So it took literal years; even before the whole world went to hell, I was ALWAYS stuck overseas at the exact moment any one of My Jellicles booked a new West End job or came anywhere near me on tour and it was driving me crazy. So much of life and circumstance got in the way and I'm not sure the frustration about all the shows I missed is ever going to really fade - having been back to the theatre again now it's stirred up a little bit of irritation in me towards my past self, a kind of "Well you could've made it happen if you'd tried harder" and whether that's true or not it doesn't matter because my resolve to go on to make sure I make it happen to get back to the theatre whenever I can is at an all-time high. Was it the feeling of walking into an auditorium and smelling the dry-ice and spotlights, was it that insane rush of delight that overtook me completely the moment Ben Mundy first appeared on the stage and we had that silly moment of me thinking "HE'S HERE!!" at the same moment there was this little look in his eyes of "YOU'RE HERE!!" or was it the feeling of standing out in the cold autumn air talking all things theatre with someone as delightfully good and wonderful and talented as Lovely Ben? I don't know, it was most likely a combination of all of those things. But I think I started planning my next trip to the theatre before I'd even got done walking away from the Bolton Octagon that night. (It'll be another trip to see Lovely Ben, and I intend to use my time at stage door next time I see him with trying to bribe him to just always tour so I can never be too long without experiencing just how sunlit his whole being is both on and off the stage!) I feel like this first post back after so long should be something more informative or coherant or should go more in depth about The Book Thief as a show, the Bolton Octagon as a theatre and stage door and Ben as a performer (exceptional) and human (radiant) but really I think the biggest and most important thing I have come away from the experience with is a deep and profound appreciation for the theatre, for stage door, for performers and the sound of the air before and after a show and the feeling of glitter sticking to my cheeks. I think maybe I forgot my own advice for a moment back there and I feel the need to keep repeating it to myself over and over again now: the whole world of the theatre is a unique kind of magic, it's a precious spell that gets cast on Monday nights and matinees and in dark, dry-ice-filled air where good and talented people tell winderful and wild stories and it should never, ever be taken for granted that something so special and improbable is right out there within reach, proving magic is real and starlight isn't so far out of our reach.
Not all of my pictures or write-up are on the page yet, but I will be working on it soon so if you're interested then pop back in to the visit page later for more in-depth thoughts and some pretty pictures of Bolton (which was truly a wonderful place and perfect for a theatre trip!)
Cats UK & Europe Tour 2016: Back To Where It All Began, But Will A New Journey Begin...?
Going to see Cats again after a long time away from the show is always a special, magical experience for me - and it has often been the start of a whole new journey, given that that scenario is what first brought to the stage door and what brought me the unique and beautiful memories and friends I made over the course of the 2013 - 2014 UK & Europe tour of the show. I always tell myself I won't get attached to the new casts, and I always find out I was lying to myself. So to be coming back to the show after so long away, and at my local theatre in Stoke-on-Trent The Regent, the place where I stage doored for the first time, did mean I took in a certain heightened level of magic and nostalgia when I sat down in my second-row-of-the-stalls-end-of-row seat and looked up at the beautiful Cats set that night. Of course, this time was different to all those times before - this time Cats is a different show with changes made to it that completely alter the experience for me and change what I am able to take out of it. But, having said that? I cried. So much. It was a beautiful, wonderful, amazing night and the adrenalin crash from it was hard. That feeling, when the Overture starts is - to quote Trevor Nunn - "indelible" and nothing can quite match the emotion of watching The Jellicle Ball, Mistoffelees, Memory and The Ad-Dressing Of Cats live. And there were definitely some stand-out performers in this cast who really caught my eye and made me smile, and who I took the time to cheer for in the Finale too, of course, taking all the under-appreciated Jellicles by surprise as I always do!
Meeting those three at stage door was another highlight of my night. It will never cease to astound me how much a smiling face in the stalls can mean to performers and my high-definition Cats fan in overload facial expression in the stalls - and of course my big cheers! - had not gone unnoticed by any of them, with all of them thanking me for it and telling me how much it meant to them to see and hear that reaction. I also give extra points to Shiv Rabheru for having the proper Cats fan reaction of "OH!! WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?!" when I mentioned I'd seen Jacob Brent and John Partridge as Mistoffelees and Rum Tum Tugger in the West End way back when!
However, being coldly, cruelly honest? Even though I came away on a cloud, and even though there were many moments of brilliance, the show is not as powerful as it was back in 2014 and some sense of tribe and personality has been lost since the 2014-2015 cast left the roles. And just to be clear, I don't mean that as an insult to this current cast: it is not their fault! They shine as individuals completely, but the changes to the show have shifted the dynamic of the tribe, tone down the opportunity to really personalise the characters and go crazy, sapped some of the humour out of the show and disrupted its flow and its warmth. Audience interaction is down, moments provided for the cast to give those little extra interactions and details have been clamped down, some of the physical and visual comedy, both centre stage and in the background of songs, have been stifled, something which I suspect has been handed down from on high from when the show was in London, as this was an aspect of 'Cats' second life' (as it was so infuriatingly dubbed) I picked up on back then, and it was so noticeable to me as I knew the 2014 cast so well I knew how much more they were beyond capable of putting into the show if they were allowed to.
On a more positive note, I did feel like the changes had been worked on sufficiently since they were first trialled in the Palladium production that some nice new moments could be found in them, and I actually enjoyed the changes a little more than I had done at previous trips to see the show at the Palladium and in Blackpool. I still am not comfortable with them, but they didn't ruin the show for me the same way they had before, and that is a good thing. However, sadly, I do still feel like the show has lost some of its spirit in this new form. I'm still not ok with the new, extended Jennyanydots tap routine: it's too long, there's too much focus on just Jenny rather than the whole beetle tattoo, the humour is gone and it feels neither catlike nor true to the character herself...though as a tap routine? Yes, it's an amazing tap routine, it just has no place in this show or this number.
Marcquelle Ward is by far the best person I have seen take on this new, revised Rum Tum Tugger and he almost - almost - convinced me to like the new Tugger...maybe if I'd never seen the old one, Marcquelle Ward is the absolute best you can get and he is doing the absolute best anyone can with the role as it is now. BUT...Tugger being this different, somehow smaller, less present personality leaves a gaping hole in the show and it makes the whole thing that bit more flat. Before the changes, every night, you could feel the moment the audience caved in and warmed up to the spirit and playfulness of the show - it was the Rum Tum Tugger's number! This larger than life, crazy-fun, rockstar character filled the auditorium and lit up the show, especially when he came into the audience, and his continued presence was always felt in every scene with the moments he was given even in the background of scenes...and, actually, a large part of that was just the costume alone, it was imposing and dramatic and the mane just drew attention. The new costume is not imposing or dramatic, and it's definitely not catlike, and having him being a breakdancing cat means that generally more compact body-type people are playing the role...makes for amazing breakdancing, but it also makes the Tugger less imposing, less of a presence...and yet the changes made to the character did not translate into changes to which numbers he sings or what he does in other characters' songs - the character no longer makes sense, and this dislodges him from the show and dislodges the characters around him as their reactions to him now take a little more to make sense of. The show also never gets that pure spark-to-life moments now until the Jellicle Ball - but that's almost the end of Act One, which is just too long to leave it since the audience will immediately lose that sensation when the interval happens. Tugger's number being changes bring the whole show down a level, and his character being changed brings the whole character of the tribe - and the personalities within it - down a level as they have to be subdued to give this new version of the Tugger any chance of seeming different.
The improvement comes largely from the return of humour to it - the cast have clearly been allowed to breathe a little bit more life and colour into it now than previous casts were allowed to and the number is much better for it - it feels faster and brighter than before and does a little bit of a better job of waking up the audience from the post-interval haze, even if it still doesn't achieve it quite as effectively as the old version did. I'm not a fan of the return of the aria, but I know that the aria v. Billy McCaw debate was raging long before the 'second life' changes between fans and it is a whole can of worms I won't be opening because I don't think there's a solution out there that will ever please everybody!
Make-up and costume changes - as well as marketing changes in the colour brochures - all indicate that terrible trend infecting more and more of the theatre: the idea of there being STARS and then everyone else who you shouldn't worry about sat at the back. And I'm not talking about the obvious costume changes (for example Grizabella, which I still loathe and think is so un-cat-like and so not graceful or intriguing but just kind of a mess. YUCK.) but more subtle things, alterations to the amount of colour, vibrancy and detail in characters' make-up and costumes, the dulling down of their individual patterns in favour of darker, more same-y matching shades of brown and black and beige whilst the 'star' characters are pushed forwards in terms of colour a little more but also in terms of having more lines or moments or more prominent positions on stage where previously those lines/movements/moments were shared over a greater number of characters, to the point where characters such as Cassandra and Tantomile and Coricopat - and even Jemima - almost felt like they were being pushed right out of the picture altogether at times, to me at least. Everything is muted and held back and toned down for the 'small' characters now in what seems to be an attempt to make them a homogeneous blob in order to point audiences towards 'who they should be looking at' and to give the audience a hint of who the 'stars' are and who they're 'supposed' to be watching and caring about, again taking away that special thing Cats had where any cat could be a star to anyone in an audience just by having one moment which they did something fun with, With that in mind, it's a small miracle the show still allows everyone their own bow at the end! Even the change I mentioned to Jennyanydots' solo seems to be aiming to stamp out individuality and the sense of this crazy tribe of different individuals who come together and match up only really when they're dancing, and the removal of a lot of the show's humorous moments is part of this too. It's sad and it's wrong and it drives me crazy. Cats was always set apart by the fact it had no such thing as a clear-cut star, but ALW and co. clearly don't care about that aspect, clearly favourite a more tacky, in-your-face approach.
Cats is still a unique, beautiful show. It still creates magic. And although this trip may not have started off any grand journeys, it did at least perhaps help me make a little peace with the new version of the show and it brought back the joy and love I have for the show, reminding me what it is truly about and what it's truly capable of making you feel, changes or no changes. This show has a piece of my soul and it sets it alight every time I watch it - there is no show on earth that can immerse you the way Cats can and no show on earth quite as magical as it is. So if you do see it - and if you're like me and worried about the changes - my advice would be to do what I did that night and just...let it go, just ignore that voice in your head saying it's ruined, immerse yourself in it and let yourself be transported to the world of the Jellicles again. It's still got it, you just have to let it take you and not let the changes throw off that feeling of being invited into the Jellicles' secret, magical world.
My Stage Door Scrapbook Is Complete!
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!
A Long Overdue Thank You & Goodbye
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.
A Carbucketty-Shaped Surprise
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!
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 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.
He's Really Steve Diamond!
You know you've been to the stage door of a show too many times when you end up taking photographs with the tour's company manager!! But come on, he's Steve Diamond! This man is a legend! I remember him from the 25th Anniversary Tour, and I couldn't resist talking to him when I saw him at stage door. After all, returning to Nottingham to see Cats again for the first time since the tour's cast change brought back a lot of memories of being at the Nottingham Concert Hall back in 2007 for the Anniversary Tour's cast change day. And one of those memories of that day? The cast's traditional mischievous final matinee antics, including changing Gus the Theatre Cat's 'real name' to being Steve Diamond! 'Did that they really do that?!' Joel Morris (Carbucketty) asked, wide-eyed at that cast's boldness, as I mentioned this at stage door the first night, and Steve Diamond rolled his eyes: 'Yes. They did.' I think he was long-suffering with that cast!
As ever the show itself was brilliant and I was in tears by the end of it all - eventually it shall all be written up properly in the Nottingham Concert Hall page for the 2013-2014 tour cast, but for now, I will say that, perhaps the highlight of my first night watching the show again was when the new Rum Tum Tugger picked me to dance with him during his song. As he twirled me round and then guided me back to my seat, he asked confidently 'Who's your favourite cat?' - not expecting me to unapologetically reply 'Um...Carbucketty!' - the look on his face was classic! 'Carbucketty, she says!' he retorted, looking back over to the stage. And just over his shoulder, my lovely CB Joel Morris was just about managing not to laugh outright, though he was grinning widely and was no doubt at least a little smug! At stage door later, Tugger (Filippo Strocchi) recognised me - he came out just as I was talking to Joel - and he went 'Carbucketty?! Really?!' playfully, no doubt enjoying teasing Joel a little more. Joel was so sweet and funny, airily going 'Of course!' and waving his hand fake-dismissively, and I shot back 'If you ask me my favourite cat, you're going to get an honest answer!' before telling him, with a wink, that I felt that Tugger needed an ego check every now and again and he sportingly winked back at me. I later got the chance to talk to him properly and he couldn't resist telling Grizabella when she came out 'She's the one - I pulled her up to dance and I asked her her favourite cat and she goes 'Carbucketty'' and Grizabella found it very funny - I get the impression word had spread quickly about the incident amongst the cast! The next night he managed to appear when I was talking to Joel yet again - he saw who I was with and gave a little mock roll of his eyes! Upstaged by a kitten...again!!! hehe
The first night I stuck mostly to talking to Dawn Williams (now playing Rumpleteazer) and of course Joel (my lovely CB) as I wasn't fully confident I was ready to risk making guesses as to who was who amongst the new cast members. But night two I made sure to take my courage in my hands and I successfully identified a full house of the people I wanted to see; Adam Lake - the fantastic, hilarious, acrobatic Alonzo whose Rumpus Cat has me in stitches, Adam Salter the new adorable Bill Bailey with a mischievous streak, and Cassie Clare, who is in fact the new Cassandra, but I was lucky enough to see her take a fiery and fabulous star turn as Bombalurina and let me tell you, gorgeous does not even cover it...think Rosemarie Ford in the DVD cast and then times that by a thousand and put a cherry on top. I told her as much and she seemed so happy and excited to hear it, I think I may have made her night! I love giving credit to fierce understudies like her - they never get nearly enough credit for the shifts they put in and the performances they turn out!
So now it's no more Cats until Llandudno for me - by which time there will be even more new faces to see! But I'm definitely looking forward to seeing these newbies again. Alonzo was so appreciative, and Dawn was kind enough to pop up as I was talking to Bill Bailey; 'Carbs, Jemima and Bill are her favourites' so he was very happy about that. And like I say, Cassie Clare was just over the moon that I liked her performance. They're a sweet bunch and they're soooo talented, really bringing out some new things in the roles which I loved.
More to follow when I eventually type up all the stage door reports, but for now, just know that you should be getting yourself down to see these talented guys! Cats is still touring the UK until the end of the year and this bunch are super-sweet and super-talented. Remember: it's not all about Grizabella and Mistoffelees! The other Cats are funny, fantastic, fierce and hard-working and they don't get nearly enough recognition, so go ahead and make an under-appreciated actor's day with a cheer or a compliment at stage door! It'll pay off - you'll get stage door hugs and love in return that way and you get to remind an actor that, even on bad days, it matters what they're doing out there.
The Man, The Myth, The Legend!
Guess who I went to London for again! The Voice. The Maynard. The Deankerstrap!! And boy was I relieved to see him after missing him the last time I went down there. I must’ve looked odd in that theatre when he stepped forward and he gave me his traditional little eyebrow raise hello because I just sat there laughing to myself! It was hysteria induced by relief and excitement and the joy of him being there was immense. I admit though, Dean or no Dean, I’ve grown to love Billy Elliot. A lot. I will never, ever get over how talented these ten and eleven year olds are. The ones who play Billy...I mean, honestly, the dancing! And the boys who play Billy’s best friend Michael...they’re ten and yet they know where ALL the laughs should come from and they can improv and draw laughs out and make things funnier all by themselves and awkward-up pauses and it’ just....you’re TEN, how did you get this good at comedy?!?! And on top of that, they manage to set me off sniffling alllll the time with their friendship – these young boys portray such an incredible bond between these two kinda-quirky kids stuck in a very dire situation and when Billy leaves Michael behind to go to ballet school it breaks my heart – the music combined with how the boys play it, with Michael on his own on stage on his bike watching Billy walk off down the centre-aisle of the theatre...it’s really rather beautiful. Honestly, I’m going to be sad to see Dean leave this show because I think it’s really won my heart.
But, Dean won my heart before Billy Elliot did, so he takes priority, of course. And of course, I went around to the stage door afterwards. You know how there are some people in the world who are just so...genuinely good that...you could watch ‘em kick a puppy right in front of you and yet you know you would believe wholeheartedly whatever dumb reason they gave for their actions and accept their apology immediately because you just KNOW they deserve it? Yeah, Dean is one of those people. Even if I’d intended to, I could not possibly have pouted at him for not being there last time – not even jokingly! He’s just...he’s a pretty special human being. So seeing the show AND being able to get hugs from him afterwards...there is no substitute for that feeling! More or less the first thing out of his mouth was an apology for not being there last time, bless him. And as I’ve already mentioned, I just rolled my eyes at him and assured him it was fine. I could never hold anything against him I don't think. We had a lovely chat – I got a tiny bit of singing out of him. The ‘Are you blind when you’re born?’ opening line of Cats, the very line which caused me to fall in love with him in that show! He didn’t full-on power-sing-it as he was literally just trying to remember the lyrics for story-telling purposes, but still, hearing his singing voice, a capella and right in front of me like that...wowwww, the man can sing. I kind of want to beg him to record some of my favourite songs for me! Cannot wait to see him again - just two more trips to Billy Elliot for me before Dean leaves it now, but hopefully there's still a lot more to come from the ever-charming Dean!
Thank you to all the people I've met and spent time with at the theatre this year; it's been a year of extreme stage doors (back to back West Side Story and Billy Elliot!!!) and of new friends (Dawn Williams, Joel Morris and the Jellicles of 2013's UK Tour Cast of Cats!) and I even got to meet Stephen Mangan! So, thank you 2013 for being such a year of theatre, here's to hoping 2014 will bring even more stage door memories!
Happy New Year Theatre Fans!
Hope we all have some of the best days of our lives at the theatre again soon.xxx
Dancing With Jemima And Bill
I got to dance with Jemima tonight! But what a show it was...the atmosphere in the Liverpool Empire tonight was electric! Iooooved it! Some highlights; being pulled up to dance with Jemima (Dawn Williams) and then Bill Bailey (Will Lucas) of course, but also, having Alonzo (James Darch) right in front of me for Naming of Cats NAILING the Alonzo eyes and smile, seeing Carbucketty and Bill Bailey (Joel Morris and Will Lucas) be super-precious giving Munkustrap a headache in Bustopher Jones, so much so that he had to move CB, much to CB's annoyance! The Jellicle Ball...just....so magical. Every single person on that stage just kicked it up a notch tonight. It's such a shame so many people will be going and changing round in this cast because they're just starting to really click and kick into gear and I just...wow. Loved it. Such a fantastic night and a great stage door experience too with all my favourites stopping to chat and have photos with me! Got a lovely Jemima and Bill Bailey sandwich and thanks to the lovely Matthew Caputo (swing and superstar!) I also got to chase through Liverpool Lime Street and get a photo and chat with James Darch, who I think was possibly my hero of the night with that Naming of Cats rendition...because seriously, he just WAS Alonzo in those minutes. Wowwwwww. Seriously, I've gotten attached to them just in time for them to leave, how is that fair?! I'm seriously going to miss Will Lucas as Bill Bailey and Jess Buckby as Cassandra, and when he goes eventually I'll really miss Joel as CB too! But yes, it was an excellent show to end my Cats tour of 2013 with and an excellent show and stage door to remember the leavers by...but right now? I'm exhausted and need my sleep before I upload any photographs. Look out for the pictures popping up on the Cats Tour 2013-2014 section soon though! And I promise, the text on all these stage door pages is an ongoing project!
Jeeves And Wooster In The West End
So, I just got back from seeing Stephen Mangan as Bertie Wooster in Jeeves and Wooster at the Duke of York's Theatre in London, with Matthew Macfadyen making a brilliant Jeeves (amongst other characters - HILARIOUSNESS ENSUES FROM THIS FACT!) The show was SO good! Even better and funnier than I expected it to be – and it puts Stephen’s amazing face muscles to such good use! I hardly stopped laughing the entire time, and if you can get your hands on a ticket then I recommend you grab that ticket as tightly as possible and get yourself along there before the run ends. I went to stage door after and Stephen was the last one out but he was sooooo ridiculously sweet to me!!! I asked him for a photo and he said ‘Of COURSE you can have a photograph’ and then he said ‘You’d better come up on the step because I’m a lot taller than you!’ and he bent down to my level and did this big goofy grin and once the photo was taken he said ‘I’m so sorry I took so long, I know it’s freezing out here, thank you for waiting’ and he was just apologizing and being lovely to everyone and I already knew he was a lovely person but it’s so nice to see he’s just as lovely as I thought! (I already knew he was a lovely, charming, funny person though really - I met him once a while ago at a Green Wing DVD signing and he he asked my name and I said Malinda and he went 'Malinda! You look very happy!' before looking down at the DVD and signing 'To Malinda. You're very happy! Love Stephen' and it is one of the best things that's ever happened to me to this day! hehe) Ahhhh, I'm so happy after tonight! Such a lovely trip and such a great night at the theatre and I got to meet one of my favourite people from one of my favourite TV shows just after he played a character from some of my favourite books and made me laugh all night. Wow. Highly recommend you go book your Jeeves and Wooster tickets now people, everyone should see this show and see just what great actors it has too. Quick, before it's sold out!
So, I was supposed to go and see Callum Nicol (my favourite Cats cast's Admetus/Macavity) in the ensemble of Dirty Dancing when the show came to my local: the Regent Theatre in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. But, unluckily, Callum wasn't in for that show and so there was no stage dooring for me after all - perhaps a good thing as I hadn't seen Callum since he left the Cats tour and it was a long time ago so I had no idea how I was going to jog his memory if he didn't recognise me. But it was SO nice to be in a theatre again. The smell of the theatre and cheering the ensemble more than the leads (which I always do coz I feel like the ensemble are always doing 10x more work but for no credit!) Then when we came out of the theatre, it was exactly when the forecast snow and wind hit! It's always surreal coming out of the theatre, but coming out to that!! It was a battle getting up the street - I was having to hold my dress down and push right against the wind and it was SO hard just to walk forwards, I'm not even exaggerating. My mum and me couldn't stop laughing on the way back to the car and it was just a nice night. And it was so funny my mum and me trying to explain why all the women in the audience were screaming at certain parts even though they knew it was going to happen and we were trying to describe to my baffled dad him why so many women buy into stories like that so much (I mean, it isn't my personal favourite love story, but the idea is the same as in all my favourites so my mum and me got it and my dad just didn't understand!!) Anyway, it was like a proper stage door night in a way because when I got home I sat down in my room not able to settle on anything, still wearing my theatre dress at 2am, listening to my stage door playlist and just feeling the spellbreaking in every fibre of my being! Not my favourite musical but it will always have a special place in my heart from now on!
So when I found out that Chris Howell (my favourite Cats cast's Bustopher/Gus/Growltiger) was co-directing Chess at London's off-West End Union Theatre, I got tickets as soon as I could! And I'm so so so glad I did. The show was fabulous. Nadim Naaman and Sarah Galbraith were sensational in it - and as it was a show I'd never seen live before I was thrilled to learn more about it. I think it's a show that really works in the tightly-packed setting of the Union and the limited, sold-out run made me feel like I was part of something special in getting to see it. Nadim Naaman was possibly my overall favourite, but Natasha J Barnes and Sarah Galbraith both made me really wish I could have a cast recording of them in Nobody's Side and Someone Else's Story.
Not content with just seeing Chris' directing work, the next day I headed over to Victoria to see the man himself performing in Wicked. Another show I was seeing live for the first time. The show took my breath away, as shows always do - I adore watching a strong ensemble pull off a good story and this was no different. I was lucky enough to catch Chris before the show and the two of us had a lovely catch up, and he was so pleased to hear that I'd enjoyed Chess so much. Sadly I didn't manage to see Chris after the show, but if I had I would have told him he's as brilliant as ever, but sadly under-used in Wicked if you ask me.
We Will Rock You In London
My second time ever seeing We Will Rock You was birthday trip to the West End with my parents. We were actually down south for a football match - the result of which is best forgotten! I picked We Will Rock You because I had only ever seen a local youth theatre production at the Regent before and had thoroughly enjoyed it so I wanted to see the professionals. I also knew Zak Nemorin was a former ensemble member so I wanted to see the production he had been a part of - and as it so happened, Phil Comely was in the cast I saw, though I didn't have time to see him at stage door after. I do enjoy We Will Rock You but I don't tend to think of it as a proper musical somehow as it feels so much like a concert, even with the story and the characters and everything. My favourite moments are always Radio Gaga, because I love the song, and No One But You because it's so haunting. I also love the comedy value of the show a lot. Great fun at a great show.
My Theatre Diary