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.
So, does anyone else besides me recognize that blurry but adorable face just to the right of Michael Palin on the big screen?? Last night at Monty Python Live, I got a LOVELY surprise in the form of my original Stage Door Superstar Kevin McGuire, dancing in the show's ensemble! My adorable Carbucketty was obvious to me straight away, but I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing, so in the interval, when I checked the programme, my yelp of surprise was still very eccentric! It's just been so long since I've been able to see him! I only wish someone had had a camera trained on me to capture the most shocked face I've ever pulled in my life!! Still, it made me very happy to see Kevin onstage again and I definitely still love watching him dance! The show was fabulous and funny too, but Kevin absolutely made my night!
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!'
When I went to London and saw Chris in Wicked back in March, he told me he was involved in the workshop for the new Andrew Lloyd Webber. And now the casting has finally been announced for the show and he's made the cut! Of course, because he's amazing!! He said how honoured he was to be involved so I'm sure he's excited and I really hope that I'll be able to go and see him in it once it opens. It's based on the events of the Profumo Affair in 1963 and they're going to begin previews December 3rd. Chris is listed as playing 'Murray' and I can't wait to see him in another Lloyd Webber, as we all know I love me some ALW!
Rachel Ensor (my Cats cast's beautiful Victoria) is in the UK tour of West Side Story right now and the show is coming to my local Stoke theatre, the Regent. I don't know if I'll be able to go or not but I would love to see Rachel again. I haven't seen her since 2010 though, so I don't know if she'd remember me or not. I hope she would, after all those Cats stage doors, but you never know do you. Anyway, you never know when you book for an ensemble member if they'll be there or not I suppose, so if I do miss out then it would at least save me worrying over a repeat of the Callum Nicol in Dirty Dancing incident wouldn't it!
Look - it's Dean!!! Yes, that lovely miner you see in the bottom left corner is none other than my favourite Munkustrap! After seeing Cats on the Olivier Awards, I admit, I went on a bit of a rampage. You see, whilst I love the new cast dearly, I do so so so miss my cast, in particular seeing Dean as Munkustrap, because honestly, I don't want to be mean, but I don't like the new Munkustrap's interpretation - and that's the way it goes in Cats sometimes because everyone has their own interpretation and preferences. But anyway, it made me determined to find out what Dean was up to because I missed him so much. And after a good hour of Googling the hell out the problem? I found a cast change announcement which mentioned Mr.Maynard as joining the Billy Elliot ensemble. Within a fortnight I'd written to him to wish him luck, booked my own ticket to see him and bought the train tickets. So even if I never warm to the new Munkustrap? He will always be the one I have to thank for some lovely new stage door memories!