Dance teacher Katie Blacksmith Adams knows what it is like to be on the stage as a professional and an amateur. She tells Ailsa Adams about life in America and giving it all up to move thousands of miles across the pond for love.

Halfway through our first meeting, Katie gets up to do a quick tap-dancing routine to the song on the radio. It feels like a regular occurrence for her own gratification rather than a showing off exercise. Her dream dinner table would include Gene Kelly and Gregory Hines, though I’m sensing there would be more dancing than eating.

A dance teacher and performer to crudely simplify her artistic talents, her latest project is choreographing, directing and producing Ghost the Musical at Wildcats Theatre School in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Her beauty is breath-taking in an effortless, good bone structure, aging beyond her current 33 won’t be an issue type of way.  Long, thick brown hair falls perfectly below her shoulders, mimicking Kate Middleton after an expensive blow dry. She is rarely seen out of Ugg boots and at least one thick cardigan as Ryhall feels like the Arctic when you are used to LA temperatures.

As her mouth opens to speak you can tell she is American before the dulcet tones from Los Angeles come out, as her teeth are remarkably white and perfectly aligned. Top and bottom. “We all get braces and go to dentist every six months for cleans. It’s all privatised so people spend lots and lots of money on it, especially in LA.”

Katie is a triple threat, someone who can sing, act and dance, referenced heavily in the TV series Glee. She would not describe herself that way but her back catalogue disagrees.

At New York University she majored in drama and minored in production, a prestigious university that has churned out superstars such as Kristin Bell, most known for voicing Anna in Disney’s blockbuster film Frozen.

Yet Katie is uncomfortable name dropping the endless famous people she has worked with. Perhaps she has spent too long in Rutland and adopted the British nature of not blowing your own trumpet, but she shifts in her chair when probed.

The list includes icons like Bradley Cooper and strangely Lady Gaga, a fellow alumni from NYU she describes as eccentric, long before A Star Is Born brought them together.

“Bradley was so sweet to work with and he made a point of learning all our names, bringing back a fruit basket at the end of the summer to thank us and yes, he is that stunning in real life,” she laughs.

Before the #metoo movement erupted, Katie was familiar with the concept, though thankfully not to the horrifying extent of some. The director of a Toyota commercial was enough to make her question her life choices and change direction to work out of the spotlight, choosing to produce and teach over acting.

“What put me off acting was I was finally doing what I wanted to do professionally but it wasn’t fun. It was so bad I had to call my agent as I felt unsafe, I am not a complainer and can defend myself, but he told the casting director and she came to set and basically chaperoned me. I thought ‘I don’t want to be a part of this world’.”

At the age of 17 Katie got an opportunity most can only dream of when her college, Hamilton Academy of Music in LA, set a project of making a film in partnership with 20th Century Fox. Cast as the producer, she got paired with Fred Baron, the producer of Moulin Rouge and learnt first-hand what a producer’s role was.

“I had no idea what a producer was but went with it as my friend Ashleigh wanted to be the director. It was an awesome experience and was the reason I minored in production at NYU. It was really hands on in Fox’s production suites, learning to use equipment and techniques used in films with an absolute producing giant.”

Despite all her experiences in New York, LA and Texas to name a few and endless opportunities working with theatre production greats like Daryl Roth, a ten time Tony-Award winning producer of over 120 productions, and Alex Timbers, who is currently producing Beetlejuice on Broadway, Katie gave it all up and moved to England for love and is currently fitting teaching work around her baby.

“I met Ben, my husband, when I was three. Though we didn’t get together for over twenty years. I wouldn’t leave the States officially without a ring, he wouldn’t ask me to marry him without living with me first, so we ended up in Northampton, England to test the water,” says Katie.

The future is wide open which is both exciting and horrifying for her. Her teaching qualification, a diploma in dance education will be completed in a few months and she is enjoying the slower pace of life in Ryhall. Her only current front-and-centre gig is her role in the Bomber Belles, a trio who sing wartime songs based at the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln.

“What I miss most about America is my friends and though this will get me in trouble, Broadway over the West End any day. The biggest difference is training. In the UK I am expected to teach the children one 30-minute lesson a week. In the States that would be at least 60 minutes and three times a week.”

Her biggest regret artistically is letting her anxiety hold her back. “I have always suffered with anxiety and it’s made me not take risks I should have taken. A lot of people have complimented me as a performer, but I have chosen not to believe them. I am not kind to myself.”

I haven’t interviewed Meghan Markle under a pseudonym, though if Katie told me she was moving to Canada and had landed a Disney voiceover deal, I might question the parallels further. 

Ticket pricing in the West End

Some of my fondest childhood memories are annual birthday trips to London. Shopping, sightseeing, amazingly calorific food topped off with a West End theatre production of my choice. The soundtrack tape was always purchased and formed the basis of car sing offs for the next six months.

We would occasionally pre-book tickets but generally wing it, visiting a box office and snapping up tickets for a show starting in 20 minutes across town and run fast, simultaneously mocking our mother’s bladder function.

An annual ticket survey conducted by The Stage in October 2019 found the most expensive tickets have risen on average just under 60 per cent since 2012 though, pricing a lot of us out of the market. Average seats are up 13 per cent on 2018 and personally I will not part with money for the cheapest, restricted view seats – not to mention how quickly they sell out.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash-hit musical, Hamilton, is the latest show to be criticised over pricing and a quick Google for tickets shows Ticketmaster first. A returned ticket for January 31 in the stalls or royal circle is £287.50 and a grand circle, nose-bleeder seat is £66.25. So four tickets with a decent view would cost a staggering £1150!

Tickets direct through the Victoria Palace Theatre are £250 for the best seats available, so can Ticketmaster really justify charging £37.50 a head to handle the process?

Liberal Democrat peer Patrick Boyle tabled a motion for debate on this issue in April 2019. He wants more regulation in the industry with his speech in the House of Lords centered around the idea many can no longer afford ticket prices, with a lack of transparency on where the money went. He is the Earl of Glasgow, so if he can’t afford it there is no hope for me.

I spoke to Chris Kirkwood, the chief executive of the Lincoln Drill Hall, about pricing in general and why the West End is so expensive compared to Lincoln. Chris said: “I would argue the Government will stay out of the debate in terms of the West End as it’s a commercial proposition. I’m not sure they could regulate what someone charges for a product any more than they could do for the car industry.

“In the West End an estimate to put a new musical on the stage costs £1million upwards, so pricing is always going to be high to recoup costs. Channel 4 did a documentary a few years ago and the producer of Top Hat suggested they had to gross £250,000 per week just to stay afloat. With that in mind the West End couldn’t move towards Pay What You Decide.”

My local theatre, the South Holland Centre in Spalding, is a lot more comfortable than the dizzying heights of the grand circles of London so I want to book more National Theatre Live.  For under £20 a live streaming of the performance is broadcast direct from the theatre.

But I will need a West End fix every now and again for the whole experience, so I better start another Hamilton-sized piggy bank.