Ladies and gentlemen, today I share to you one of my most favorite stage thespians. I bring you…LITTLE DOVE. Oh, and all images and videos, unless indicated, are not mine, just to make it clear. Also, this was written circa 2006, just so you know.
This is Veerle Casteleyn
and this is my most favorite photo of hers. Photo credit: Gazet Van Antwerpen
CAT OF A FEATHER
Truth be told, there isn’t much to be said about Veerle Casteleyn… Uh, let me rephrase that—there isn’t much info available about this li’l lady, not even in the whole, wide world of the web. Any true-blue Veerle-fan knows that.
Her First Catwalks
Veerle Casteleyn was born in Vlaanderen, Belgium on March 6, 1978. ‘Veerle’ is Flemish for ‘feather’, which appropriately describes her to a ‘T’. Figuratively speaking, of course. Lithe and graceful on her feet, it’s no wonder. After all, Veerle is a dancer first before actress and singer, with quite a credible resumé in dancing tucked under her belt. She is a sweet/light soprano and wonderful actress. A fantastic all-around thespian…
Her official foray in the performing arts really started when she began training as ballet/jazz dancer at the Municipal Institute for Ballet in Antwerp, Belgium. She performed in “Joint Venture”, “Initiate”, “Fanfare”, “The Three Musketeers” and “Self-Made”. More roles came after school–an orphan in “Annie”, Liesl in “The Sound of Music”, Sylvani a.k.a. Jemima (meaning ‘little dove‘) in “CATS the Musical” (she played the role both in the Antwerp and a London production), and more roles as understudy.
In 2002, she successfully essayed the role of Julia in “Romeo en Julia: van Haat tot Liefde” (R&J), the Belgian production of, well, you’ve guessed it by now. That was her first-ever lead role, complete with a CD release of the show’s songs where you can hear her sing, and believe me, as you will later find out, her voice before was and still is a subject of much debate.
What Curious Cats Ought to Know
Veerle as Jemima in the film version of CATS The Musical
To those not familiar with Veerle, she is actually best-known (so far) as Jemima, the cute kitten in Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s (ALW) “CATS The Musical” video, whose wisdom is far beyond her years; the kitten that made Veerle famous (to musical-lovers, at least). On second thought, Veerle made Jemima famous. Though she was first played by the great Sarah Brightman (best-known as the original Christine Daaé of “The Phantom of the Opera”, another ALW masterpiece), Jemima had always been a minor role and was not at all that noticeable until Veerle came along and immortalized her on video.
Veerle was only about 19 or 20, the youngest in the whole ensemble in fact, when she joined the production. She would later play Jemima on a more regular basis in the West End, as well as do swing parts (a swing is like a bit player) and, more impressive, Victoria the White Cat and Rumpleteazer as an understudy. These two latter roles should tell you how great a dancer Veerle really is. After all, both require superb dancing skills and “Energizer”-charged moves. Not to mention, playful with a sensual flair. Vicky alone always gets to display her dancing prowess, often taking center stage.
ALW had to choose the best performers for the roles, especially since the show was to be shown in another form. Jemima’s role called for a “little, young thing with a wonderful, wide-open face” and Veerle was definitely IT.
Many viewers get enthralled upon seeing her sweet face and large, expressive eyes during her solo parts. Maybe it helps that she is, indeed, a lovely girl with an unusual charm even sans makeup. However, any other lovely girl would have been hard-pressed to pull it off the way she did in the film. Veerle obviously knew how to work it and project what needed to be projected. Besides, she was not all-face, too. She was the shortest but she wasn’t short in talent at all. She proved to be one of the giants, holding her own against or alongside other great talents like John Partridge (as Rum Tum Tugger) and Phyllida Crowley-Smith (as Victoria).
This Cat’s Meow
Undoubtedly, it is her duet with the Great Elaine Paige who reprised her role as Grizabella, that often leaves the biggest mark in most viewers’ mind. Paige is obviously way up there in the superstar department, having amazingly sung the most original version of ‘Memory’. Still, perhaps, part of the charm of the said duet is “Veerle’s” singing voice…
Now is the time when I have to address the issue of dubbing. In the credits, you will read somewhere that Jemima’s singing voice was dubbed by Helen Massie. That is correct. The long-standing issues here have been: “Why was Veerle dubbed?” and “Didn’t she sing anything in the film?”
The why has been answered time and time again! It wasn’t because she couldn’t sing, but due to her strong accent at the time of the filming that affected her English. Veerle may not be the greatest soprano around, and maybe she was pretty raw back then, especially with no formal voice training, but she delivered. Quite convincingly, in fact. As for the second question, it has not been properly addressed yet. Nevertheless, we who have seen the film more than we should can say that she actually did sing in many parts of the video. Where exactly? I will leave the fun of finding it out to you. [Ed. Meanwhile, CLICK HERE and HERE to hear her sing in “R&J” — these are my fave of hers from that musical, her first real recording ever, though the voice is really raw, but I think that’s exactly what made her perfect for the role of a young and naive protagonist.]
The CATS DVD Jemima poster (sorry the feet are cropped out in this image I found)
As I said, Miss Feather made Jemima, so much so that when the movie was released, the wide-eyed, innocent-but-wise li’l kitty was a big hit. Soon, the movie’s off- and on-line release posters featured Jemima holding a “CATS” DVD, etcetera. Why not Grizabella? Or Old Deuteronomy? Or Munkustrap? Or Rum Tum Tugger? Or any of the major roles? The answer may have been “Why not Jemima?”
Jemima is also easily remembered now. The girls love to imitate her and wish they look like her, cat or not. The boys mostly drool at her (especially those who look for and find her unmade-up countenance). Let’s face it. She is easily one of the most beautiful cats in the show, if not the most, ’cause that, of course, depends on taste.
Let the Cat Play
Moving on…Post-“CATS”, Veerle did several plays/musicals onstage again. As mentioned, she did the London production. Then it was in various other productions for her as she toured UK/Europe, The Netherlands and her home country, Belgium: “Carousel” (as Louise in the UK tour),“A Little Night Music” (as Fredrika on the Netherlands tour), “R&J” (Belgian production…another girl acted for The Netherlands tour), “Fiddler on the Roof” (as Chava…great solo ballet sequence, I’m sure), “Alleen op de Wereld” (as the adult Remi), “Dracula” (as part of the ensemble), and “Mamma Mia!” (ensemble still).
Veerle as lead in Romeo en Julia, together with Davey Gilles.
Julia is devastated by Romeo’s death…In the R&J video below, you can see her with Davey at 3:43 and for about ten seconds starting at 8:42. Not sure why she was not interviewed (I am guessing she was too shy to get interviewed)
She didn’t always get the major parts. But that’s show business. Veerle knows that. Meanwhile, she also found time to make her TV debut in an episode of the police show “Flikken” (‘Police’, in the Sporen episode) as Elke de Brock, rape victim. Last year, she became part of the short-lived courtroom drama “De Wet Volgens Milo” (‘The Law According to Milo’) (2004-2005) as law firm intern Sonja who’s “youthful enthusiasm and ambition often gets her into trouble” (this is a loose online translation of the info I found on the show’s site). If that wasn’t enough, some people reported spotting Veerle in a commercial somewhere, but they’re just speculations.
The Cat of a Feather
Veerle knows she has yet to make a bigger mark to be really called famous, despite the fact that she indeed achieved semi-superstar status with a still growing number of fans scattered all over the globe. She has achieved something that most performers still only dream of. Yet, swell-headed she is not.
Ironically, this girl is a very shy individual in person, embarrassed by the amount of attention given her. Perhaps, too, she feels the pressure of living up to what people expect from artists they admire, or it’s possible she simply does not like being admired for her looks alone. Veerle has actually expressed surprise and bewilderment by all of this. She is so unassuming to the point of being unintentionally private; thus, we only have what little more personal information about her we have. This, by the way, does her real good. Stalk her not, please.
It has been proven several times that she isn’t a snob either. Veerle might be private, but she is definitely not a snob. Though the instances are few, accounts of her have been made, not any of them negative. Not yet. Hope not. If you’re lucky, she just might recognize and surprise you by linking arms with you at the parking lot (that is, if her shyness does not get to her first). She may visit your forum and leave a message even if only once. [Ed. Got proof of this, screenshots to follow.] She may meet up with you if she knows you’ve come all the way from across the globe just to watch her in a show, which dialogues you don’t understand anyway. Or she may spend even just a bit of time chatting with you online provided that you…
(1) will understand she types slow, being admittedly not-so-techno- and Net-savvy.
(2) won’t go borderline creepy and scare her away.
And of course, ambush photo shoots with fans, that’s a given…
That’s about it when it comes to getting a bit more glimpse of what Veerle is. And oh, did I tell you she has a very nice, curvy penmanship? [Ed. Proof to follow, sorry]
Cats Sometimes Take a Bow, Too
At present, as of this writing, Veerle is already preparing—or maybe already rehearsing—for the role of Electra for this year’s Dutch production of “CATS”. Yes, you die-hard Veerle-fans, I hate to be the bearer of a really-not-so-“bad” news, but she isn’t playing Jemima. Veerle opted not to do her, a personal decision. I am not surprised. One can only do a routine role so much. She said it herself, she wants a new challenge.
Veerle Casteleyn may still be ‘a kitten still wet behind the ears’ (sorry, I just like saying that), but one thing is definite–this cat is not going anywhere but up! Kitty heaven, here she comes!!!
Copyright © J.Gi Federizo
Okay, first, this is my “L” post for the A-to-Z Challenge (so that explains the title more, hee…).
You can actually find this same article as The Veerle Essay, posted with my permission, at the Unofficial Veerle Casteleyn Fansite, which is owned by a fellow fan. There’s a mention of a certain “Gracie” as author — that’s me. You see, I wrote this first for my Multiply blog years ago, and around the same time, I joined the Veerle Forum, which I believe is already inactive (correct me if you know for certain that I am wrong, and then share the proper link, pretty pleeeease….). It wasn’t because of few members but due to technical problems that I believe, could not be solved then (on my part, I suddenly could not log in anymore, and still couldn’t when I registered with another name — must have been the locations-thing). But I’ve been a fan a few years before the writeup.
Anyhoo, I edited the article now here, seeing grammar loopholes, etc. (hope I got them all). But if you’re looking for more updated info, based on my current research, not much has been found out about her in later years, which saddens me a bit. I’ll continue my research, though.