Manchester Opera House, April 2013
This was the stage door where I finally started to accept that - despite my attachment to the 2006 tour - this new cast of Cats had started to suck me in. Joel Morris' Carbucketty and Dawn Williams' Jemima were still my favourites, but other new faces were also starting to win me over. Will Lucas' Bill Bailey continued to win my heart whilst Jessica Buckby as Cassandra and James Darch as Alonzo were also growing on me too. I will be honest though, I went to stage door in Manchester with pretty much one mission in mind: show the kittens all the love! I really wanted to let Joel Morris know just how wonderful a job he was doing as my favourite kitten Carbucketty as his performances just stole my heart a little more and a little more every time and I also decided it was high time I managed to actually meet Will Lucas and let him know how much I loved his performances too. For the first performance I went to in Manchester we were bringing along a family friend who had never seen the show or been to a stage door before, and if there is one thing I love more than introducing someone to the magic that is Cats live then it is being able to introduce them to a cast I had such complete faith in to do every character such justice and really capture the spirit of the show perfectly. She was as spellbound as I'd hoped and I was so happy and excited to be able to talk to her about her favourite performances from the show and recount some stories to her of my previous trips, such as when I met Joel for the first time. I also told her the story of the half-way-through-the-show-superhero swing I had seen in Wolverhampton, Matthew Caputo, and I explained how I had missed the chance to let him know how great he had been that night, mentioning that I wanted to try and talk to him at the stage door that night too but was nervous to walk up and actually mention seeing him go on that night as it had been several weeks and I felt shy about maybe coming across as kind of crazy. When I was talking about it in the interval both she and my mum both encouraged me, told me I should go for it and reminded me how much I always loved being able to let people know some seemingly unnoticed thing they did in the show actually had meant something to somebody - and so I said I would go for it if I got the chance, still half-convinced I wouldn't have the nerve. Then I got to stage door and that whatever-it-is that happens to my normally shy self at a stage door took over: I saw Matthew waiting to one side and I took a deep breath, steeled my nerves, and I went over to him with a hopeful smile. "Excuse me, but did you go on as Bill Bailey part-way through a show in Wolverhampton a couple weeks ago?" - Matthew kind of blinked at me at first then his eyes went wide and he gave me this sweet, dazed laugh and said "Yeah...how did you know that?!" and so I told him the story and how I love the kittens and saw him slip back in and how amazing it was. He was LOVELY to me - still bewildered but also so kind. I got a picture with him and hoped against hope I might get to see him perform again. After him I saw Dawn again and got to talk with Joel who kindly told me I'd gone down in tour history for being a fan of Carbucketty, and as it was getting late I called it a night without seeing all my kittens, but only because I was safe in the knowledge there was another performance waiting for me!
On my second trip to the show in Manchester I was once again convinced that I would not be seeing too much more of the tour. I was due to be away for the summer and wouldn't be back at the show at all until it visited Stoke in the autumn and some part of me still didn't expect to have many more oppertunities to see the show at all - so I bought gifts for my two superstars Joel and Dawn as a thank you and I think some part of me thought they would also serve as a kind of "goodbye and good luck for the rest of the tour", still kidding myself I wasn't attached even as I was sitting there giddy-beaming for the entire performance and giving myself a stitch from grinning and silent-laughing at all the kittens' antics. At stage door that night as well as giving Dawn and Joel their gifts and thanking them again for playing two of my favourite characters so beautifully and getting Joel to sign my programme, I was also absolutely intent upon also saying thank you to Will Lucas who played Bill Bailey. My dad had driven us that night though, and I knew my time at stage door was limited, and as signs of life dwindled and the other stage door goers that night dispersed I got incresingly desperate, begging him to let us stay a little longer. He told me I must have missed him and that there couldn't be anyone left in there because we'd seen pretty much the entire cast by this point, but I begged for five more minutes even as some small part of me began to feel he was probably right. But let me tell you, there is a very specific kind of elation that comes of seeing the person you held out for emerge from stage door after you'd given up hope and convinced yourself you'd missed them, and I was lucky enough to feel it that night as Will Lucas finally emerged and I got to have a lovely conversation with him about the kittens and their mischief - I remember him telling me "Oh, you're the fan of the kittens!" and saying they all knew about me and I was so glad I had managed to hold out for that moment. I was drifting on a cloud back to the car, smiling and smiling and, yes, I will admit, teasing my dad for ever doubting me when it came to picking out who I had or hadn't let slip past me at a stage door!