Little Dove: Cat of a Feather #atozchallenge2015

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. However, I’ve been updating it from time to time and adding images and links 🙂

From Gazet Van Antwerpen

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 resumĂ© in dancing tucked under her belt. She is a sweet/light soprano and wonderful actress. A fantastic all-around thespian


[Ed. ‘Veer’ is said to actually mean ‘feather’ in Dutch, based on some research. Meanwhile, ‘Veerle’ is said to mean ‘travel to battle’ or ‘battle traveller’. In some ways, an individual maybe considered a battle traveller so Veerle may very well be one anyway. I still do prefer to liken Veerle to a light feather.]

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-casteleyn-as-Jemima

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 DaaĂ© 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. (See her in the video below smiling so sweetly with Jo Bingham who played Etcetera at 0:29-0:31, then choreographer Gillian Lynne is talking about her as you see her at 1:00-1:09).

(Below, you’ll see her all over the video having her whole look done)

(Now watch her duet with the great Elaine Paige…)

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 was the first-EVER video that I saw of her online WITHOUT the makeup…I was so excited!!! I forget what year that was, but the Internet wasn’t like how it is now, so it was not easy finding it. In fact, I think somebody just shared it in the forum that I joined in. Very short interview clip, but very dear.)

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. THIS is how her voice would have sounded singing her solo parts or with a few cats, just fast-forward to 1:30, though she is everywhere in the vid dancing. 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. She sang in seven songs. Meanwhile, I found her discography as well.]

veerle-as-jemima-in-CATS-DVD

The CATS DVD Jemima poster…Image from the Net but I’m pretty sure The Really Useful Group (RUG) has the rights to this as well as all other CATS images

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 and ads 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).

romeo-en-julia

Veerle played the lead female in Romeo en Julia opposite Davy Gilles. The show was produced by the Belgium Music Hall

romeo-and-julia-death scene

Julia is devastated to find Romeo without life…

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.  Then 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. Meanwhile, as far as I know, aside from singing in the “R&J” soundtrack, she recorded at least one song (again, as far as I know for now) for the “Alleen op de Wereld” soundtrack (CLICK HERE).

(See her in “Romeo en Julia — van Haat tot Liefde” at 8:42-8:51, so do a fast-forward thing. Had to find the best vid that clearly shows her especially with Davy)

(Her guest starring role in “Flikken”, ‘Sporen’ episode. Do not even try to auto-translate, it sucks)

(Very short clips from the TV show she was a part of…Is it me or does somebody love mixing reddish shades and blue?)

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.

veerle-casteleyn-forum-post

To everyone’s surprise and delight, Veerle actually posted a message on the forum! Shoney Cat was going to The Netherlands to see her perform live in a musical. Johan is Veerle’s friend. Jemimus, the original forum’s creator, had seen Veerle many more times than any of us at the the time, plus Veerle knew him…To enlarge, right-click, “View Image”, then zoom in/out

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.

veerle-casteleyn-chats-online

The very rare moment that Veerle actually went online and chatted with her fans. Shared by Steven, the forum moderator at the time…To enlarge, right-click, “View Image”, then zoom in/out

That is provided that you…

(1) will understand she types slow, being admittedly not-so-techno- and Net-savvy.

And….

(2) won’t go borderline creepy and scare her away.

And of course, ambush photo shoots with fans, that’s a given…

veerle-casteleyn-autograph

See how nice her pernmanship is! This is a cropped portion lifted off an actual poster she personally signed for a fan

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?

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. [Ed. See update after this article.] 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

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UPDATES: Veerle has since done the Dutch “CATS”, as reported she would do, and I gave a link to a vid somewhere above. She was a swing member doing…

“…(1st cover for Electra, 1st cover for Sylvani aka Jemima, and 2nd cover for Victoria). She took over the role of Jemima full-time in the summer of 2007. ‘CATS’ premiered in Rotterdam in October, and toured the Netherlands until October 2007.” (Wikipedia)

Then she did “Les Miserables” (ensemble), “Oliver!” (ensemble/Charlotte) and “Musical Droomvlucht” (ensemble). From what I found out, she worked or works (not sure if she still does–dunno if it was a one-time deal or what) as a choreographer for Diluna Dansstudio. She choreographed their 2015 “CATS” musical, as can be seen below. They are the ONLY pics of the ever-elusive Veerle I’ve found from there. There’s not even a mention of her there except on NieuwsBlad.be. On the caption, she was said to be a top choreographer, so I am hazarding a guess that she’s been doing choreography these past years.

I am most probably right as I recently found — or rather, someone else found and privately shared to me — recent proof of it. If I were Dutch or Belgian, I probably could actually find her. We think we also found a real social media account. She’s really kept everything very private, you won’t exactly see a thing on her own page to confirm anything. Besides, it seems inactive. If it is her real account, she probably won’t want it shared to the public unless it’s a fan page. So forgive me if I don’t share it. Please don’t ask for it from me even secretly. I intend to honor my promise to the sharer and especially to respect Veerle’s privacy. If people start flooding her inbox with messages, she could guess I gave her away — I don’t want her to hate me.

We did try our luck by sending messages to her, but..well, we know our Veerle. I just told her it’s okay and I’m just happy to have found her. Anyway, let’s just see if she attends the premiere of the new CATS movie. My guess is she won’t be there, but I’ll let her surprise us 🙂

veerle-castelyn-choreography

Veerle doing choreography for Diluna Dansstudio’s “CATS” show

veerle-casteleyn-choreography

I wonder which part of the musical she is working on here….

See if you can find Veerle here

You can actually find the above 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 Steven’s Veerle Forum, which I believed to be already inactive for years. But I found out the “new” one, VeerleForum.com , and registered. The old became inactive not because it had a few active members but due to technical problems (won’t go into details anymore). I had been a fan a few years before the writeup.

If you’re looking for more updated info, based on my current research, as I keep saying, not much has been found out about her in later years, which saddens me a bit. I’ll continue my research, though. Do let us know of any new information about Veerle. You’ll be compensated with a lot of virtual hugs, kisses, and heartfelt thank-yous!

 

Lastly, just to let you know, this is my  “L” post for the A-to-Z Challenge (so that explains the title more, hee…).

L

To Sing or Not to Sing?

NOTE: Technically, it’s still February at the other side of the world. Also, technically, I heard that in the lunar calendar, it’s just the 29th of January. So technically, the Love Month isn’t over yet, and if we follow the lunar calendar, it hasn’t even begun. That said, here’s one of the things to share for this month’s special theme, which is love 🙂

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If I were made to choose between being able to write and being able to sing, what do you think would I have chosen? If you said writing because I am a writer, well, you got it…

write-idea

WRITING IDEAS, OR…

singing-woman

…SINGING MY HEART OUT?

…QUITE WRONG.

Hands down, I would choose to retain my ability to sing, regardless of whether I could carry a tune or not. I may not be able to write, but I’d still  have my imagination with me, which was how I started my stories in the first place. Also, telling stories is not confined to writing alone. Since I’d still have my voice, I could either dictate my pieces to someone who’d write them all down, or do either live or recorded storytelling.

Now singing! No, I wouldn’t be able to do that without the voice, nor could anyone else. Unless I just hummed, which is not really singing, is it? Even if I attempted to do some beatboxing, that would still require sounds that I would not be able to make. Writing is my expression of my thoughts, but singing is the expression of my soul.

I LLLOOOOOVVVEEE SINGING…

I really was the shy, silent type when I was a little kid. To say “extremely shy” would probably be an exaggeration already, but that was  enough to make me ashamed of singing out loud. I loved music, but except for the few times I was in the mood to perform for my only usual audience — my mother — and during Music class in school that I secretly enjoyed, no one could make me sing. Not that anyone actually asked, with the exception of my mother, in which case, I am not even sure if she did ask or I volunteered.

I really did love singing. When I was young, I would  sing just a tad louder than a whisper when I was alone. But whenever somebody came into the room or went near me wherever I was, I would immediately stop singing, act matter-of-factly and pretend I was doing nothing of the sort seconds ago. Imagine, I would even react this way at home and around my family. Why this was so is still a mystery to me. Did I suffer some kind of trauma or ridicule when I was much littler that this affected me the way it did? I cannot remember a thing about it, and if ever it did happen, what was it? or who was it?

The only thing I know is it was also myself who decided that if I wanted to sing, I would. Why would I bother about what they thought? So by fourth grade, I allowed myself to express more freely. I would be singing at the terrace and then someone would pass by and I gathered a lot of courage just to keep from stopping or keeping it down. This certainly had its benefits because I started realizing that I could, kind of, actually carry a tune.

song-magazine

Samples of local “song hits.” Image from the writeup on the movie based on the most popular Philippine song mag, JINGLE, that was older than myself, I think

Inspired by this realization, I found myself saving my daily allowance and buying “song hits” (referring to song magazines). Soon, I was the most updated in class when it came to new songs and, weirdly, I knew many of the featured old songs as well (some songs even came from much older eras like the 30s). This became my hobby until the sixth grade, collecting song hits that I still actually have in possession.

As I got older, I fell in love with singing more. I was never the best, I know, and had never really joined anything musical. I kept the singing to myself most times. I dabbled into some songwriting, too, but not one of my songs have any actual music till now, mainly because I have never learned to play any string or percussion instrument. That’s why they’re not so good, anyway. Meanwhile, I developed an eclectic taste in music. I came to like almost any music genre, old and new, local and foreign, pop and classic, instrumental and otherwise.

The only ones I never ever liked were hard metal stuff because I could and can never understand why all the hard growling and shouting that do not sound anything like words and are hurtful to the ears are considered singing. I don’t mean just rock. Legitimate rock, I like. But there are “songs” that sound anything but songs. Before you go all-Rambo against what I said, though, I am not judging you. This is personal opinion and taste. In fact, if I tell you now that I love show tunes, you are welcome to hate them. They are not me, the person, such as heavy metal songs aren’t you.

While we’re on the subject of show tunes, I was a junior in high school when I developed an interest in musicals, thanks largely to our Music teacher. Actually, I came to really appreciate music because of what she taught us. I remember she had a certain theme every year that all students experienced in class. I said all because in school, she was our only Music teacher and, thank goodness, there were just four sections per year level. Still, that’s a lot of kids to handle. Anyway, Broadway musicals was the theme that year.

I had long-before seen The Sound of Music (too many times to count!) and Annie on TV. That year, I appreciated show tunes more. (There’s really a side story to this involving Les Miserables and batch unity, one I will save most probably for a separate post.) Our teacher let us watch the West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, Sound of Music (I think), South Pacific, and The King and I. I may be forgetting some more, but you get the idea. Whenever it was movie time, I was a very serious, very willing student.

cats-the-musical

“Miiiidniiiighhtt….All alone in the moooonliiiiight….” This is Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s CATS The Musical, my most-est favorite of my most favorites. Love the singing, love the dancing!

This love for show tunes grew that when I was working already, I began watching actual shows if the budget allowed it or when I had time to save up. I’ve also been buying my own copies of movie musicals. Never mind that neighbors think me weird watching those and singing loudly along. People do tend to judge what they don’t understand; they probably don’t understand why I could love rapping at the same time either.

I have never been an actual theater person and I don’t get to see every thing that’s played on stage due to budget constraints, but that didn’t stop me from creating a Broadway-themed group in Multiply called HERE’S TO BROADWAY!!! It slowly grew into the musical-lovers’ group with the most members in Multiply-land. Unfortunately, we all know what happened to Multiply.

Now here I am. I love to sing, definitely, even when there are people around. Just don’t approach me and actually ask me to sing or I’ll clam up. I’m okay with people hearing me, but when they let me know they’re listening, I get all…EEK.  Don’t ask me why because I can’t even explain it myself. The only reason I sang for my friends’ weddings were because, well, they’re friends and I didn’t want to disappoint them by turning down their requests…aaaand because I’d rather sing a song and get it over with in three minutes than be a bridesmaid, HA HA HAAA!!!

So, to sing or not to sing? That is not even supposed to be a question. Sing, absolutely.

Lastly, I guess I’ll share these only-a capella samples I did around four years ago. I recorded these while in the bathroom so I could hide and that’s why I was in a hurry. I could have done better but, oh well. The first is originally by Lea Salonga so if you want to hear that, I’m sure it’s in YouTube. It’s quite a videoke favorite here. It’s also my blogs theme 🙂 The second is from the animation film version of The Little Mermaid, which I haven’t really seen yet because I am mad they murdered classic literature. Anyway, because I don’t have copies in my laptop of these, they will open a new tab and direct you to my Facebook video posts instead.

Hate the singer, not the songs, please 😉

The Journey

Part of Your World

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Do you love to sing? Share it to us! We have to take dares sometime 😉

By the way, I have certain “project” so I urge you to please ask me any question in the comment boxes below. THANKS!