As you will have noticed if you've scrolled through my blog recently, I was lucky enough to have travelled all the way to Antwerp especially because Joel Morris was reprising his role as my favourite character in Cats - Carbucketty - for one month only before once more returning to his 'retirement'. As the occasion was so special, and the memory an important piece of my stage door story with Joel, I of course wanted to find a space in my home for a new photo frame for our picture together, and just to add to the significance I wanted to also have my photograph of myself and Joel from the first night I met him beside it.
I think this is a really perfect way of highlighting a special stage door friend or significant stage door memory, especially if you've got a really great story to tell about your 'journey' with someone at stage door as I have with Joel. Paperchase offer several different ranges of photo frame for personalisation, and you can find those here.
I'm always looking for ways to keep my theatre memories close to me, and also to show as many people as possible just how much they mean to me, and I love this particular sort of souvenir because it not only gives me a smile every time I see it, but it also is great for giving me an excuse to tell people who see it the story of My Carbucketty!
Sometimes when it comes to a theatre trip, you really don't have the time to do anything too fancy with your hair or make-up, as much as you might want to, and other times - if you're going to a matinee as well as an evening or if the theatre you're going to is a more casual venue - you can't really dress up as much as you want to. A good way I have found of making a simple make-up look or outfit feel that bit more fittingly magical for the theatre is the fabulous invention from Barry M which is Dazzle Dust.
One of the great things about having my little pot of neutral dazzle dust to hand is that it saves me a lot of time and gives me a little bit more leeway when I'm going off on a trip that takes me away from home - this is because I know it will match ANY outfit, so it's an automatic first-pack before I've even thought of anything else, and on top of that I don't even have to think in advance about what make-up colours I'm going for with my outfit, I just pop the iridescent colour in and it will go with whatever eyeshadow I choose, so if I decide I don't like the first colour I try, I know I can try some different options without losing out on my little bit of extra sparkle.
My favourite place to buy my Dazzle Dust from is Superdrug, as they often seem to have the best deals and the best prices, but you can also get Dazzle Dust from Boots, so be sure to compare and contrast and shop around so you can maybe afford to get yourself more than one colour so you can have a whole range of new theatre look ideas right at your fingertips.
So, one of my very favourite theatres to take in a tour at is the Birmingham Hippodrome - I've been there for Cats, Top Hat, Annie and Mary Poppins on multiple occasions and I will be heading back there to see Mamma Mia! in August. I actually really love planning visits there as, when you just know a few little secrets, it's all so simple and smooth, especially for anyone coming from other places in the Midlands. So I thought I would share some of my favourite hints and tips for a daytrip (or overnight stay) in Birmingham to take in a show and perhaps even head around to the stage door afterwards. If you have an upcoming trip to the theatre and/or stage door at the Birmingham Hippodrome, take a look!
My scrapbook is finally finished!! It has taken weeks, and a lot of star stickers, but the end result is definitely worth it! I've really enjoyed reliving my stage door journey with this tour and being able to go through all these photos and tickets and remember all the crazy journeys and amazing performances. It was a huge task but immense fun, especially now that it's all done and I can sit down and look through it as a complete story. My favourite pages are possibly the ones I did for individual cast members - getting to remember the first time I met Dawn Williams, Cassie Clare, Ben Mundy, Joel Morris and Adam Lake - and going crazy with the star stickers on Adam Lake's page was a lot of fun, even if I was finding star stickers on the carpet for days after that! Some other very special, lovely pages to work on were the ones where I say both 'Goodbye' to Joel as Carbucketty and then suddenly there he is back again! Because really, those were possibly some of the best memories of the tour - that day in Birmingham when I first got to see him back in the programme but wouldn't let myself believe it until I saw his face as Carbucketty again was so special to me, and I did then proceed to cry throughout Act One because I was so overwhelmed - perhaps I should have added somewhere in this scrapbook that Joel Morris holds the title of 'Person Who Has Moved Me To Happy Tears With His Performance The Most Times Of Anyone Ever', as it is a title to be very proud of!! These people and these memories are so special to me and now I have this wonderful scrapbook to show people and tell them the stories of all these amazing, talented, magical people! So thank you to all of the cast members who signed this scrapbook for me and to all of the cast for every performance, photograph, memory and for just being such a fantastic bunch. And of course, thank you to those extra-special, lovely people who gave me so much of their time and became such a huge part of this Stage Door Scrapbook Story: Cassie Clare, Adam Lake, Joel Morris, Ben Mundy and Dawn Williams, you guys are amazing and I adore you all!
When the UK leg of the 2014 tour of Cats was coming to an end, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I could come up with to buy as a unique souvenir of the time I had spent getting to know the tour and its cast - naturally my first thought was to ask the cast to sign a programme or poster/picture for me, but it occurred to me that something like that really didn't come close to capturing the amazing story of the tour and of all the wonderful people I had come to know in its cast. Eventually, after a lot of though, I decided the best way to tell that story would be through a scrapbook, which I bought shortly before my final visit to the show in Birmingham and asked the cast to sign for me on the 'title page', with a view to putting all of the photographs and theatre and train tickets and the like I had amassed in the time that the tour had been going, and all the little stories and jokes which had been shared and told, all together in one place throughout the rest of the scrapbook. I recently completed all the pages of this scrapbook and it has been so lovely to be able to go back over all those memories and really see the story of my time with that tour told back to me in pictures and tickets, and I honestly think that it's a great idea for anyone who regularly visits stage door as it really is a wonderful use of all those photos and tickets, and there are so many beautiful and creative things you can do to really make each page of a scrapbook unique, special and magical, really capturing the atmosphere of that stage door experience or paying a special tribute to a cast member/cast members who you have spent the most time with, incorporating favourite quotes and song lyrics and decorating each page with different arrangements of photographs, by using photo corners on some of your photos or by creating borders using stickers or glitter, or even by drawing in arrows and adding different comments about certain pictures and noting down times, dates and names.
By far my favourite place to go to for projects like this is Paperchase, who I think have the best and most creative ranges of all sorts of things, but are particularly good when it comes to offering a wide range of different, beautiful scrapbooks whilst also offering more basic designs. Another thing I love about Paperchase is the number of scrapbooks with black pages which they have on offer, as I was very clear in my mind that pictures and memories from Cats the Musical would really look special with gold and silver picked out against a black background. Paperchase have an entire scrapbooking section on their website for you to look through, and they cover it all from stickers to photo-corners, even offering different types of photo corners such as some gorgeous silver ones and smart black ones - there is so much choice on their site and it really helps you get creative and come up with the look and feel and style you want so you can match it up to the mood and tone of the show/tour/stage door/person who the scrapbook is based around. Don't get me wrong, it's time-consuming and is of course an awful lot more complicated than a signed programme or poster would be, but it is something which would be unique and special to you and which you can tailor to you own memories and experiences, giving you something that you are more likely to look back on and be able to tell a real story about.
It's nearly time for my final trip to stage door for the year as I'm due to make my way to Liverpool in December to take in another performance of my beloved Cats before Christmas. The Liverpool Empire theatre in December is a cold one - I know this from experience! - but that's not stopping me planning a nice outfit to go in. I'm braving a lovely dress and getting in the twinkly festive spirit even though it's only the first week of December as my outfit plan includes red and green as well as blue and of course a little bit of sparkle!
This lovely blue dress caught my eye when I was in Chester a few weeks ago - it was my graduation day and we stopped off at a Tesco Home for a coffee (there was a Costa inside, we didn't just set up a picnic in store!) and, because it was a special occasion, my dad bought the dress for me as a bonus graduation gift. The scarf is an Accessorize one - as I've said before, Accessorize are usually my first port of call when I'm planning a stage door trip, because scarves and hair accessories are a cheap way of making existing outfits seem different and new, definitely cheaper than buying a new dress every time, at least it is if you're up and down to the theatre as often as I try to be! The scarf was actually bought to go to London to visit Dean in and it worked so beautifully I'm happy for the excuse to use it again. The scarf just happened to be hanging next to the dress and I noticed the other day how well they went together and I think, paired up with a simple black coat, my go-to black 300 denier tights and my reliable Dorothy Perkins deep red court shoe style boots. Sadly, although they're great for wearing with dresses at winter stage doors, the boots are no longer available but you can still buy the dress from Tesco for a very reasonable £25, the scarf is still available on Accessorize for £19 and my go-to tights are £12 from Dorothy Perkins.
As always, I'm planning on giving my outfit a bit of sparkle with some Accessorize hair accessories. I have all three of these gorgeous hair slide sets which I'm planning to use to pin up one side of my hair and then leave the rest loose in the same way I did for my trips to West Side Story and Billy Elliot in November. These pretty hair slides can all be found on Accessorize for £8 each, but Accessorize also have some really lovely flower corsages and clips in stock at the moment too if they're more your style. The reason I like these particular slides is because they feel and look perfect for the outfit I've planned and somehow they seem wintery to me too. I'm planning on leaving my other accessories to a minimum for the purposes of this look to show off these gorgeous twinkly slides; no necklace and a simple bracelet of dark red to match my scarf. I'm definitely looking forward to this theatre trip; it's my last trip to see Cats for a while and I'm hoping it will be festive, magical, wintery and beautiful and I can't wait to start getting ready and making this look work the way I'm planning! So excited!!
When Liz and I first began going to stage door, one of the first ways we learned how to spot theatre people was their sense of fashion! And I'm not going to lie, we tried so hard to replicate that fashion! Because whether they realise it or not, a lot of theatre people tend to have a certain look to their outfits which is hard to pinpoint, but once you've spent a while at stage door, you can just recognise it. One key aspect of this theatre wardrobe though? The scarf!! Theatre people seem to love their scarves - and as a result I've come to love them very much too! I love a good bit of theatre trip outfit planning and, with a potential November trip to see Dean Maynard again in Billy Elliot, I'm already on the lookout for a good outfit for my first winter stage door of the year. Accesorize are my go-to shop these days and I am absolutely spoilt for choice as to which scarf to choose for this trip!
This first snood is nice and simple, and I like having such bright colours at a winter stage door, especially if I wear my plain fit-and-flare black dress (which has done me good service at several stage doors now.) I also love the fact that it's called 'Copenhagen' and is in the Fairisle style - the style of knit-wear made in the Faroe Islands, which are part of the kingdom of Denmark. My Danish obsession gives this scarf a slight edge over some of the other possibilities, but I have to try and think more stage door. As for the second snood - it just love the autumn colours of it, it looks nice and cozy, but perhaps wouldn't be colourful enough to stand out in a London stage door crowd!
These three are very 'theatre-person' style, and again I like having the bright colours against all the darkness and greyness of a winter stage door. Rainbow stripes always remind me of John McManus (my Cats cast's Skimbleshanks) and his impressive scarf collection. He always used to have extra-long scarves which he would tie in all sorts of crazy knots and they were always in bright colours, stripes and rainbows. I don't even know how I'd begin choosing which rainbow I like best though...
Tartan is another theatre-persony look and I do love trying to emulate that sense of style they all seem to be gifted with. I'd miss the brightness of the rainbows, but on the other hand, these are scarves which can go with anything; a last minute outfit change, a new bag, anything. I love how wintery and cozy the tartan look is too.
So yes; stage door tip? Look out for stylish scarves and coffee-to-go. A much less obvious thing to be looking out for when in London, but for touring productions? It's often a dead giveaway. And if you want to look stage-doorish? A scarf is always a good start. As for choosing what scarf to wear? As a scarf addict...I am really not the person to come to! My annual scarf budget is ridiculous! But seriously, if you have some cash to spare, try Accessorize's scarf range - I can't recommend them enough.
One thing I am always fussing about before a theatre trip? What on earth to do with my hair! The thing is with a theatre trip, you often want to look dressed up and fancy, but you also know you can't do anything too intricate or fancy as you might well need to run for a train or have a long journey to make it through in tact - also, if you go out for a pre-show meal or a matinee, it's just odd to be wandering around town with your hair all done-up for the opera when everyone else around you is just out for a Saturday afternoon walk, and if you're going on the train down to London for a West End show then you'll be on the train with commuters. So anyway, given all these factors, I usually end up just leaving my hair loose and rarely do anything special with my hair - it saves time to leave it, even if I feel sometimes like my look isn't as theatre-ready as I would like! To me, going to the theatre is a real even though, and I'm always on the look out for solutions which tick all the boxes. Anyway, recently, I went out for dinner with some friends and, as I had a little time on my hands, was messing around with my hair accessories in front of the mirror once I'd got ready. And I might have stumbled on a new idea for a theatre/stage door look.
Basically, I just took two sections of hair from the front on both sides of my face and twisted them round as tightly as I could. My hair was already slightly wavy from having had it tied up in a plait that day, and I think if I were to recreate this for a theatre trip then I would definitely plait my hair tightly whilst wet to emphasise that effect. Anyway, once the two pieces of hair were twisted tightly enough, I pulled them around the back of my head and twisted them together before tying them tightly with two relatively thin bobbles so that they came together into one ponytail which sort of blended into the rest of my hair which was still loose at the back.
The reason that I used thin bobbles was because I thought I could make the hairstyle that tiny bit more fancy (without being OTT) with the right accessories, so I wanted the bobbles hidden to emphasise my next step: my rose hair clips. I have several pairs of these clips in various colours. My pale pink and dark pink ones came from my old friend Accessorize and my blue and purple ones came from Tesco (and are, admittedly, cheaper.) I thought adding just one of those in a colour which matched my outfit would make for a really pretty but simple look and I was pleased with the results, even if I do say so myself! My very final touch to the style was two or three hair grips, also from Accessorize, with flower shapes to match the flower theme I'd already started. I added these at the sides and they also helped keep the hair twists in place.
I think the Accessorize hair accessories really did give the look a nice finish and made it feel like something for an occasion whilst not being over the top. I definitely want to try out this hairstyle on a theatre trip and see how it holds up on a long day going down to the West End and back. I know that the pretty clips and things wouldn't be seen on stage door pictures but the point of doing my hair is more for the feeling of going to the theatre being an occasion than anything else.
I cannot recommend Accessorize's hair accessories range enough to you though, especially if you're looking for durable, good-quality stuff that even works with longer hair. I've often had a problem because my hair is longer and also very very thick and a lot of clips and hair bands just wouldn't stay in place because my hair weighed too much, but Accessorize's things are always up to the task and very durable. The specific items I used for this hairstyle you can find here and here if you want to try them out for you own theatre trip look. The prices are sometimes a little expensive, but it's well worth it I promise!
Soap & Glory's 'Kick Ass Concealer' is a lifesaver! I started using it this year as my go-to theatre make-up. Even if I forget/don't have time to put on anything else, I will make sure I have time to apply this stuff, or at least I will remember to take it with me! It's always kept handy for my 'stage door survival kit' as it is by far the most reliable concealer I've ever used. It's durable, it blends so easily and, above all, it conceals pretty much anything you need concealing if you want to look good in photographs! I managed to scratch myself on the side of my face just before seeing the Cats 2013 UK Tour for the first time and picked this up on a whim as Boots were having a 3 for 2 offer on Soap & Glory stuff, and I like a lot of their other products so I decided it was worth a try. The scratch practically disappeared and, the best part was that, unlike my previous concealer, this stuff didn't melt at the very thought of the heavy, hot atmosphere of a theatre! I highly recommend this stuff if you're hoping to look your best at the stage door - only £10 from Boots and comes in different shades as well and the time it lasts for alone makes it worth the price.
Well, perhaps there's no such thing. But obviously, there's a reason the idea of a wardrobe essential being 'a little black dress' is so popular, right?! Dorothy Perkins are always my go-to shop, and they certainly seem to believe a black dress is essential wear all year round, because there's always at least one simple black dress available to buy. My personal favourite style? The 3% elastane, fit and flare style plain black dresses. In fact, all their plain fit and flare 3% elastane dresses are great. They're perfect for style, comfort and the way they move when you spin, which I think is essential in any dress! Also, they're great for stage door because they can go from night to day really easily and formal to casual really easily, plus you can completely change the look just by changing the scarf, shoes, coat, hair accessories or jewellery you wear them with.
I always like to wear black tights with my dress - but not always plain ones. I personally prefer the 120 denier tights, but I also love the patterned tights you can get too - another way I like to use to make the dress look different for different occasions. Tights with sparkles or stars can be fun too, and some nice, smart heels make the look pretty much perfect for a night at the theatre.
The way I survive a long daytrip to stage door and back? A little bag of tricks: two lipbalms or one balm and one gloss, a good hairbrush, good concealer, of course a mirror, a pack of mints (preferably chewable in case your train runs late and you're getting anxious!) Hair grips and elastics are always wise, some sort of ticket or travel pass wallet and definitely a pen and/or camera, depending whether you're an autograph hunter or if you're hoping for a photograph. And finally? I always make sure to take a bottle of perfume, just in case I end up sitting next to the guy eating a Subway on the train - you'd be surprised how many times that has actually happened to me, but maybe I'm just unlucky! My kit is always kept in a nice little toiletries bag which I rarely fully empty, unless it's to empty it out into a clutch bag for an evening show! If I'm going down to London though, then no matter what bag I take with me, that toiletries bag always gets crammed in, even if it's at the expense of a book! In the interval or before the performance I will touch up everything, just to make sure I'm ready to go the minute the curtain comes down - the lip balm is often then concealed in a handy coat pocket if I'm at stage door in winter, because the cold gets my lips every time!
So we all know that our sense of smell is always a huge memory-trigger right?! Exactly. And the smell of the theatre? That for-sure has a lot of memories for me! But I also am very attached to the perfume I was wearing the night I first went to a stage door. I made sure to wear it for every theatre trip after so that it would always be a smell I associated with good memories and now, whenever I get a waft of this perfume it makes me feel the exact-same way I did all those nights walking home from shows on a happy cloud. It's amazing how strongly the memories are attached to it. My perfume is Esteé Lauder's Pleasures Exotic, which you can find on cheapsmells.com - my go-to place for all my perfume buying! Pick a perfume and stick to it and see if the memories cling to it - or maybe you already have a favourite and you want to add it to your pre-show routine? Anyone have a favourite perfume for their theatre trips? Or maybe a shampoo or soap you've come to associate with the theatre instead?
My Theatre Diary