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Ball & Boe Together
29/11/16 @ 04:48:06 am, Categories: Shows, Pre Stage Door, Post Stage Door, General, 1158 words   English (GB)

Like many others we were unsure what to expect from this brand new tour format. Would we see (and maybe more importantly) hear enough of Michael? Would the voices blend as well live as they do on the album? Would the two groups of fans get along? Would they show appreciation for “their man” or both of them?

It’s been the first time in many, many years that we didn’t know at all what to expect in those six shows we booked (by the way, the number of shows is not due to our lack of faith in Michael’s judgment – he has never disappointed us yet – but merely monetarily. You get two for the price of two, not one as reviews happily state, and thus we had to half the number of concerts we normally attend). This, of course, was the whole point of this exercise: to try something new. And boy did it pay off! The album is tremendously successful, even going back to #3 in the mid-week charts when it was on #4 the week before. And booking this tour felt a bit like booking Adele tickets (minus the three hours queue to get through to Ticketmaster perhaps). Even the additional concerts sold out in no time. It’s wonderful to see the two getting all the success they deserve. But we digress.

Our first concert was Manchester on 25 November (Kerstin’s birthday, talk about perfect timing!) and we will stay for what was originally the last week…many, many moons ago. Naturally it is a great shame not to be there for the very last night as they are always so special. But as this merely means they are doing incredibly well with the ticket sales, we won’t complain (too much). We saw him and Alfie arrive fresh from a TV interview and mission birthday photo was accomplished (many thanks, Mr Ball!) and we were actually really giddy when we finally were let into the auditorium (very long queue to get inside the venue). And what a sight the set is! White stage, white grand piano (even the monitors with the lyrics are white!), blood red backdrop made up of a curtain the three large screens and the BB logo in white projected on the red. It looks stunning.

The band includes a string section, too, now and they make the most wonderful sound, very full and slick. Callum is back, of course, but not conducting from the front but at the keyboard as part of the band. Alfie’s MD Murray plays guitar (and is amazing) and is also part of the band.

The open with “Somewhere” and both are off stage for the first few lines and the audiences we have seen have greeted each singer with a massive cheer for his first line. Then they finally appear at the top of their white stairs and the joyride begins. We never knew “Tonight” could be turned into an up-tempo opening number, but oh it definitely can. The golden boys (“Together” has gone gold recently, YAY!) were on fire and you really can tell they are loving every second of this. And the crowds love them back. There is much bromance banter between them and loads of audience interaction. We recommend buying a fleece (you might get a picture or a kiss) or going to the loo mid-show if you want plenty of interaction with the dynamic duo. You get the feeling that anything can happen with those two! A man was made to do a catwalk, parading the merchandise fleece for all of us to admire; the lady next to us needed the loo and was eventually escorted back to her seat by Alfie himself as he went looking for her when it took too long. In Manchester they came down from the stage when an unfortunate gentleman needed the loo and they even took his seat and wanted to sing from the stalls when, alas, he returned. Our advice: don’t be late or leave mid-song if you don’t want their attention. If you do: that’s the best possible means. Naturally this is all done with plenty of humour and laughter. The gentleman who had to parade his fleece was even given a bottle of champagne by Alfie for being such a good sport.

So you have all that the promotion promised in terms of the big BB bromance, but first and foremost you get two consummate artists at the top of their game who do their utmost to entertain us fortunate attendees. The song list is no walk in the park by any means, so a lot of seriously wonderful singing happens, it’s just interspersed with very charming giggle fits (like two naughty schoolboys on a night in town). The sound is very balanced (exceptionally well for a tour, actually) and you can hear both their voices clearly. For us the magic happens when they sing truly together. Their timing is perfect and they are so tuned in into the other that the blend is divine.

The highlights for us are “Gethsemane” (this is a real showstopper, the audience in Manchester wouldn’t calm down for several minutes), the Bond Medley (“Skyfall”! Ball singing Adele, talk about an eargasm…), “A Thousand Years”, the Elvis Medley, the Les Mis Medley….those low notes in “Music of the Night” ever fail to get to us…okay, the whole thing is bloody brilliant. There, we said it.

The only slight criticism: It’s over way too quickly (for us, the two headliners surely disagree). In no time whatsoever they are done with their solos and we are in the middle of the finale. This always comes a slight shock. Time flies quickly when you are having fun.

One thing really is annoying though: When Michael comes on the stage to do “Gethsemane” (all in character, we have never seen it acted out like this, it’s awe inspiringly beautiful) he loosens his tie a little (for those big notes) and invariably some woman or another then feels the need to shout a lewd comment and people will whistle, even when they know the song. And then some people laugh and it really must be hard for him to ignore all that and stay in the mood for the song. So please everyone, hold your horses. There is plenty of opportunity for audience interaction. This just isn’t it.

All our concerns have vanished in smoke. As we said, it’s incredibly well balanced, so you hear both of them clearly, they are on stage the entire time apart from the last two solos, so you see a lot of them and there is no nastiness whatsoever between the two different fan groups.

So if, no, make that WHEN they will be Together Again, count us in. We’ll be the first in the queue to buy tickets (we wish!).

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Missin’ you, kid.
17/09/15 @ 01:52:49 pm, Categories: General, 1891 words   English (UK)

Always when booking multiple dates for a new show there is this utter bewilderment amongst our friends and families: But what if you hate it?? We can shrug this off quite casually. We never hated a single thing we saw of Michael’s. He has exceptionally good taste or just luckily the same as ours. We trust his judgment completely. Now with Mack and Mabel we weren’t so sure as you hear so much about this doomed show. But again we went with our gut feeling and said we’d trust him. How right we were! We actually underestimated how much we would love Mack and Mabel. So at the end of our first trip we began suffering severe withdrawal even before we had seen our last show. In fact, each time we saw it we fell in love with it just little bit more.

To cut a long story short. We ended up adding an extra day (and thus another two performances) to our “end of Chichester run” trip. Only fair as we had to miss the final Saturday. Ages ago Benedict Cumberbatch was announced to perform in Hamlet at the Barbican and we thought: great, Mr. C and the first West End venue of Mr. B. (Les Mis originated there) which we still had not seen - two excellent reasons to try for tickets. Naturally these turnd out to be the hottest tickets in town and were sold out within minutes. Now THAT is a booking experience we don’t want to repeat ever. Think tour ticket booking times ten! Sods law had it that the one day we managed to get tickets for (very last row of the upper circle) later on was announced to be the last day of Mack and Mabel in Chichester. GAH!! But we knew it would be extremely foolish to sell the Hamlet tickets (though we could have made a fortune, of course). But believe us, we did question this decision every time we saw the show and knew we couldn’t be there for the final day.

Why didn’t we write about our trip sooner? We simply did not have the time to do it. We had the lovely Arnoldt family with us in Chichester and met up with other friends, so no chance during (also very patchy wifi situation at the hotel) and after we got home we got straight back to work which was madness these last few days. So now we literally use the first little break to work on it.

Oh how good it was to be back in Chichester! We did not have brilliant seats naturally, as we booked so late, but were extremely lucky to be able to upgrade on the day, as there were some returns. This meant great seats for the matinee, and for the evening performance we were sat on that wonderful aisle Mack walks down at the beginning of the second act. And having him stood next to you mid-performance all focused energy in this beautiful suit and – yes, we know, this next part is sad – to feel the soft vibration of the floor when he is walking down the steps still gives us goosebumps.

Some friends said they were curious to hear how much we liked it now after our “little” gap. We had seen the opening week and now were back for the final week. Gosh, how much we loved it! Even at our first trip everyone was fabulous and we loved it, now though it had evolved so much! Everyone really had settled into their characters. Mostly it was just a slight change in emphasizing certain words, nothing major really, just nuances here and there that did make a big difference though to the feel of the scene. But Rebecca had changed Mabel so much! Mabel now was much more self-assured and sassy. She and Mack were equals now with regards to their determination. He was determined to make people laugh; she was determined to make this difficult man love her as much as she loved him. Mabel is such a great character with this amazing arc from feisty deli-girl to the hugely successful movie star and finally broken actress at the end. Michael and Rebecca made it all feel real for us. What an emotional rollercoaster (that’s us being happy and sad during the show, not an actual rollercoaster throwing a tantrum, just saying in case this lost in translation).

Apart from our leads we have to give a special shout out to Ashley Andrews. For those who have seen the show: he is the dancer that does the bodysurfing over the three huge beach balls during the “Hundreds of Girls” routine (also the writer Mack fires in New York). Such elegance and precision in movement! A true joy to behold. We made it our goal to spot him in every single scene; trickiest is the one with the Keystone Cops. But we managed eventually.

And, it goes without saying – almost, Michael was just brilliant on and off stage and a joy to talk to. Even when he was very poorly one day he took time to chat and have pictures taken. What a star. We hope he made the most of the one week off he had.

Another highlight we have to tell you about though was our backstage tour of the theatre. The Festival Theatre offers these tours regularly and as we love seeing theatres that way we spotted that they offered one on the final Saturday as well. It started at 10:30am and lasted for 1.5 hours in which we were shown the (unglamorous as is the norm) backstage area, the green room which was laid with the original stage flooring from when the theatre opened, the tiny dressing rooms (they don’t have star dressing rooms, all were roughly the same they said, democratic theatre), we saw the wigs, the costumes (they were just working on Michael’s), were told about the history and architecture of the theatre by our fabulous host Harriet. And we got to go behind the stage, see all the sets, which is always incredible. Although we had seen it almost a dozen times on stage there was so much in the sets that never registered. So many little details you never truly see during the show as you tend to be distracted by the storytelling. And the highlight surely was to walk on stage from the wings and getting an idea of what it is like for the cast. Now that is a unique and thrilling experience. Theatres are magical places filled with creative energy even when no performance is on. It was most fantastic (and humbling) feeling to be able to switch perspectives for a change. Little note to everyone who has seen the show there: The top step, when you get down from the stage into the auditorium is really incredibly high! How they ran down into the aisles from up there in the dark without breaking their necks is a minor miracle. We were so sad we couldn’t see the show again after this experience and it gave you a whole new feel for the place. Alas, it was not to be. Surely there will be a next time someday.

However, our time in Hollywoodland was up. We just had time to wave good-bye to Mr. Ball from way back at the stage gate, as we already said good-bye the night before and didn’t want to rob others of the chance and then we were off to London for Hamlet and to meet up with the Arnoldts for dinner.

And that day won’t be forgotten too quickly. It was crazy. We got to the Barbican in good time and decided to collect our evening show tickets early so we’d have time for a relaxed dinner. Thank heavens we did! When they looked up our booking they told us that in all the booking frenzy and amidst system crashes etc. we had had booked tickets for the matinee – which was just having it’s interval as we stood there. We were utterly stunned. Definitely a first for us and no repeat performance planned, thank you very much. Now, while going in we had spotted loads and loads of SOLD OUT signs posted through the vast foyer area. Our hearts sunk. No Mack and Mabel AND no Hamlet?? Resigned we asked the kind lady at the box office for returns on the off chance. She immediately phoned someone more senior then. We were confused. This conversation ended after a few minutes (us calculating whether we could make it back down to Chichester in time) and – miracle of miracles – told us that yes, she actually had a return of two seats next to each other and just had to make sure she was allowed to sell them already. Okay, so we ended up paying the price twice BUT had most amazing seats now in the circle right next to the stage. PHEW! That could have been a disastrous end of our trip otherwise. Hamlet was wonderful, dark, creepy, and intense. Everything we hoped it to be. Mr. Cumberbatch was quite a force of nature. Such presence!

After the show we went to the stage door and even got in second row. We waited almost until 11 and then there he was, signing away and posing for a handful of photos. He must have been exhausted after two three-hour shows but was happy to sign and pose for the waiting crowd.

But our evening was not yet over – oh no: it had only just begun! We got our car out of the car park and we kid you not. The way to our hotel should have taken 15 minutes by foot. At first getting there took well over an hour as the city was crazy mad with traffic AND our sat nav is 10 years old, hence was not QUITE up to speed with the one way streets etc. When we finally got there we were circling our hotel trying to find a car park, but could find nothing (and this was Liverpool Street Station so not out in the woods). Loads of spaces on the streets, but only for permit holders. The only car park we found we could not get to due to millions of building sites and when we finally just took the first one we found we were utterly and truly lost, had no idea where our hotel was and were bone tired. The navigation app of our phone said the hotel was 13 minutes walk away. That was good then. We did so much circling and backtracking that we could have been in Oxford by no, so that was seriously good news. The bad news was that we couldn’t use our car sat nav and the batteries of our mobile phones were down to 8%. We made it to reception with 1% power left and a mere THREE hours after getting into our car. And we are NOT joking. Never been this tired on our lives.

Luckily no more travel nightmares after that. And a tiny hitch like this won’t keep us from going again, of course, so here’s to the next adventure in November when Mack and Mabel are touring Edinburgh. 

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Mack and Mabel Press Night Week
26/07/15 @ 09:03:44 am, Categories: General, 1500 words   English (UK)

It’s always exciting to see Michael in a new show. We usually try not to read too much about the show beforehand as we want to be surprised and open-minded. Basically it might always be a risk to buy tickets for a show before you know what to expect, but then again, we trust Michael in his judgement and he has not disappointed us yet…. Therefore we were not too fazed to keep reading the musical has never been a success before.

The main character and narrator is Mack Sennett. He’s been one of the most successful silent movie directors and discovered Mabel Normand. She swiftly became the star of all his movies and they developed an intimate relationship that rather lacks the classic romantic elements of your average relationship. This is probably best described with the ultimate anti-love song “I won’t send roses". Also you will find that there is no duet between the two leads. In the end the sound film revolutionises the movie industry and makes the big names of the silent movie era obsolete. It is probably appropriate to warn you that there will not be a happy ending.

Once the overture finishes, an old Mack Sennett enters his studios for one last time, wearing a Persian Lamb fur coat and a hat. The days of his biggest successes long gone, he reminisces a different time, when “Movies were Movies”. Mack starts the projector, watching clips of “my Mabel”. When he goes centre stage lighting rigs are pulled up around him, revealing fabric sheets that function as screens. Silent movie scenes are projected with Mack shimmering through the sheets. The effect is as mesmerizing as is Mack’s booming voice. He becomes more and more agitated, as the sheets fall, the coat is gone and suddenly Mack is young again and we are in 1911.

The whole story is told by the old Mack Sennett in flashbacks. Sometimes it’s done with a break between scenes, sometimes Mack would hold up his hand and stop the scenes mid–action, to tell what happened, like a freeze frame in movies. And sometimes he would just switch mid-sentence and even mid-quarrel to the old Mack, telling himself off for behaving so stupidly. Michael shines in these scenes. He makes the transitions believable. His whole stance changes and it is always clear which Mack is standing before us.

The set is simple but very clever. When we drive to California by train, the whole train is there, including smoking chimneys, movement and all is projected on screens at the back of the stage. The same goes for another scene, when Mabel is about to set sail and we are standing in front of a tall transatlantic ship. The mix of theatre and movie magic is, of course, most appropriate.

Other highlights of the shows include the silent movie scenes shot especially for the show. Rebecca LaChance has the perfect face for this era and we would have gladly watched the entire films to the snippets they show us.

And then there is the slaptick element. Most noticably in the Keystone Kops routine but there are many numbers dedicated to this form of comedy - and believe us, they still work! Just as they did then. The audience never failed to respond with Mack’s favourite sound: laughter. Especially the scene of the “Keystone Kops” was breathtakingly choreographed and all those sitting in seats A13/A14 will be in for a little shock, when they become suspects at one point.

The choreography is simply amazing. We were delighted to see that Michael has more dancing to do than we ever expected and with very nimble feet, too. But we knew is is a great dancer, of course.

When it comes to the cast Michael was absolutely right. They are all fantastic and just perfect for their respective roles. There is no weak link. The young ensemble is outstanding, dancing their talented feet off to make sure we all are thoroughly entertained.

You’d expect us to say Michael was fabulous, and yes he was and still is. Just like Sweeney he is able to show off his unique voice, but not only his voice, his acting as well. It breaks your heart, when he says “I cannot lose my Mabel”. You have to be completely cold hearted, when she is all broken in midst of scandals and deep into her drug addiction and he tries to get her back on screen and orders her to “One – turn – two – wipe your eyes – three – smile – four – smile”. The final song (I promise you a happy ending) reminded us very much of the Alone Together (How could I lose you). Equally heartbreaking and sung with exquisit precision.

Michael is funny, cruel, loud, playful and basically becomes Mack Sennett, a difficult and very driven director and producer, who cannot be bothered to fall in love, as romance would slow him down and only detract from his focus: making the world laugh.

Rebecca LaChance is a revelation. Just seeing her makes you believe she has just stepped out of a silent movie. She has the look. She holds the stage on her own. Her voice is so effortless throughout the whole show, eventhough this slender person has to belt out some serious money notes. Also she manages to make us look at her even when Michael is on stage and those who know us will realise what an achievement this is! LOL

As a side remark to her casting: We were at a pre-show talk with Jonathan Church (the director) on our second day and he told the audience about the casting of Mabel, which has to be one of the key factors of the show. There has to be chemistry between the actors playing Mack and Mabel, otherwise it will be difficult to convince the audience. So they searched in the UK, but did not find a suitable young actress. They went to the US and several castings later found Rebecca. She had a great rapport with Michael from the beginning and was not shy or scared in his presence. Essential for the part, of course. A lot of respect, yes, but not so much awe that it gets in the way.

Anna Jane Casey is amazing as Lottie. We’ve read of one critic that she got it all wrong as the role was meant to be mellow and should ground Mack. Casey’s Lottie certainly is different. She gives him as good as she gets and that fits her part and the show just fine, in our humble opinion. She is cynical but not cold. Just a strong woman. And she is an incredible dancer. Her big solo number is “Tap your troubles away” and god did she do that.

As you might remember, we have been lucky enough attend the press night. The second one we have ever been to. We were so eager for everything to go right for this fantastic show and its hard-working cast. But sadly technology let them down badly. The good thing is: None of the reviewers seems to have noticed it! Or at least they didn’t mention it.

We described the opening scene with the projections. It’s a truly impressive opening to the show, fusing musicals and movies. Michael was standing at the side, looking up at the screen and usually a short film sequence of the young Mabel comes up. But nothing happened. He waited for a beat but then did the only thing he could: go on with the show. Once the lighting rigs were pulled up the projection started, but then stuck and instead of a movie, we only got some scattered stills, which were better than nothing. The projections later in the show worked (thank heavens!) but it was such a shame as this opening scene really is impressive and sets the tone so beautifully. Naturally it has worked at all previous shows and all of the following. Just not at press night. Sod’s law.

There were several sightings of famous people we have seen over the days. Of course Cathy and Callum were there for Press Night. We also spotted Lenny Henry in the audience the day after Press Night. On Monday we saw Jason Carr and Jonathan Kent (pianist and director of “Alone Together”).

Our verdict:

Mack and Mabel is a fabulous show. It has everything anyone could possibly want: sweeping ensemble numbers, touching solos, AMAZING dancing, outstanding singing, a fantastic band and score plus a few film scenes thrown in on top. The music and the cast are outstanding. Everyone really should go and see it. Actually we really recommend to see the show at least twice. No, we are not paid by the producers, but the one thing we learned was that everyone enjoyed the second time even more than the first. So go online or get to the theatre and get your tickets. Now!

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Mack and Mabel Stage Doors (July 2015)
25/07/15 @ 07:29:49 am, Categories: Pre Stage Door, Post Stage Door, 533 words   English (UK)

What a week we had with our Dr. Ball OBE. Can you tell we were rather busy. So busy in fact, that we did not manage to put up even a single blog entry, while we were in Chichester.

Okay, so the good news is we won’t bother you with our travel stories (delayed flight to London, then 45 minutes wait for the luggage etc. etc.), we won’t moan for ages for having missed Michael leave on Friday by a mere 3 minutes. No, we won’t. Instead we will cut to the chase: the stage doors.

One of the questions that’s most people asked was: what about the stage door? Since Sweeney they had a complete refurbishment of the Festival Theatre, meaning some of the outbuildings were torn down and rebuild and the outer area re-structured. They made a beautiful job of it and I am sure the stars of the shows will really appreciate the changes. The stage door area is completely fenced off. There is a small path at the side of the theatre, where the cast can enter by foot and there is a huge gate and drive, leading to a parking area, where Michael (and, of course, every other star they have) can park his car. The fence gives them some security and safety towards overeager fans.

So what is different really? We kept sitting on the benches close to the stage door area and we would see Michael drive around the corner. Then we all walked over to the driveway. He would pull over, lower the window and wait for us there to have a chat. A nice half circle always formed and we could talk to him while he sat in his car. The people who’d want a photo could have one, the same went for signatures and so on. Once the people had it, they would rejoin the circle. It’s always been such a relaxed affair and once done Michael would drive inside and we’d leave him alone. Plus side: there was no pushing and shoving and everyone who wanted to talk to him had a fair chance to do so. Downside: we could only ever see him through the window. Crying shame as he used to wear shorts and trust us, he is looking so slim and trim, we would have given a lot for a full body photo. However, we are quite sure Michael enjoys these “drive-thru stage doors” tremendously as it means, no one is really able to grab him or touch him at places no one wants to be touched at by strangers. Unfortunately there will always be those who get carried away and won’t respect limits.

After the shows Michael usually got out of the side exit to sign stuff and pose for photos. We don’t want to flash him though and therefore don’t have any photos of those occasions. Everyone waiting for him would be served. Then he will get back into the car and drive off and we could wave him good-bye. I sincerely hope people will stay as relaxed and it can stay like that for the rest of the run.

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Final Days of Tour 2015
05/04/15 @ 10:33:36 am, Categories: General, 1999 words   English (US)

Cardiff (29 April) Portsmouth (2 May) – Southampton (3 May)

First of all sorry for the delay in writing the blogs for the last three concerts, but somehow we did not have the time to sit down apart from doing the photos.

So, let us transport you back to Cardiff last Wednesday. We arrived early checked in and decided to look for some coffee place to have late breakfast and write the blog. The first place was too busy for us, so we walked on and found a lovely Costa. Julia secured a fab table at the corner with views all over the pedestrian zone, while Kerstin got everything else. Just back at the table some lovely Costa Barrista came over to tell us they accidentally dropped one of the rolls, but will do it again and asked if we’d like to have something in the meantime. That was nice, but I declined. Four minutes later he arrived back with the freshly heated all new roll and a little note telling me I had a free drink on them for their mishap. Great customer service.

Little did we know our day would soon take a turn for the even better. Those who follow us on Facebook will already know, for those who don’t…. We were sitting there, setting the laptop up, when Julia suddenly spotted a certain person walking down the street towards us. Yup, Mr. Michael Ball was strolling through Cardiff. We sat there, stared and could not believe it. Somehow these things never happened to us. Due to our prime seat, we could watch him for quite some time and no, we did not run after him. Although we later on entertained the thought of either dashing out and leaving all our valuables at the table or grabbing everything like mad, dashing out, two bags, laptops and ideally heated bread rolls in head to greet him, wheezing (us not him). No, we looked and enjoyed our lovely view as long as we could. We would never dare to follow him, approach him just like that or even take a photo from inside. Especially the last one is so not on!

When the stage door time came, we walked over to the stage ramp as we call it. Usually Michael drives just past in his bus and waves and that’s it. This time however, we knew through seeing him that he was already in town and would there be any point in him being driven to the venue by bus? Maybe not. Long discussions among us and finally it was decided to walk to the front door and hope for the best.

Our large group was miraculously rewarded. Just five minutes after arriving there, we saw Mr. Ball once again walking down the street, see photos on our website. We were a bit shocked and amazed to hear that at Bristol some lady flashed him during party time and we are not talking about photos here. We can safely say it was none of us. LOL

The Show

The audience was great. Uncle Tom was in the audience as well. Michael mentioned that he had very fond memories of the St. Davids Hall as he performed two of his first four concerts there. He started with Swansea, then two in Cardiff and another one in a place we did not understand.

We are not sure, if we mentioned in the past blogs that Michael registered under the name of Frances Spencer, when he applied for the open audition of Phantom of the Opera during his Michael Crawford story.

The audience was great, but at least where we were sitting not as lively as we would have hoped for Cardiff.

Two Days without Michael
Instead of driving on to Plymouth the next day, we decided early on to leave this show and drive to London instead for two days. We always wanted to see Imelda in Gypsy, since we first heard she was doing it in Chichester. It was tough, when we checked the available seats for Michael’s concert and then we saw fourth row, dead centre in the stalls on the aisle was available. We proudly announce that our conviction wavered, but we remained strong.

Before that we planned to see Miss Saigon in the afternoon. Due to several traffic jams on the M4 and of course slow going traffic in London we arrived closer to performance time than hoped, but we made it. We were quite saddened by the whole story, which was really tough and just so glad we had Gypsy in the evening to look out for. Honestly, this poor woman and all these horrid men. Amazing talent on stage though! But the poor chap who was the romantic lead….well, he didn’t know it, of course, but for us he was singing a duet with Mr Michael Ball as we had only the night before heard himself sing “Last Night of the World” in perfection and let’s put it this way: BOY did we look forward to hearing Michael sing it again!

That show was amazing and we have to admit we were quite surprised to know most of the tunes, although we had never seen the show or heard a cast recording. Needless to say, we were equally surprised to hear “I’m a pretty girl Mama”. A phrase that was also used in the finale of Hairspray. So we finally understood the nod to Gypsy. To do some celebrity spotting, we shared the audience with Jimmy Carr (British comedian and TV presenter), who was seated in the box. Imelda was breathtakingly fabulous.

Our London trip ended with Ruthie Henshall in Billy Elliott. Another fabulous show we certainly have not seen for the last time. When we went there early to collect our tickets we received a paper explaining that all theatres had to do an emergency evacuation exercise. This meant, we were asked to remain on our seats after the show. The cloakroom would be closed and the toilets would be closed afterwards. So, just when the curtain call finished, the manager entered the stage, mentioned that piece of paper and then said they had to terminate the performance and we should quietly, but quickly move out of the building and follow the instructions of the staff.

Saturday – Portsmouth

After we got up, we heard the news, that the Duchess of Cambridge was in labour. When we were on the road to Portsmouth we finally had the news, that there was a new little, still unnamed princess. Awwww.

Once more we were rather early and as our hotel room was not really THAT inviting (aka rather small going on tiny) we decided, we might as well do the stupid thing and walk to the Guildhall. The security guard told us they would not expect Michael before 4pm. As you can imagine we stayed and only half an hour later the tour bus drove around the corner and reversed though gates, which are merely wide enough to let the bus pass without damage. Luckily we don’t have to get that huge vehicle through that gap.

One side of the gate closed again, but Michael was nice enough – as always – to walk back to us. What followed then was the conveyor belt of photo opportunities. Michael stood at the open gate and fans asked for photos. When they had theirs taken they gave space for the next eager person. This went on for some time. There was no pushing, no shoving and the atmosphere was so lovely. Michael really took his time and everyone who wanted got their photo.

We should add, that it was not raining. It usually does, when we stand at the stage door in Portsmouth. At least it’s one of two places which are strongly connected to the wettest stage door experience in our history.

For the show we had fabulous seats. Third row, dead center, what more can a girl wish for. The reception was amazing, certainly one of the best concerts we had seen on the tour. We were just so sad that after this only one was left. Michael mentioned at the end that his mum was in and we are sure she must have been so proud of him.

When we left the building to wait at the stage door once more it was raining, of course it was. It would not have been Portsmouth without any rain.

Southampton

For the last concert we did not really feel as if we had to change cities as the drive was so short. This meant we were early in our hotel and could not check in. WE will not go into the whole saga of getting a room, just to let you know we managed to get to the stage door in time.

As it was a bank holiday weekend Sunday and the last night of the tour, we’d expected it to be crowded and it was. Michael arrived early , got out of the coach and made a dash from us all to escape. Hearing the gasps he stopped, laughed and walked over to the waiting fans. Once more he obliged all photograph requests.

When he got closer to us he said “See you all in Sweeney!”. Stunned silence until people tentatively said “Mack and Mabel?”. He gasped, looked horrified and said “Oh God and that’s how tired I am. Didn’t you know I’d do Sweeney again!” We would not mind, but we all bought tickets for something else . This coined a new phrase for us “I’m Sweeney-tired!”

The whole day was tinged with End of tour melancholy as you might imagine. You felt excited for the concert, but sad as everything would be done for one last time. WE will never get used to it, although we know of course, that this is the way things go.

The stage was huge , much bigger, than we remembered. In Bristol for example he hardly had room to move just one foot and here he could move and dance just like he wanted as he had a huge gap between the edge of the stage and the musicians.

Once more Empty Chairs was a show stopper and the applause hardly ceased. He looked a bit teary eyed at this.

The audience was great. Everyone dashed a bit early at the beginning of Roar instead of the middle of the song. We had a great time, partying close to the stage. Imagine our surprise, when all we expected to be left was Love changes everything and suddenly some other sounds started. They did another encore song, in fact he did one of our most favourite songs with “Bad Things”. Adrian later on told us, that this was a very VERY last minute decision, but you really could not tell they hardly had time to rehearse and they even managed to put up an individual video for the back curtain. Quite impressive.

Needless to say, the audience was amazing. More than one person - on and off stage - was in tears by the end of it.

What can we say. Another tour gone. Another day of post-tour blues. Another two-year wait until it all starts again. Yes, we have Mack and Mabel to look forward to (and thank god for that! Otherwise leaving the UK would be unbearable) but a tour is always different. It’s not only the concerts but the travelling, the meeting with friends all over the country, the different venues, the post-concert meet ups. We know he worked incredibly hard to ensure we have an unforgettable time and REALLY earned his rest – but in a very small selfish part of our hearts we wish it could go on forever. Have to win the lottery first though….

Thank you to everyone who made this extra special – you know who you are. See you soon at some windy stage door.

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