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Final ever Sweeney
09/23/12 @ 04:29:39 am, Categories: General, 1339 words   English (US)

Saturday 22/09/2012

Another morning after – after a final show, of course. Appropriately the skies are grey after yesterday’s dream weather.

Maiden Lane was heaving with fans for the arrival of the Ball. It will have been about 90 people in the end. He had the car stop and let him out a little further down the road, so most people could at least see him walking down the street, some even managed to get photos and signed programmes. He was still suffering from the cold he said but was determined to be ill on Sunday. At the door he said a few words of thanks and gave everyone the opportunity to admire his lovely suit (well, at least that’s what we did). What you don’t really see on the pictures: It was grey with thin lilac pinstripes and the seams were red.

We have to say though that our special stage door moment was quite a while earlier when there were only six of us there and Imelda arrived. She stopped and thanked us all for the support and was ever so sweet about it when we were all full of praise for her and Sweeney. Still makes us smile. A special few minutes. She also said that she had nothing planned for the matinee, just wanted to make sure these final two shows were done really well.

So, faster than you can slit a throat we were in our seats for the final matinee. Row C of the stalls was a solid fan row, as this is what you do isn’t it? You buy first night, last night and his birthday. We didn’t know whether anyone would do anything unusual as it is sort of not this kind of show. With Hairspray we knew there would be mayhem on stage – and there was! But with Sweeney? Well, no mayhem but a few little funnies DID make their way onto the Adelphi stage. And we are sure we did not see everything that was going on as this is the whole point of final matinee funnies. But here are a few things we did pick up on. Feel free to add in our Facebook group.

• before the show really starts the cast slowly gets on stage. This time everyone made it different to their usual way and it took them a lot longer to get into their usual positions
• the bird dealer is usually on the right hand side of the steps, today he moved over to the left hand side, making it ever so difficult for Lucy to perform her part
• the guy that is shaved by Sweeney during the competition did not wear simple stubble, but they painted him a Sweeney beard
• Pirelli did the money note at the end of the competition twice
• In the first scene of the second act one lady from the ensemble had a stuffed toy on her jacket pocket
• When Anthony is off to rescue Johanna he usually shakes hands with Sweeney. This time they did something like a gang handshake, really hard to explain

The audience reception at the curtain call was wonderful. Everyone was determined to say a big thank you to this amazing cast. Every single person was on their feet. The youngsters were in tears already and we wondered how they’d take the final final curtain call.

We had a lovely dinner between shows – our first ever carvery (you have a choice of three types of meat which a chef will cut from a huge roast and then you can have the sides like at a buffet). It was delicious and in style at the Strand Palace! We had a great time with many fellow fans. Thanks for having us!

And there we were: the final ever performance of Sweeney Todd. Merely the thought of never ever seeing him perform Epiphany again is enough to bring on not so mild bouts of depression, so best not focus on this….

It was an incredible performance. Everyone on stage was determined to make it the best ever and the audience LOVED every second of it. So appreciative. Imelda had entrance applause (Michael’s first entrance sadly doesn’t lend itself to be interrupted by applause) and she stayed back after a momentous Epiphany so people had time to applaud him whereas usually with the new arrangement she would approach him very quickly and continue the scene so there is no gap for applause.

We tried to make ourselves aware that this would really be the last time we will see so much talent come together to perform this amazing work of art so we could appreciate it properly. The only downside was that a very eager crowd applauded over the final looooong note of Johanna. Sigh. What a shame. We can understand the urge to clap when he seems to sing this one beautiful note for an eternity but would have loved to have heard it till the end. Ah well, as Mrs Lovett would put it.

No speeches at the curtain call sadly. But most of the cast was in tears anyways with an audience making so much noise that it was probably heard all the way down Fleet Street! No one wanted to let this amazing cast go and so they had to return not twice (as is usual) but FOUR times to take their bows. Michael and Imelda always leading the pack. 1500 people on their feet and 40 performers in tears on the stage. It was just perfect. What a way to go.

Stage door afterwards was the expected chaos with the added complications of it being a Saturday and the pubs and clubs really busy. It was a wise decision of Michael to only to the “Evita act” and come to the window. So everyone would see him. As we are used to by now we were quite an attraction to the other cast members who rarely witnessed a crowd like this. They were leaning out of the windows of their dressing rooms, waving, calling out words of thanks, taking photos and filming us. Peter Polycarpou came to his window too and showed us his freshly shaven face and thanked everyone. We could see that Michael had his family in the dressing room and Connor and Grace dared a few glances out of the windows, waving at us all. They were ever so sweet.

Finally the main man came to the window – beardless. What a transformation! He said his thanks and Imelda joined him at the window. So the Ball is back, Mr Todd has left the building. Boy will we miss him! And will we miss the beard. We know many did not like it, but in our opinion, he looked amazing with it and we are not beard girls.

Joan Bowe (the Judge) was there as well and when Michael returned to the window to ask how everyone liked the beardless Ball John made like strangling his arch enemy. It was good fun. But then they retreated further into the room and a curtain was pulled. We knew they were having a little do in the theatre so this was our cue to leave the stage door. He has said his good-byes to everyone and should be allowed to party in peace.

It was very hard to leave Maiden Lane. What an amazing six months. A year when you count Chichester. We have seen a side of Michael no one knew existed and have heard music so beautiful it should be illegal (but luckily isn’t). Thank you to the wonderful cast of Sweeney Todd, to our wonderful friends who made the stage door-ing so much fun and especially to Michael and Imelda for letting us witness such glorious talent again and a again. Memories we will treasure forever for sure.

Back to reality now – and it is grey, wet and not in the UK. How sad. We need perspective, Mr Ball! Plans? Dates? PLEASE! And soon!

Friday, 21 September 2012
09/22/12 @ 03:17:56 am, Categories: General, 590 words   English (US)

Friday 21/09/2012
As expected the stage door was really busy yesterday with about 40 fans waiting for Michael to arrive. When he got out of the car at 6pm with a big scarf around his neck he told us all he was having a terrible cold. Everyone was feeling with him as we all thought he should have been able to just enjoy these last few shows and not suffer through them.

It was quite dark at this time in the evening as it has been a very cloudy day already, so not much luck on the photo front, but we shouldn’t moan as: Once he was inside it started to rain.

We were having and half dreaded half anticipated his first entrance. But he sounded excellent. Lemsip Max seems to be working really well! Not one minute would you have thought that he was unwell. And what a performance it was! This man is a phenomenon. But it wasn’t him alone. Imelda, Peter…all of them put everything they have got (and that’s quite a lot!) into the performance. We just know that Imelda is trying to crack Michael up during By The Sea – and sometimes she is almost there, with his lips twitching into a reluctant half-smile (he has to sit and read a newspaper, completely ignoring Mrs Lovett, you see). Last night he turned his head away a tiny fraction to avoid a smile, we think.

Also when he is chasing around Toby in the Barber Shop the chair (the simple one, not the fancy red one of course) almost fell down but Michael caught it very elegantly mid-fall without losing the thread of the scene.

An example for the often quoted minor changes that change the feel of a scene: When Mrs L. Discovers Pirelli’s body she makes a great big fuss about it to then give up the pretence of shock, shut the lid of the trunk, shrug and say “ah well.” Yesterday the in went “Ah well, here we got.” Got a good laugh.

AND it was the first time since they changed the arrangement of Epiphany (no moment of silence, the plot goes on quickly so no one dares clapping after this tense moment) that the audience broke into massive applause. We have heard single people clapping (and can understand their urge because it really is his outstanding moment) but usually this is over quite quickly. Not so last night. Imelda had to wait for her line as the audience insisted on showing their appreciation.

We saw a lot of Matthew Gent (the “Michael lookalike” from the West End Eurovision appearance) as he was covering for an ensemble member. So this was an added bonus. The likeness really is uncanny.

Sadly we had a group of very giggly men behind us. Yes, men. You read correctly. They behaved like teenage girls but at least they were enthusiastic about the show. It was only unsettling when they laughed through every line of Mea Culpa. SO not a funny scene. We dreaded the finale – nothing worse than being all emotional and someone next to you is making fun of it. But oh no – they were quite then.

And what a roar the curtain call was. Everyone was on their feet and cheering for the cast and orchestra. Some of them were in tears already. It was really bitter sweet.

So the day has come: Sweeney Todd will thrill London one last day.

We will get back to you with all the news tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 September 2012
21/09/12 @ 03:59:03 am, Categories: General, 329 words   English (UK)

Gosh, it is Friday already….why does time fly in the UK and drag on at home? So, yesterday. The stage door was lovely, the Ball looking good. He was walking down the street and sounded fine. After his tweet about an oncoming cold we hope it will not give him too much trouble. He deserves to be able to enjoy these last few shows!

Side remark: In the early afternoon Michael was spotted having a photo session placed on a lifting ramp not far from the Adelphi. Will be interesting to see, if we will get to see the pictures at one point.

We spotted Tony Christie in the audience and Michael’s dad was there as well. The air condition has been turned down a bit, so it wasn’t too cold anymore. Everyone was of course chatting about these concerts in Cork and starting to get organised should they really go ahead. As getting there from Germany is rather complicated we fear we will not be able to go. 

Everything went smoothly apart from the belt of the judge’s dressing gown misbehaving (he couldn’t close it after his mea culpa scene) which he did handle very well indeed and even made it add to the sleaziness of the judge’s advances to his ward.

Ecstatic audience reaction at the curtain call. Just as it should be. They all seemed really touched.

As is usual now he had guests in afterwards and we had the opportunity to admire the posh evening attire of the cast when they left for their end-of-run party. Michael was very patient with the crowd and had changed from the t-shirt of the afternoon into a dark grey suit, with matching grey shirt and grey tie with white dots. Mmmmmh nice.

Some sightseeing for us now and a spot of shopping, then back to the stage door (fingers crossed that the rain will really only come tonight) and the final one-show-day….

Wednesday 19/09/2012
09/20/12 @ 07:46:04 am, Categories: General, 612 words   English (US)

We had so much fun at the stage door yesterday. It was quite crowded as more and more fans join us to say good bye to Sweeney. When Michael arrived he pretended to be rushing right past us all in a mad hurry to get away from the hassle into the theatre. Our faces must have been priceless; he had pity then, stopped right before the theatre threshold, laughed out loud and said he wouldn’t do this to us – even when he could!

We know we are spoilt by him and everyone cherished their stage door time with him a bit more after this little stint. He then stood very patiently in a very excited crowd and did the usual signing-posing routine. We managed to solve a little mystery that had come up on the fan club forum a while ago. A fan had found two photos that someone had uploaded on some social media platform showing young children (a class room pic and a pic of two small children together) and hinted that Michael was on both of them. We were doubtful but hey, why not use the opportunity while we had it and ask the only person who’d really know: the man himself. He had quite a laugh and said no, he definitely was not on either of the photos (which we had brought as a print out) and wanted to know who claimed that he was! We didn’t know this of course – just one of these things people pick up on the internet.

We saw the matinee from the stalls again. Another wonderful performance. His voice never sounded so full and clear. Another standing ovation of course.

The evening show was to be our final Sweeney from up high as we had gone for buying tickets in the centre of the front row in the upper circle. It was stunning to see the show from above again. The barber shop floor, which used to be plain brown wood when we first saw the show from up above in the beginning of the run, now has a red tinge from all the fake blood! And we tried to memorise all the clever staging and the bigger picture you have from this bird’s eye perspective rather than from below stage level like in the stalls. The sound up there is excellent AND it was all nice and warm. No freezing in the upper circle. There were only three empty seats on the whole of the upper circle and the audience loved every second of the show. We were worried that maybe the atmosphere up there would be a bit quiet – but oh no. Very vocal approval and lively discussions about Michael and Imelda’s wonderfulness all around us in the interval.

If anything he sounded even better than in the afternoon performance - he held that the last note of Johanna for an incredible 30 seconds! It’s a whole different song now with all the embellishments. Heavenly indeed. And in the end when he cradles his dead wife – he never sounded more desperate. It was heartbreaking stuff. We are dreading this final performance. No doubt we will be in tears.

He had guests in (among them Sandra Marvin from Hairspray) so we waited for a while but it’s always worth it for a smile and a good night. The dressing room is being cleared out bit by bit. So it really is happening: Sweeney is coming to an end.

But it’s not Saturday yet. Two “normal” shows to go until the VERY special ones on Saturday. No rain as yet. West End here we come.

Signs and Firsts - 18/09/2012
09/19/12 @ 03:48:41 am, Categories: General, 818 words   English (US)

At home we have one of these calendars where every week shows a different picture and you can rip them off and keep as postcards. For years we have this with photos of the UK naturally. And you know what the picture for this week was? “A pieshop in London”!! We are not making this up. Actually we almost collapsed with hysterical laughter when we tore off the picture of the previous week on Monday morning and texted each other about it. Surely this has to be a good sign?

So for our final trip to the demon Barber we had formed an ambitious plan: We wanted to arrive in time to see him leave on Monday. Seeing that our planes would leave Germany at 8pm and take an hour and a half to get to the UK this has never really worked out before. What we would need for this miracle to happen would be the perfect journey. No delays whatsoever - clear roads, punctual trains, a quick passport control, quick luggage reclaim, catch the earliest possible tube and hope for no delays en route. And guess what? It really happened! Never ever did we experience a journey as smooth as this! We were in the flow. It was almost spooky.

We couldn’t believe it when we turned into Maiden Lane (where the stage door is) with our luggage and everyone was still there, waiting patiently for the Ball. We said hello to our friends and joined the fans. It felt so good to be back and also surreal – one minute we are still all stressed out at the office and the next we are in London at the Adelphi. Just like that. It was lovely to see him again, looking yummy in jeans and a dark shirt. After he left we made plans for meetings with our friends and couldn’t stop grinning on our way back to the hotel. We were back. Life was good – as you can tell the finality of this week hasn’t yet sunk in.

So that was the first first. We made it to London in time for the leaving stage door.

The weather is lovely but chilly. Lots of sun though which suits us just fine. And we have amazing views from our room – we can see Tower Bridge and the Shard and are staying right next to the Shaftesbury Theatre where Hairspray played.

We got to the stage door with plenty of time to chat to friends and exchange the latest news – also we came prepared as we wanted to give Mr Ball his end-of-the-run pressies today instead of Saturday as it would be madness at the door then. When he finally arrived he was in great spirits, chatted away happily, posed for photos and signed stuff. He also got loads of early pressies and we felt bad for adding to his load of gift bags but he said we shouldn’t appologise for giving him presents! He also said he was so unsure whether the fans would embrace his career choice of playing a serial killer but was so happy we did – on an afterthought he added that we all coped fine with him being a mother of one, so why did he ever worry?

It felt like coming home when we took our seats in the stalls. But here goes the second first: we were freezing in the auditorium! The air condition was working overtime and we sat directly underneath the vents, we think. There was a constant cold draft and we had to put our jackets and scarfs back on in the interval! LOL this has never EVER happened before. Usually theatres are boiling hot.

But this did not mar the joy to behold the Demon Barber on his dark journey. Sweeney still does fly by far too quickly and we have to say that “Johanna” gets better every time we see it. He finds these long notes at places we would never expect them and it is such an impressive display of his enormous talent – how he can hold these notes every night (as our friends assured us he does) and still have a voice at the end of the week we will never know. Again we found numerous little changes in the acting that have happened after we left in July – they are still playing around with it, changing only subtleties but they do make a difference when you have seen the show several times. A wonderful performance from start to finish and another well-deserved standing ovation.

Stage door was relatively quiet as he had guests in and took a while to come out. Still he was every so patient with everyone and we had a lovely good night moment.

A wonderful first day.

Now we are off to get some breakfast before it starts all over again for the final Wednesday.


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