Cassandra & 1st Understudy Bombalurina 2014-2015
"Can I hug you? I'm going to hug you!" - from the night we met after she played Bombalurina & I actually reconigsed her as the understudy. Our whole conversation that night was so lovely.
She’s standing by the open widow, a bolt of sunlight falling across the angles of her expressive face; Cassie, eyes downturned, talking in a rush of breath on her phone...She twists her body towards the sunbeams, leaning her face into the cool breeze which picks up, briefly, outside. Long legs strike idle poses as she tips her head back, and her body hums with light.
- from 'Cassie' in At The Stage Door
The first thing you need to realise about Cassie Clare is that she is the sort of person that the phrase 'star quality' was invented for - and even that doesn't even begin to cover how truly amazing she is. The girl has so much light in her it's unreal, and there aren't words for how special she is as a person and as a performer. The very first time I ever saw Cassie onstage, she was in fact playing Bombalurina - I went to see the 2013-14 Cats tour in Nottingham in April 2014, and it was my first time since their initial cast change had taken place, so I had new faces to learn and new performances to get used to, but I was expecting to be coming out at the end of the show talking most about my usual favourite characters, the ones being played by the original cast members as well as the ones being played by new cast members. I never, ever expected to come out talking so much about the incredible Bombalurina! Don't get me wrong, I appreciate ALL cast members, I truly do, but I have my favourite characters who I will always be drawn to more and it takes something truly incredible to distract me from them. Something truly incredible like the force of nature that is Cassie Clare! She just oozed class as Bombie, she worked that stage like it was built for her and she brought such a fire and personality to the character that I HAD to find out what she was doing, even in moments where I would usually only have eyes for the kittens. When I saw the show in Nottingham I had actually brought a family friend with me who had never seen the show before, and she was completely floored by it - so much so that, despite originally only coming with me for my first night in Nottingham, she chose to stay on for night two as well! This friend came shopping with my mum and me the day after the first show and whenever the show came up, she brought up Cassie: "Oh that red one was fabulous!" "I can't get over that gorgeous red cat!" "What was the name of the red cat again? She was simply wonderful!" "The girl playing that red cat was just stunning - I wanted to look at everyone else but I couldn't bear not to be watching her!" - she was just in awe of Cassie's performance and I credit Cassie slightly with the fact that the lady in question is now a huge fan of the show too! That first night I didn't wait for any new cast members at the stage door, not even Cassie, as amazing as she had been - I wanted to give myself another night to see which of the new cast members I was growing most attached to onstage as well as giving myself another chance to make sure I knew what their headshots looked like to give myself a fighting chance of recognising them out of make-up! Cassie remained in the role of Bombalurina for night two as well and I was just as transfixed by her, and so I decided that I would definitely be waiting for her that night at stage door - not least because I always love to make sure the understudies know there are people out there who do take note of which characters will be understudied on a given night and do appreciate their hard work. So, I waited for Cassie. And it is honestly one of the best decisions I have ever made at a stage door! I can't even tell you who was happier when I stopped her: her or me, or the lovely Ross Finnie (Skimbleshanks) looking on proudly in the background?! I don't think I will ever forget my first meeting with Cassie, because the full force of her warmth was just unleashed on me that night and it was so beautiful. I asked her my standard Cats stage door question of "Excuse me, were you...?" and she gasped she was so surprised and she bounced up and down, just happy to be recognised! When I told her how special her performance had been she was so unbelievably happy and so touched that I'd waited just to tell her and she asked me "Can I hug you?! I'm going to hug you!!" and gave me the biggest squeeze I've ever had in my life. The girl is fierce and so are her hugs!! I was talking about how I've always loved the show and mentioned that I thought she was even better than Rosemarie Ford in the video and she was so excited, hugging me again and telling me how she wore the tape out as a kid, watching the show and copying all the moves. We hugged about a hundred more times and I came away in a daze thinking I'd just met the most amazing, stunning human firework, but also so happy that I'd been able to make a difference to an understudy's night.
"Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss...." He turned to me. "But every once in a while, you find someone who's iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare."
― Wendelin Van Draanen, Flipped.
I was so happy when she remembered me when I made it back to see the show again in Llandudno and she was so wonderful to me, hugging me and making sure to learn my name and catch me up with how the tour had been going, as well as telling me again how happy she was that I was going to be in for a few nights so she had a little extra motivator in there. It's something that Cassie was always so honest with me about: about how much it meant to her to have me in, cheering for her even on the nights she felt awful and how it made her try harder to push through even when she was feeling rotten. It's always so touching when you know you've made a difference like that and I'm so grateful to Cassie for always being so honest when she was down or in a mood or tired and just owning it but also still pushing through it and always giving everything she had when she was on that stage. I cannot even begin to tell you just how much she put into the part of Cassandra - it was truly amazing to watch her give the character this whole feisty, mesmerizing inner life, always reacting to everything that happened with such wonderful distaste, irritation, flirtation and downright stroppiness it was just a delight to try to figure out how she would react next! Her facial expressions and her fire were always so perfectly in character - her little catfights with Demeter, her displeasure at Gus the Theatre Cat's drinking habits and her haughty despair with Grizabella were just a handful of highlights of her performances as Cassandra. And offstage she made just as much of an impression, always one of the warmest and most forcefully present people, always full of gratitude and affection. In Birmingham in particular I remember her having a rough time and being so kind to me when I gave her a few gifts and cards, even getting a little emotional (I hope she won't mind me saying that!) Touchingly, she almost broke down and pulled me into another fierce hug and she just said as she was hugging me SO tight "Bless you" and she kept saying "Bless you, so much, you always come and - I'll be having an awful day - but then you come and you're so good to us and it just gives us such a lift" and I was so overwhelmed by her honest, heartfelt gratitude and I've never forgotten that feeling of being hugged so incredibly tight and told something so sincerely like that.
Ignore this human firework at your cost - this girl is a star. Honestly, I just adore her. Onstage, offstage it doesn't matter: she is pure energy and has more charisma and talent than it should be possible to contain in one person. She is a sensation, a firecracker, a superstar. You know how some people just have that spark to them? Like they're golden and just seem to glow with it? Yeah, that's Cassie. She's dazzling onstage and she gives everything, she doesn't take a chance that people won't be watching...because why should she when they HAVE to watch her!! People cannot take their eyes off her when she walks into a room, because there's an aura of magic about her that is utterly unique and so special to be around. I LOVE that she loves Cats as much as I do, of course, but I also love her presence, her passion and her energy. She's so fizzy and chatty and bright, it's simply incredible to watch her, to talk to her and just to be around her. And she may be fiesty, but let me tell you you will probably not find a more warm-hearted person; don't be fooled by the gorgeous pout or the cheeky eyerolls, she has a heart of gold. There just are not words for what a star she is. She's dynamite. And talking to her is so much fun - she's a sweetheart, but she's just as sharp and sassy as Cassandra too! Cassie gives amazing hugs and when she's talking to you she makes you feel like you're the star because she's so warm and she turns the full force of her amazing grin on you and it's wonderful. She talks at a million miles an hour and she has one of the most expressive faces I've ever seen, and chatting to her you cannot help but grin back at her. Cassie is simply one my favourite people on the planet. I would watch this girl do a one-woman production of Cats and not feel even a little bit like I was cheated by not having the other characters there! I simply adore her and I think she's a superstar. A truly magical, captivating person whose energy is infectious.