Superhero, Lovely, Star
Super Swing for the Cats UK & Europe tour 2013 - 2014. I saw him as Bill Bailey & Mungojerrie, but he also understudied my favourite character Carbucketty (among very many others.)
Probably when he said Carbucketty was his favourite track to cover. And also "But Carbucketty IS the Jellicle Ball"
She was sure she’d never encountered a more delightful face; a compelling mix of Italian good-looks and genuine sweetness that was both expressive and charming. His round, wide eyes were deep and dark, twinkling endlessly like starlight on a river…She took a moment to commit his sweet, perfect face to memory, taking in the pure magic of him. The same curious hopefulness lay in his expression as when he had first appeared before her in the darkness backstage, impish, enthusiastic and kind. ‘It’s been wild, Monkey,’ she murmured, wrapping him in a grateful hug. ‘Don’t tell the others, but I think I’m going to miss you most of all.’ And it was true. He was no saint, but there was more goodness in him than in any normal human being; there was something in that ridiculous smile of his – the one which lit whole auditoriums in a heartbeat – that seemed to heal the world around him, at least for a moment or two.
- from a work-in-progress novel 'The Girl With The Sky Umbrella'
The first time I saw Matthew Caputo on a stage, he hadn't actually started the night expecting to be there; it was also the night he got his nickname from me of 'Superhero'. When I went to see the new tour of Cats in 2013, I first saw it two nights in a row in Wolverhampton - and it was during the second of these nights that something I'd never seen before happened: a swing had to be, well, swung on, mid-show. It was at some time during The Rum Tum Tugger, I think, when I first noticed that Bill Bailey had vanished - as a fan of the kittens, and of Bill's partner-in-crime Carbucketty, the absence was particularly noticeable to me, and I knew when Bill still hadn't reappeared by Bustopher Jones (where he has a few prominent moments) that some injury or illness must have struck. I assumed they would carry on the show without a Bill, to be honest, as I had seen the show done without one before, but then, at the start of The Awful Battle Of The Pekes And The Pollicles, I saw a little movement amongst the Pollicle camp, and sure enough, Bill Bailey was back...but with a completely different face! I was sitting there with my jaw practically on the floor, amazed and honestly so impressed that a swing was there, saving the day, being utterly amazing, going into a difficult part with zero preparation - I wanted to go round and just tell everyone in that theatre what an amazing, impressive thing they were witnessing. Of course, it being night two, I'd bought my programme the previous night but not brought it with me again, and even if I had have done I had made a stubborn resolve (for complex reasons relating to me not wanting to get too attached to the new tour!) to only wait for Carbucketty that night at stage door, so I didn't meet the mystery swing, but I did make sure to get my programme out when I got home and try to work out who he was. Funnily enough, I remembered seeing Matthew in the programme the night before and also on the official website, and I had had a suspicion it had been him, and one look at his headshot again that night and I knew for sure! I resolved then and there to make sure I spoke to him the next time I was at the show - so it was lucky, wasn't it, that I had tickets to see the show again just a couple of weeks later in Manchester! Although, even when I did see him at stage door, I almost didn't go over - I was worried it might seem weird for me to come up and mention something to him from so many days ago, but in the end I reminded myself how amazing what he did was, and how little credit swings get, and I got the courage up to skirt around a massive crowd of autograph hunters who were focused solely on Tugger and found Matthew Caputo. I asked him if he was the swing who had come on as Bill Bailey mid-show and he was so surprised, but it did make him smile and I hope it kept him smiling afterwards too, because I was certainly smiling and happy I'd got a photo with him. That night I didn't get too much of a chance to really talk to Matthew as he had to rush off, but I had officially decided he was one of those Jellicles I was looking out for for the rest of the tour. I've always been a sucker for a swing, but Matthew was special, because between the mid-show-heroism and the unusualness of not being able to congratulate him on it for a couple of weeks, he'd really made an impression! Perhaps it was all just fate's way of intervening, I don't know, but I'm so glad I made that decision to throw caution to the wind and go over and talk to him, even if it had been such a long time since I actually had seen him on the stage! The funny thing is, when I had done my pre-show scanning of all the cast on the Cats website before the show, looking through all their headshots and trying to somehow magically read how much I was going to enjoy their performances, I had picked out a few people who I just got some sort of mysterious vibe from that I just knew "This one is going to be amazing and then some." And when I say a few, I mean two: Dawn Williams and - you guessed it - Matthew Caputo! I was genuinely gutted that this guy who I hadn't seen perform was 'only' a swing (and I say 'only' in the sense of: it lessened my chances of getting to see him perform - being a swing is amazing and takes so much hard work and talent and a great attitude, so I am a real championer for the amazingness of swings and would never say they are something less than brilliant!)
Of course, as it worked out, I got to see Matthew twice: once for his half-show star turn as Bill Bailey and one whole show as Mungojerrie. I would've loved to have seen him play more parts though, and honestly, if I'd known him better back then I swear I would've told him "You contact me if you know you're going on and I will drop everything and find a way to come and see it" because I just really took him to heart during those two performances. I would have adored to see him play my favourite Carbucketty - but on the condition my amazing favourite ever Carbucketty Joel Morris wasn't injured/ill and was actually on for Mistoffelees, and really to me that would be some sort of dream come true and if it had ever happened I would have cried with joy for the whole show most likely!! Matthew is just a special performer and a special human being, and I really, truly took him to heart in every way. In Liverpool, when I finally did get the chance to speak to him properly, he was one of the sweetest, kindest people on the planet, recognising me, remembering me, chatting with me and, ultimately, helping me stalk a few of his castmates through the train station so I could get a picture with them before I went home that night! It was the funniest, loveliest thing! Of course, I can't speak for Matthew, but I honestly feel like that first encounter of ours is something so important because, certainly for me, it's stuck with me that I was there the night this gorgeous, talented little swing did this amazing, important thing and I'm one of the only people who knew it and I just HAD to let him know it had mattered not just to the show but to people - or at least one person - out there in the auditorium, because I think that is so important for any performer to know, but especially a swing as they so rarely will be directly told it. I don't know if it stayed with him the same way, but it will always mean a lot to me, for sure, and Matthew is so good at making me feel appreciated too, so I would certainly like to imagine, hopefully not too egotistically, that neither one of us has ever forgotten that surreal first meeting at the Cats stage door! He always has treated me with so much love and kindness and I like to think that extra-mile I went for him means we always have a slightly more special way of treating each other. That night I so wanted just to put a little goodness into his world and he has beyond returned that goodness to me and then some. I've developed the biggest soft spot for the little swing who could, he's possibly my favourite of my favourites now! I was so gutted to find out he was leaving the tour with its cast change, but I vowed to keep up with him.
You are the loveliest thing - the loveliest thing.
My heart turns over when I see your beautiful face.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
It was so important to me to keep up with Matthew (and it still is) - he's not just one of 'My Jellicles' or one of 'My Favourites', he's the one who, when he's on a stage, I sit there the whole time dying to just point him out to everyone around me and go "Isn't he amazing? Isn't he special?" - I'm weirdly proud and protective of him I suppose, but I just have so much belief in him and I will champion him no matter what, he's just so deserving, so capable and so wonderful. I was so excited when he joined the Top Hat tour - it was a show I'd wanted to see anyway, but knowing I could get to see him perform a whole show and really show off what he could do and that I could surprise him and catch up with him afterwards was just so special. And, my goodness, he didn't let me down: he didn't earn the nickname 'Superhero' for nothing, ok?! He's SUPER super! My goodness, his dancing in Top Hat...I cannot even begin to tell you. In my time being a fan of Cats, I have seen some incredible performers and incredible dancers: Matthew is on my absolute, top list of people who've taken my breath away: Jacob Brent, Joel Morris & Matthew Caputo. I think perhaps Top Hat was where he really, truly sealed, not only that soft spot for him that I have, but also that Ultimate Respect for him as a performer that I have, because the way he was in that show was a whole other level of magical. Top Hat gave me the chance to see just how graceful, elegant and charismatic he can be - he is an utterly sublime dancer and a magical performer, there's just a light within him that is so rare and beautiful, it's as though he's made of stardust. He just mesmerises me onstage and, honestly, I feel stupidly proud of him when I see him perform, just because I know how hard he works up there, and he puts so much personality into everything he does. Seriously, his whole face just lights up when he's performing and he makes you want to look at him and smile back so wide. People I hadn't even told about knowing him who had been to see Top Hat would sometimes be talking about this amazing person in the ensemble and I'd mention "I know someone in that show, he's called Matthew Caputo" and if they didn't know him by name then, when I showed them a stage door photo they would go "That's him!!" and I'd feel so proud. That first night I saw him in it he just left me breathless - I turned to my mum at the end and I just went "Oh my gosh, he was SO GOOD - I don't even have words!" and I was practically shaking! To add to the perfection of the memory of that particular night, Matthew himself, of course, had to go and be his ridiculous, sweet self! I was sitting on the front row and he'd only been on the stage a few seconds before he spotted me and shone that gorgeous smile of his at me and it was one of the most beautiful moments I've ever had in a theatre, he's just such an angel and he was absurdly sweet and kind to me at stage door that night. I was SO glad I'd decided to take my Cats Tour 2013/14 scrapbook with me specifically for him to sign, because he so needed to be in there and that night proved that he needed to place himself firmly in my Cats Tour Records as I would be keeping up with him from then on!
Offstage, as you have probably picked up by now, Matthew is The Actual Sweetest and I simply adore him. That light in him isn't dulled remotely away from the stage lights and he has a heart that is made of pure gold - talking to him, or even just hearing from him, is just like a sunbeam warming you through and he can turn a day around with a single smile. I think the best way I can describe it is that the goodness in him, the light and warmth, has an almost healing effect - he's just putting something so positive and genuine and good out into the world and it changes the air around him, and you just know you're around a very beautiful human being when you see the light in his eyes. I also think it's so telling that, in the world of the theatre, full of so many wonderful, interesting characters, Matthew is always the one who, when you mention him to others, they go "Ohhh, Matty Caputo, he's lovely, isn't he?!" Kind, quick, funny, bubbly and bright, Matthew is truly one of the very best people I know. He just knocks me out - he's simply dazzling, in so many senses of the word. He has all this warmth and talent packed inside of him! It's like you can actually see him twinkling and shining right before your eyes and it's amazing. It's funny, but of all the shows and people my dad has encountered over the course of my time stage dooring, he has never really had too much to say about any particular performer, because he's just not as big a theatre fan as I am or as my mum is, but Matthew...if I mention Matthew to him, he will just stop and go "I really like Matthew Caputo. He's really got something special!" and if I say I'm thinking of going to see Matthew in something he'll be so enthusiastic, saying "Oh yes, you MUST go! He's so, so good!" and I cannot tell you how big a deal it is for my dad to say that! He NEVER says that kind of thing, but Matthew just impressed him so much and he's never forgotten just how amazing a performer he is since he saw him in Top Hat - I've never known him be that way for any other performer, seriously. Matthew just simply is amazing in all he does though, and I wish I could be a cheerleader for him at the side of the stage every night he's on it because he's one of those people who makes other people smile and he completely deserves to have karma return to him some of that stardust he has put out into the universe for other people, as I can't think of anyone more deserving than him. He just makes me want to hug him and he makes me want to smile and when he's on stage I cannot stop grinning - and just thinking about the hard work it takes to be a swing in Cats tells you a lot about him and his strength of character and his skill, but more than that, he was there, unflinchingly wonderful, in the face of the chaos and panic that it must cause when you're suddenly told, in the middle of a show, "we need you on stage, like, five minutes ago"...no credit, no time to prepare, and being thrown into the middle of the show and he comes out of it so beautifully and so seamlessly, and that takes some doing, even for the best of swings, and I will never not admire him for that. I'm just so proud of him in all he does and I will root for him always because he deserves only wonderful things.