Those sacred days you gave me…

Tom Whitelock, Danny Horn, Damien Walsh and Oliver Hoare Photo credit: Danny Horn
Tom Whitelock, Danny Horn, Damien Walsh and Oliver Hoare
Photo credit: Danny Horn

So. I gave it a week. I was back on Monday. If I’m honest I wasn’t truly ready for it – on my way to the box office my pace slowed as I walked through Leicester Square, and I hesitated on Panton Street. Until I saw Alice, which basically meant that I had to go through with it! But it seemed like a good sign. Another good sign was the beautiful sunny afternoon that developed; walking down to the West End in autumn sunlight is rather lovely.

I was very nervous still when I approached the theatre in the evening. However, if I’d waited until I was absolutely, properly ready I could’ve been waiting for weeks (that is no exaggeration). And as my first show back was bound to rake up memories & emotions, it seemed better to do it while I was on the way back up, as I couldn’t then fall quite so hard.

Sadly I didn’t get to see the full new cast, as Megan was off ill – however this meant that the delightful Vicki was on as Rasa, and I absolutely adore her performances. It also meant that there was an extra familiar face to go alongside Alice, Jason & Stephen to help ease the transition, as it were.

Everyone had been doing their best to reassure me that the newbies are brilliant, which I was grateful for of course – but that’s never really been an issue for me. The casting team have always done a superb job (the original cast, plus their choice of understudies proves that), so they were bound to pick a talented bunch, and a group of actors that work well as a unit. Ed Hall spoke on the original cast’s last night about the alchemy they had, and that he felt the new cast had their own. And they were always going to do things their own way; it wouldn’t work for anyone if they just copied the previous cast. Nobody could ever do what the originals did as well as they did. It means a serious adjustment for people like me, but I’d much prefer that to watching a watered down version of the show.

And they are brilliant. It was a good decision to sit up in the dress circle, as I could see the piece as a whole – for me, with it being billed as ‘something completely different’, sitting too close would mean having to choose what to watch when I didn’t know exactly which bits I’d want to focus on. Watching as you’re ‘supposed to’ doesn’t completely work if you’re sat at the front, what with the hanamichi an’ all. Plus I didn’t want to be completely off-putting – firstly I was unsure how composed I’d be, secondly it must be a little intimidating having a superfan sat in your line of view!

With a hot & sweaty cast after my 100th show

So you’re now wondering why, if I was so confident in their ability (or at least their potential), I didn’t just go on their first night.

Because Saturday 3 October was more than just a cast change for me. I moved to London at the end of September last year, just over a month later I saw the show for the first time, then two weeks after that I saw it again and started meeting its wonderful cast. If you’ve read any of my previous Sunny blogs you’ll know that I very nearly didn’t go to the stage door, but I’m forever glad I dithered! John & George appearing with the friendliest of hellos completely set me at ease. What impressed me even more was that, when I was back a few days later, George not only recognised me but also remembered my name – this was unprecedented for me in a stage door scenario, and gives you an idea of how lovely & down-to-earth these people are.

I slowly started meeting the rest of the cast as the weeks & months went on, initially through introductions (thanks to Tracey for introducing me to Adam, Tam & Ash) but as my confidence grew and I started meeting other fans I managed to talk to other cast members of my own volition. Also possibly because they were starting to see me in the audience a lot so were probably a bit curious about me!

In the end I spent 156 shows with this group of people, across 144 days. Almost half a year. (That’s obviously not including the hours spent at things they’ve performed at outside the show: Dermot Dancing, West End LIVE, OnBlackheath…) If you spend that much time around people and don’t get emotionally attached then, basically, you’re not human. They were my stabilising force as I settled into London life; always there for me without knowing it. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I went to the show because I needed a pick-me-up, and they never failed to get me smiling again!

So not being able to see them on any given Monday-Saturday is upsetting, and new people stepping into that void is not easy to deal with. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that the old incarnation of my favourite character has basically been deleted from the show via new outfits & the lack of a wig… But hey, that’s change for you! And it has always been about the show for me – their show. Sunny version 1.0, I suppose.

And that means it’s going to take a lot of adjusting to Sunny version 2.0. I can only hope it doesn’t take too many more visits, as it’s an expensive process otherwise! My trips will be less frequent anyway, not just for emotional or financial reasons – I’m due to start my MSc research project soon so there will be less free time for theatre of any kind (in theory, at least).

So, Sunny newbies, if any of you are reading this – I’m not abandoning you, and it’s not that I don’t support you, because I absolutely do. The original cast & their show made this past year a very special one for me, so properly getting over them moving on is challenging. Far more than I’d anticipated, actually. Rest assured, I will be at your show as often as I can.

You can’t get rid of me that easily!

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