You know that moment when Grizabella sings 'When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too...' - that's the moment in the show where I lose it. Because it is SO true. The theatre is all about transience, really. Your favourite show isn't like your favourite book or TV show or film, because you never, ever can see the same show twice, there is an exact and unique chemistry to every single night at the theatre which is never recreated and it is lost when the sun comes up the next morning only for something entirely different but equally magical to be conjured up the next night. And when you know you're not going back to see the show until September? Yeah, that's when you realise that more than ever and you end up crying solidly from Memory to the end of The Ad-Dressing Of Cats...and then again on the train back home!
I wish I could freeze this moment, right here, right now, and live in it forever..
So yes, I went to Canterbury for two nights this week to see Cats, and it was so very magical, I cannot even begin to decribe it. And this cast...ohhhh this cast. They've stolen my heart, it's terrible!!!!! They are all so good, every single one of them! Of course I have my favourites, and of course I always end up falling for the underappreciated characters, it's just how I am! But every single member of this cast is amazing, and their swings are incredible and I just...there are no words for how it makes me feel to see the show I love performed so well by such a lovely bunch of people. And then I'm lucky enough to be able to go to stage door and thank them in person and let them know I noticed all those little details they put in! Talking to these lovely people at stage door was actually almost as much fun as the show! My seat was my favourite side of the stage, and believe me when I say...I was practically sitting on the set! The stairs were not kind to the performers, let me tell you! Very little room for error!! And yes, Ben Yates (Mungojerrie) nearly broke my neck falling down those stairs...which he assured me was an accident! But I still loved it, even with the near-death experience in the Finale! At least when I'm the one sitting there then the cast know I'm well aware of when I need to keep my feet well and truly tucked in!! Although that's not to say they still don't make me jump sometimes when they leap down into the stalls!!
Anyway, so many amazing memories of the show and of stage door, and I can never ever thank these lovely, talented people enough. But I did cry on the train home (my iPod is to blame - Embrace's 'I Had A Time' and Coldplay's 'A Sky Full Of Stars' back-to-back creating a flood of bittersweet/sleep-deprived emotion!) and hopefully they know that that means they did their job well! I just hope they know how much I'm going to miss them until September! All I can do is say: to my two Carbuckettys, thank you both, you were both darling and gorgeous and amazing. To Ben Yates: you made me laugh when I was crying in Ad-Dressing of Cats so you are a hero, even with the nearly killing me thing! To Cassie: you're a star, always. And to Adam, Ben and Dawn...you three are the best and I don't think I stopped smiling (even when I was crying) thanks to you three on and off the stage, I adore you all for so many reasons and I'm sending you so many cheers and smiles and whoops and you have no idea how much I wish I could deliver them to you in person from the front row every night! To all the cast: thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Again, a more detailed story of my Canterbury trip will eventually appear on this website once I finally manage to write up allll the many stage door pages on this site! It's very, very long road to get all these stage doors written up but I'm getting there slowly and once all the other pages on this site are done then I will focus solely on the stage door pages, so a time will come when all these stories are up. But for now I'll leave you with some lovely photographs of me and some very lovely talented peope, including the gorgeous group shot I got on my second night with Adam Lake (Alonzo), Dawn Williams (Rumpleteazer), Ben Mundy (Coricopat), Natasha Mould(Jemima), Kathryn Barnes (Tantomile) and Hannah Kenna Thomas (Victoria).
If you are lucky enough to find yourself at Cats, then give these people a cheer from me and remember that every character in Cats is special and unique and no-one should be taken for granted! Cheer Admetus, watch Cassandra see off Griz, remember that Alonzo is the one who wounds Macavity and that Carbucketty and Bill Bailey have a unique talent for mischief. And most importantly? Let these wonderful, talented people see you smile back up at them - give them energy to feed off, because you never know who might be having a bad day or who might be missing home or be struggling with the heat and sometimes if you just will them on then you can make it a tiny bit more bearable. All of this wonderful cast deserve nothing but good audiences, so help 'em out for me, ok? And if you go to stage door - don't be afraid to speak up!!!! Like I said on my Hints & Tips page: remember the understudies and make someone's day, or tell them who your favourite character is, let them know that what they're doing truly does matter...and if you're not sure? Ask! They don't bite I promise: they're lovely people who are more than happy to explain who they played, what they did or even help you find whichever member of the cast you're looking for, but they can't show you how lovely they are if you never ask: I wouldn't even have got to know Ben Mundy if I hadn't have asked him to take a photograph for me!! And if you make them smile, then they will leave you smiling in return.
So Cats is heading back to London. And I suppose you might expect that, as a fan of the show, and as it is so close to my heart, I would be delighted and excited to hear this news. But, I will be absolutely honest with you all, I have such mixed feelings about it all! On the one hand, it is exciting to see the show get a chance to play a run in Theatreland. But on the other hand...all this talk of making changes to it has me very worried. I know this makes me sound terribly picky and snobbish but...messing with Cats for the sake of trying to modernize it, or even just for the sake of trying to impress London, is such a risky thing to do and I can't say I agree with it at all. Cats as it is...is beautiful. It's magical, it's wonderous and it has been touring the UK and Europe for over a year now PROVING that people love it and appreciate its magic just the way it is. I never deal well with change, and when something is as close to my heart as Cats is it makes me outright nervous. The theatre these days so often seems to be deserpately seeking some mysterious popular-culture approval - I think Les Miserables being such a runaway box office success and all these musical movies which are following it has created this want from a lot of corners for the same mass-appeal, unexpected sensation thing to happen in everything. And honestly, they try so hard that a lot of the time I think they ruin it for themselves, because it SHOWS that they're tyring too hard and that just spoils it. And I can't help but be anxious that this is what Andrew Lloyd Webber seems to be thinking with Cats - though obviously I'm prepared to be proved wrong! Still, I can't help but feel it's a bit of a kick in the teeth to the current touring cast...though I'm sure they won't feel that way, I feel very defensive of them all as I am so attached to them and their take on it. It was only earlier this month that Andrew Lloyd Webber went to see these wonderful people in Llanduno and now he's announced a potentially different version of the show they performed for him will be heading to the West End and a whole new cast will have to be in it, presumeably, since the current cast are Europe-bound and still tied up on tour in the time this London cast would be being assembled. Unless, of course, there is enough of a break to rehearse with them in at the Palladium at the end of their European adventure so they would go straight through to the London show seamlessly? That would be a nice surprise, though a nightmare from my personal point of view in terms of trying to get down to London to see them!! It would just feel very, very wrong to me to have this tour be steamrollered, if this cast aren't going to continue through to London, because then they would have all their hard work shunted to one side (admitedly somewhat accidentally) by all the press attention on the West End run. So yes, I don't know how I feel about the news, honestly. Mixed emotions, generally, and I just sincerely hope it turns out for the best and that this talk of change is very much overstated and that the cast I've come to love so much stay on. And of course I also hope that any change won't be forever, regardless of how significant it may be: when a new tour eventually comes around, I would dearly like it to be the show I know and love and have loved since I was six in essence, sound and feel, even with a brand new cast making it their own every night. I suppose I will get a clearer idea when they announce the casting - and I think it will be the casting announcement which I will leave to be the decider as to whether I try to get tickets or not.
John McManus - the lovely, wonderful soul who I knew as Skimbleshanks in the 25th Anniversary Tour of Cats - has joined the national tour of Top Hat as part of the show's ensemble alongside my favourite Super Swing from the Cats 2013 Tour Matthew Caputo! John has been all over the place since Cats ended, but I haven't had the chance to go and visit him for far, far too long because he's always been so far away! But a national tour means I should be able to see him again before the end of the year and I couldn't be happier as I've missed his gorgeous, warm personality so much! Tickets can be booked through the Top Hat official site and the tour will being in Wimbledon on August 12th 2014. Anyone who remembers Matthew's excellent performances from the Cats tour or John's delightful, eccentric Skimbleshanks should definitely go and support him - I know I will be there! In the immortal words of John himself: 'This is so much better than Christmas!'
So I'm back at home again, recovering from three fabulous nights of theatre in Llandudno - a place where I had so many happy memories already, and now I have a whole bunch more to add to the collection. I don't even know where to begin with explaining how amazing my time in Llandudno was, how special the performances I saw were, or how brilliant my time at stage door there was either. There were so many highlights, so many amazing moments. I have now seen 37 performances of Cats - no two ever the same, several different casts, lots of different interpretations of characters. But I think these last three have to have been up there with the best ever. This cast...I don't say this lightly: they are amazing. I adore them! They're so talented and sweet and their interpretation of the show is so wonderful. I was so attached to the 2006 cast, and I was so worried I would never feel the same way about the show again after seeing that tour. But this cast are simply stunning. Adam Lake the anti-gravity Alonzo, Cassie Clare the most expressive and beautiful Cassandra I've ever seen, Dawn Williams my adorable Rumpleteazer, Natasha Mould a simply precious Jemima, Benjamin Mundy a gorgeous Coricopat, Benjamin Yates a michieveous Mungojerrie, Callum Train a delightful Munkustrap, Adam Salter a fantastic Bill Bailey...and two FANTASTIC Carbuckettys for me to watch in the form of Dane Quixall (nights 1 and 3) and Ryan Gover (night 2) - and those are just my very very favourites, because honestly, every single member of this cast should really get a mention. They were stunning and there are so many things I feel I should say, but then this post would turn into less of a Theatre Diary entry and more of a full-blown stage door/show report.
I think there was just something in the air in Llandudno - the sun was shining every day, a lovely sea breeze in the air. The audiences were so amazing, and the cast's energy was up and so was the audiences and each fed off the other and it was glorious to be in. I don't think I stopped smiling for the entire show, or stage door for that matter. I'd say the entire time I was there - but getting up early for breakfast at the B&B after being up late at the theatre the night before wasn't really conducive to a big grin!! Perhaps a post on show highlights might follow, or perhaps I'll save it for when I get round to typing up the Llandudno page, but for now I think the thing I most want to say is that this cast is a glorious cast and there are so many individual moments of brilliance that it's hard to know who to look at at any given time! Adam Lake's Alonzo and Cassie Clare's Cassandra are definite show-stealers, that's for sure, but really, every one of this cast is on form and fabulous and I feel so happy, proud and honoured to have been able to spend three nights watching them shine, cheering them on like crazy and smiling up at them from the front row of the stalls, willing them on for every leap and turn. There simply aren't words.