’s right to make any alterations to the programme or cast.

      If you'd like to place your ticket for resale, please email with your order number and ticket sales. Further details can be found on in the aforementioned terms and conditions page.

      Best wishes,


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