Munkustrap, 2nd Understudy Asparagus/Bustopher Jones/Growltiger.
'Was that you making all that noise?!' - Yelled to us over the side of the stage steps during the Cats Finale, but probably too many good quotes to choose from honestly.
In Manchester the cast discovered that he can play guitar; it’s something Dean doesn’t usually tell people and, now that he’s let it slip, everyone’s a little bit in awe. Even though they know it’s late, they still beg him to sing. Chris swears he’ll quit smoking and Kevin offers to tidy the dressing room, whilst John promises to be quiet for one whole day. It’s Becca’s bid that wins; she won’t be doing that thing with her tongue piercing in front of him anymore. Dean begins to play. His voice sounds like summer. Like liquorice and ocean spray. Yes, he sounds a lot like Elvis, they think.
- from 'He Sounds A Lot Like Elvis' in At The Stage Door.
The first time I ever saw Dean Maynard perform, it was before I had any idea about the wonderful world of stage door, but he still managed to make such an impression on me with his performance alone. As I have mentioned elsewhere on this site, for whatever reason, the previous tour of Cats had disappointed me a little and I can't begin to tell you how anxious I was when the time to go and see the 2006 tour cast came around; I was nervous my favourite show just wasn't going to feel the same not being in the West End, or perhaps that I'd watched the DVD too many times to get my head around any other interpretation of the show. There's always anxiety for me when I go and see Cats with a new cast, because Cats more than any other show can be changed just SO much by a different actor's interpretations and if they don't match my ideas I sometimes find it hard to adjust. It was a lovely spring day in Llandudno and I was having a beautiful time with my parents, enjoying a half-term holiday very much - Llandudno has got such a beautiful atmosphere to it and I always love going there - so I was in a pretty good mood as I settled down into my seat. But that didn't do anything to stop the nervousness I felt at what I might be in for with this new cast. I was so tense as the lights went down and the Overture filled the auditorium. The cats started to appear, Munkustrap stepped forward, I held my breath....and then Dean Maynard sang the opening line. I will never forget the feeling of that first time I heard Dean sing 'Are you blind when you're born?' - the Llandudno auditorium is one of the best around for acoustics, but Dean's voice didn't need the help at all. The air seemed to reverberate and the notes just seemed to hang there in there, sending a shiver down my spine. I turned to my mum - a Munkustrap fan through and through - and we both had our mouths in perfect 'o' shapes of surprise, our eyebrows raised. I just mimed 'Woooooowwwwwwwww' and then sat back in my seat and instantly relaxed, because I just knew that the standard of the cast had to be high from that moment on. Dean was incredible that night - just as he always is - and he was a huge part of my enjoyment of that night as I was just blown away by his stunning voice and his humorous spin on the character. Dean had the most amazing way as Munkustrap, somehow able to introduce a more playful side to his personality and make him less uptight, though still amusingly exasperated with his haphazard tribe embarrassing him in front of Deuteronomy too of course! His rendition of The Awful Battle Of The Pekes And The Pollicles always had be laughing without fail, whilst his singing in Old Deuteronomy would send shivers down my spine. Dean's audience work was always fun too, as he took a more human, bantery approach to his audience duties: my favourite Dean/audience moments were the time in Italy when he literally scaled a set of railings to pull himself up to the second tier of seating so he could say 'Boo!' to the people up there, and the time he sat down next to a woman (before the lights went down for Act Two) who was looking the other way and, when she turned back and jumped out of her skin, he grinned and asked if he could have a sweet! I also know, for a fact, he used to love trying to scare people with his manic leap down from the stage after Macavity stole Old Deuteronomy.
Offstage, Dean was one of the first people I ever spoke to - he was one of the only people we managed to recognise from their headshot for a start! But he was also so good to us and so kind - though always teasing too, of course, and he often used to greet us by going "Oh no, not you again!" or crossing his eyes at us - and of course that memorable time he leaned down from the stage steps at the end of the show and went "Was that you making all that noise?" after our cheering in the Finale. Dean always kept track of how we were doing at school and told us off for being at the theatre instead of revising for exams, he looked out for us and he learnt our favourite cast members and he put up with running into us outside the theatre before and after the show. In Bristol he knew us so well he was able to teasingly say to me "You know who's playing Mistoffelees tonight, don't you?" as he was heading off down the street as we were pre-show-stage-dooring. It took me a moment or two to process what was even happening but when I realised I went into a right tizzy - Kevin McGuire, my favourite member of the cast as he played Carbucketty, would be going on as Mistoffelees and Dean knew the craziness he was unleashing by giving away that titbit. In the time since Cats, I feel like Dean has got to know me even more, and these days I get greeted with a bear hug which I know for a fact he doesn't dish out often!. In South Pacific he was particularly good to me and very grateful towards me, especially when I came all the way up to Edinburgh to see him, and he always made sure to give me a smile during the show. By the time he was in Billy Elliot, he was still teasing me mercilessly but he was also more than happy to take the time out to chat and catch up on me and my family and I loved the way he would just call "MALINDA!" out of the stage door by way of a greeting before hugging me!
There's certain people in life that, when you spend time with them, it's almost like they're a fire - their way of being just warms your soul a bit.
- Russell Howard
Dean is just one of my favourite people on the planet. He's just one of those lovely, funny, down-to-earth blokes you sometimes find in life and there's just something so charming about him that it makes you want to talk to him about pretty much anything. For someone so shy, I talk an awful lot when I'm around Dean! He makes me very bold, even bolder than I normally am at stage door, and there's a lot of teasing that goes back and forth between the two of us! He's just a brilliant, genuine, funny guy who happens to be a ridiculously good singer but is modest about it at least 80% of the time, and any times he's not being modest, it's very dry and tongue-in-cheek. Dean is interested in so much and I couldn't ever say enough good things about him to convey the wonderful, friendly aura he possesses - and it's so good of him to always ask after the new Cats casts and what I think of them and he even tells me little titbits from his time in Cats which I just love to hear! He once even took me for a backstage tour at South Pacific as a birthday treat and let me take a photograph with him in full Childcatcher get-up at Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - he's just SO so kind. For you Cats fans, the best explanation I can offer you is that he is basically the human form of Munkustrap. For everyone else? Well, I always describe him as 'the man who looked exactly like his headshot' from the Cats tour, and in my story about him in 'At The Stage Door' I said that 'his honesty and his smile' were what drew people in. I call him a legend because he's always the first story I tell people when I try and explain why I love stage door and theatre people, and he's always the first person I write into my theatre stories. But overall, Dean is just...my Munkustrap. Simple as that. He's one of those rare people who went into the show and, instead of setting a high standard, he just smashed through the standard and become the person whose interpretation simply cannot be beaten, so I never measure new Munkustraps against him, I just treat them as if they're playing a whole new character instead. And that doesn't just say a lot about Dean in Cats, it says a lot about him as a performer in general - there is something so natural and likeable about him, but also something so interesting that makes you want to watch him and his reactions to things. But the one thing you absolutely, definitely CANNOT ignore about Dean? That voice. It's heavenly and warm and clear and beautiful and a million other things I cannot even begin to describe - that voice of his is enchanting, and it's the reason that, as well as calling him Deankerstrap, I have also been known to refer to him as Dean 'The Voice' Maynard.