Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, March 2013
“What wonderful thing didn’t start out scary?”
— Isaac Marion
I was so excited and apprehensive before this trip: my first time in a couple of years to have a chance to see my favourite show again. But I was in a position I had never truly bee in before: I had been so attached the previous tour, and unlike the cast changes, this would essentially be a new version of the show as every brand new tour brings some new take on the show I find. The tickets were a birthday gift and trips to the show were something I was looking forward to so very dearly after the post-Christmas return to university during a term which had felt like particularly hard work; on my actual birthday I had a seminar to attend in the afternoon, so my dad came up to spend the day before it taking me round the shops to get (within reason) whatever I wanted and almost everything I bought that day was for my outfits for the upcoming trip to the Jellicle Ball later that month. I remember going on the official site and studying everyone's entries, looking through the headshots and bios for familiar faces and finding only Nick Poud (Old Deuteronomy) and Barry Haywood (a swing) who I had seen before. I also remember looking up who was playing all my favourite characters and looking at their headshots to see if somehow I could mystically divine answers about what they would be like in the part just from a picture; funnily enough, Dawn Williams as Jemima was the one I most remember having a good feeling about, and she definitely surpassed that inkling of expectation I had, but she was far from the only member of the cast who would capture my heart that night. It was a strange feeling to be going to a performance of Cats and truly feeling like I didn't know what I was in for, but of course this show has such a dear place in my heart that for all the apprehension I was mostly just ridiculously excited and hopeful, I remember sitting in the restaurant before the show alternating between checking the time and checking the street outside in case I saw anyone I thought might be in the show. I must've talked and talked and talked non-stop until the lights went down for the Overture I think, I was just all nervous energy and vibration, that feeling of being back in a theatre for a performance of Cats just sending me into overdrive. I had no intention of going to the stage door. And then? I saw the performance. I fell in love with Cats all over again. The show is almost a blur to me from that night because I just remember more than anything how beautifully right it felt, how much I loved the new cast's takes on their characters and how truly magical Cats is when performed live. To tell the absolute truth I barely took anything in at all I think, I was overwhelmed and overawred and so happy to be back at the Jellicle Ball - on some level I registered that the new Carbucketty and Bill Bailey were brilliant mischief makers and definite standouts for me, but my clearest memory is of Dawn Williams as Jemima and how brilliantly cast she was, she sheer kittenish perfection and gentle grace of her blew me away. I swear it was only because I wanted to keep the magic going - and also somewhat because it occurred to me that even though Nick Pound was one of only two Deuteronomys I'd ever seen live I had never got a picture with him - that I decided to go to stage door that night. I got my picture with Nick Pound and also decided to wait for Dawn to tell her how special I thought her performance had been, but then I decided I should go - I wasn't so attached I should be waiting around half the night, this tour was going to be different, no following them up and down the country. Well...that''s what I kept telling myself. Even as I prepared to go and see another performance at the Wolverhampton Grand the very next night I was convinced: they were wonderful but I wouldn't get attached, and I definitely wouldn't go to stage door again...right? I tell myself some silly things sometimes! My stage door story had just started a whole new chapter. A chapter which possibly didn't truly begin until that second Wolverhampton trip.
My second trip to the show the following night was all the more exciting now I had got a feel for the new cast as I knew I would be better able to take in the details. It was just me going that night - I think some foolish part of me thought a solo trip might make it seem less of an event and help me not get attached, but that idea was...silly to begin with, but also well and truly buried by the events of that night. Two very important things occurred that night: firstly I paid proper attention to Carbucketty that time and decided he was so good I really wanted to wait at stage door for him, and secondly a swing was sent on as Bill Bailey in the middle of act one, appearing at the beginning of Pekes And The Pollicles whilst I sat there realising I was very probably the only person in the audience that realised what had just happened. The show that night was brilliant again, and as I expected I was able to take it in more, to appreciate more individual performances and get to know these new interpretations of the characters. As always it was the kittens who I found myself most drawn to, with Cameron Ball as Admetus and Katie Warsop as Rumpletezer both really capturing my attention a lot, but, as is often the case with me, it was Carbucketty and Bill Bailey who stole the show and my heart. Look through any of this website and you are likely to not get far without me mentioning the incomparable Joel Morris for one reason or another - he is one of the standouts of my entire Cats and stage door experience - and it is wild to me that the first night at the show I only really registered a surface level of how good he was. I mean, I knew I had really loved his performance but I don't think I fully appreciated everything he was putting into the character until I came back the next day with a clearer head so I could really watch his mischievous Carbucketty antics, all the trouble his CB would get into and that absurdly delightful way he had of making CB so confused and hurt when other Jellicles told him off or tried to keep him in line. And he and Will Lucas as Bill Bailey played off of each other so well - and it was because I was watching their double act so keenly that I first noticed half of it had gone missing. I believe it was some time around the Rum Tum Tugger number where I first noticed Bill Bailey had disappeared; I was concerned as I knew the only real reason for a Bill Bailey to suddenly be so absent was illness or injury, but I admit I was incredibly entertained watching Joel hold the fort by himself, letting Carbucketty get into about ten times the trouble as he made up for the kittens being a man down by completely playing up to CB's impish reputation, especially in Bustopher Jones where he gave Ross Finnie's Skimbleshanks no end of headaches as he refused to completely play by the rules or take things seriously. I had just begun to get used to Carbucketty having ALL the fun when I noticed something: in Pekes and the Pollicles, Bill Bailey reappeared - I thought at first he had just had some minor injury strapped up and was back again or something silly had gone wrong with a microphone or something, but then I took a proper look at the make-up and the face and I realised, no, a swing had been swung on and is here to save the day! I was AMAZED! So impressed at his composure and the speed at which he must have got himself ready and warmed up. I vowed to study the programme and work out who he was at the interview, and I watched with delight as the cast helped him fit right in, the other kittens instantly letting him in on their mischief during the Jellicles' chaotic Pekes And Pollicles antics and it was truly so funny to watch he and Carbucketty. Again it was Joel Morris' Carbucketty had me spellbound for most of the Jellicle Ball, but my Bill Bailey swing was always in the corner of my vision, impressing me no end with his dancing but also the way he made it look effortless to simply slot in to the frenzy of the dance having had no warning - swings are truly amazing beings, honestly. As soon as the lights went up for the interval I studied the whole programme and came to the conclusion Matthew Caputo was definitely the crazy-talented swing I was watching. I also vowed I had to congratulate both him and Joel Morris on their performances at the stage door after the show. It seems fitting I noticed them both the same night somehow as they are probably two of the most important people in my whole stage door story in many ways: they showed me magic at a time when I truly needed the reminder and every time I have seen them since they have fortified my belief that it is real with their incredible performances - but of course I didn't really realise how big a part they would come to play in my stage door adventures back then, I just thought I was going to stage door just the once, just to tell them how wonderful their performances were and then walk away content in the knowledge I'd at least let some great performers know they had really made my night. I still wasn't getting attached though. I swore I wasn't. And then I met Joel. As it turned out I was lucky enough to catch several people at stage door that night - Cameron Ball who was impressed I asked if he'd been Admetus rather than the more known Macavity, Katie Warsop and Joseph Poulton (Mistoffelees), I also saw Dawn again and asked Dawn to let Matthew Caputo know I'd noticed him and thought he was wonderful for me and also asked her to pass on my get well wishes to Will Lucas too (because I wasn't getting attached, so I probably wouldn't stay much longer at the stage door, right? You see?) For all that I knew it was probably time to leave, though, I just desperately wanted to meet Carbucketty - I had all but lost hope of getting the chance when something peculiar occurred. Wolverhampton stage door is a curious one, you see; tucked down a very narrow passage, which makes it kind of difficult to see what's going on, especially if there are other people closer to the door than you. From where I stood I could only see someone who I thought might have been Coricopat and a group of people who I assumed were his friends or family, and I had no idea any other cast members were on their way until I heard voices in the doorway. I tried to look but just saw a large group of cast members who I could make out properly as they waited for others in the group to sign out. And then, as they were leaving, someone standing closer to the doorway than me piped up "Excuse me, were you the white cat?" My eyes went really wide and my jaw kind of dropped: I realised someone had just asked this from the person I was waiting for...Carbucketty!! I felt so sorry for the person, I do know it's hard to tell under all the make-up who is who. One of the other cast members burst out laughing (I think maybe Melissa James who was Bombalurina?) and Joel stood dazed for a moment before managing "The white cat's...a girl" as the other cast members trooped off in stitches. The person said sorry, she'd just seen some white make-up, and Joel obviously smiled and brushed it off and tried to follow after the others and then here I come with another "Excuse me?" - I don't know what he must have thought! We got to have a lovely conversation though once I asked if he was Carbucketty and told him CB was my favourite character and I think I can pinpoint the exact moment the new chapter of my stage door adventure began to when I heard him from the other side of the gate which fences off stage door, calling out after Melissa James "She said her favourite character is Carbucketty!......SERIOUSLY!!!" I smiled the whole way home and collapsed on the sofa in a happy-sad daydream: just like that, I was back to being swept up in the wonder that is Cats the Musical and its stage door.