A long overdue change has been made to my Dream Cast! Ever since I saw Kathryn Barnes and Benjamin Mundy as Tantomile and Coricopat for the first time back in May in Llandudno, I knew these two were just a whole different class. I'm not one for watching the twins normally, but these two had my attention immediately and I've grown to love them more and more ever since. As indiviuals and as a pair, these two are stunning as the gorgeous Jelilce twins and had already made my Dream Swing section, but really and truly, I couldn't justify keeping them out of the main cast any longer and so this September they both got bumped up into the main Dream Cast with new collages to match!
And so another chapter of my stage door story has come to a close. This September at the Birmingham Hippodrome, I said an emotional goodbye to the Cats UK & Europe Tour 2013-2014 in a whirlwind of five shows and an awful lot of time spent, once again, at the stage door.
I have to say that although it broke my heart, I was, and still am, glad I was there.
It's funny, but I still remember, so clearly, my emotions back in March 2013 as I prepared for seeing the new Cats UK Tour for the first time. If I'm honest I was coming from a place of scepticism; I had loved the last tour cast of Cats so very much that I wasn't sure what it would be like to see new people in those parts, offering their new interpretations and performing the show their way. Of course, the moment I heard the opening notes of Cats' Overture, I realised how ridiculous those worries had been. Because Cats is my favourite show, and just because it was new people in those parts didn't mean I would love it any less - perhaps I might still have favourites from the last cast, but this new cast were equally talented, equally capable of enchanting me. Appropriately it was Dawn Williams who first won me over and broke down all my remaining sceptisim; one smile from her in the part of Jemima and I was sold, and she became the first person I spoke to at stage door for the 2013-14 tour and never faltered for a moment in the tour, a constant favourite of mine on and off the stage. And then, of course, I must mention my lovely Carbucketty for the majority of the tour; Joel Morris danced, my jaw dropped, I told him I was a Carbucketty fan at stage door and, from that moment on, I realised that he too is an unfaltering star. With two new favourite, I was able to relax, to start to appreciate the show even more and to see the joy of other new people in parts I had thought the 2006 tour only could play. And as the cast travelled and changed, I grew to love them more and more to the point where they stole my heart completely. And there were some members of the cast I grew closer to than others - Cassie Clare, Adam Lake and Benjamin Mundy are three more incredibly bright, shiny stars who I was lucky enough to spend so much time with at stage door and who I feel honoured to have seen perform and to have gotten to know. And of course I said goodbye to Joel in Nottingham, only to have him return and take my breath away (and make me cry happy, overwhelmed tears) in Birmingham. So much has happened, so many memories have been made, and I have cried, laughed, smiled, hugged and danced more than I could ever imagine - getting to know this tour, spending time with this cast and watching them perform has been like living a dream and it breaks my heart that this time in my stage door story has had to end. Of course I wish nothing but the best for my dear friends from this cast as they begin the new challenge that Cats in London will provide, but for me it is an unknown quantity, as, between changes to the show, stunt casting which I am yet to be convinced of as being in the best interests of the show, ticket pricing issues, ticket booking issues and travel expenses, I don't know if or when I will be able to make it to the show again, and if I will ever love it so much as I do now even if i do manage to see it. But for all the tears and emotion on my last night in Birmingham, I am so very glad for the time I have spent with this tour and so very grateful for the wonderful people I have met. So thank you, Cats Tour 2013-2014, from the bottom of my heart.
As, no doubt, many of you will be aware, last weekend the announcement of the casting of Cats' West End return was announced last weekend amid a publicity flurry, with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the people who run Cats' online media and the West End press doing their very best to convince me that the only thing I ought to be excited about was the fact that Nicole Scherzinger had deigned to grace the Jellicle Junkyard with her presence. Meanwhile, the news that the majoirty of the Cats UK & Europe Tour Cast - who have been entertaining audiences up and down the country to great acclaim all year - will also be reprising their roles for the London run was laregely brushed aside. As I have stated before; my excitement for these hardworking, lovely, talented people is genuine and boundless, I am so happy for them and so proud of them for being involved in such a prestigious event in London's world-famous West End, at such a famous theatre as the Palladium as well. I wish them nothing but the best and I wish them every success and to finally be allowed to announce to anyone and everything that, yes, these people who I have done nothing but tell you about for months on end, these people whose talents I have told you about for so long, they are the ones who will be trusted with taking Cats into the West End at the end of this year has been a joy. But I cannot be joyful without a certain amount of caution. Make no mistake about it, Scherzinger's casting is out and out stunt casting on Lloyd Webber's part - and, whilst I mean no disresepect to her and certainly do not dispute her vocal abilities, I am still angry that it has been allowed to happen. My first issue with it is that Sophia Ragavelas has had to accept being made 'alternate' in order for Scherzinger to join the cast. Sophia has been playing Grizabella week in, week out, and let me tell you, there is no-one - possibly not even Elaine Paige - who is a better fit for that part right now than she is. I have never - in all the 49 performances of Cats which I have been to - seen anyone hold an audience the way she does, the atmosphere in the theatre when that woman sings is phenomenal, like nothing I've ever experienced before. Could Nicole Scherzinger recreate that? Who knows. But should the question even be being asked when someone as talented as Sophia is ALREADY DOING IT? Absolutely not. You have your Grizabella already - no celebrity was needed for the job. Not to mention the fact that Scherzinger, predicatbly, will not be performing as many shows as the rest of the cast; if a mere mortal, non-celebrity performer of equal or more talent to Scherzinger walked into an audition and was asked "Can you perform from the 6th of December up to February 7th, including shows over the holiday period?" and their answer wasn't a "Yes, I'm available for ALL those dates and am happy to perform over the holidays" then it is likely that they wouldn't be given the part - but the rules are different for a celebrity, of course, and so Scherzinger gets New Year's off (not wholly unheard of for a 'leading' role) and to bow out before the rest of the cast (not exactly fair considering she is being billed as 'starring' in the show - despite Cats being a show where there is really no such thing as a singular 'starring'' role.) The show is yet to even start its London run, the hype for this London Cats revival has barely even begun and I alreayd can hardly bear it, because everyone has already started jumping on the celebrity bandwagon in a show which simply didn't need such a ridiuclous stun. And yet Lloyd Webber has decided to undermine his own work by going ahead and invinting the circus. Weeks before previews even begin and Nicole Scherzinger is already recieving all of the credit, all of the plaudits and all of the attention, as though Cats were a one woman show; will she be running round in quick-change trying to get on a Macavity costume in time? Will she be flat-out dancing for fourteen minutes every night in the Jellicle Ball? Will she be putting in a year's shift to make up for all the time the rest of the cast have been doing the show compared to her? Of course not. And yet it was barely possible to make out the casting of the rest of the show it was shoved so far down the press release, and already the banners of 'See Nicole Scherzinger in Cats' have begun to crop up, as though there is nothing more to the show than her. It angers me, and it is representative of so much that is wrong in theatre at the moment. And to cement my anger with the decision, there are now people buying tickets exclusively to see her - people who will no doubt feel somehow disappointed or cheated should they happen to be there on a day when Scherzinger cannot perform, despite the fact that they would be seeing the immensely talented, incredible Sophia Ragavelas instead. And these people - these people who don't care for the show at all, some of whom were happy to slag it off and will no doubt miss out on so much of the joy of Cats because of their evident prejudice against it, these are the people I am losing out on tickets to. Expensive tickets that I am struggling to find a way of choosing for myself, tickets I was already having a hard time getting due to a need to save up and a need to try and find tickets in specific seats despite the Palladium not offering an option to select seats on line, these tickets are no disappearing faster and faster and forcing me into a situation where I need to decide to get tickets before I neccessarily have th money too. The whole thing feels unfair, and wrong and it is turning something I love into something which upsets me. Every time I see an advert for Cats right now, my joy is dimmed, as instead of thinking of my beautiful friends in the cast, my favourite characters or songs, my favourite memories and moments in the show...instead of all that, I think about all the press attention that has totally dismissed the rest of the cast in favour of a stunt-casted celebrity, I think about how on earth I am going to get tickets, whether I can afford to get down to London and whether or not I'll be able to get seats that I want to sit in, I think about what changes are being made to this show that is so dear to me and wonder if it will ever be as beautiful as it once was again. This whole thing has upset me, stressed me out, angered me, and it's so sad that I'm being made to feel this way about the show I love. Andrew Lloyd Webber has so much to answer for - and yet he doesn't have to answer to any of it, because, really, it seems he is beyond out of touch these days, and too stubborn to take criticism even from those people who actually DO support him and appreciate his talent, giving little more regard to fans of his shows than he does to those members of the press and the musical theatre world who have, for so long, so stubbornly refused to acknowledge his talent.