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Sweeney Todd - 12 October 2011
10/13/11 @ 02:49:42 am, Categories: Shows, Pre Stage Door, Post Stage Door, 431 words   English (US)

The best thing about matinee days in autumn is that the stage door is in enough daylight for photos. When he usually arrives around 6 pm it gets a bit tricky, especially when there are clouds. Okay, so we had drizzle but are used to this now.

We keep wondering how he can do it twice in a row though. It’s such a demanding role, vocally but also emotionally. As you might have seen in his tweet he was not exactly jubilating at the prospect…but of course you could not tell that during the performances. Not even remotely. It was all there, tenderness, fierce fury, transformation from angry husband to vengeful god.

Audiences were a bit weird. No lack of enthusiasm or anything. Quite the contrary, we dare say the matinee crowd was the most enthusiastic we had so far. There was even scene applause after Epiphany (which STILL scares the hell out of us!). Well-deserved of course, but we feel that it’s not meant to be there as the music continues at the end of the song until the scene progresses. But they did laugh in the most peculiar places. We are now used to people laughing during Mrs Lovett’s death scene – but honestly people: laughing when Sweeney is killed?? I mean, he cradles his dead wife (killed by his own hand) and then embraces death by his own knife in the hands of a confused boy – where is the humor in that? Yes, okay, Germans are not famous for their sense of humor, but come on, surely there cannot be fun in a devastatingly sad scene such as this?

But anyhow, the applause at the end was rapturous and everyone loved it, so that was good.

No laughter at Sweeney’s death in the second show (phew!) but lots of gasps of horror and excited whispering all around us. You couldn’t tell it was the second show of the day, everyone seemed so fresh and gosh, is he a force to be reckoned with. We were still thoroughly enjoying every second of the show and this has been our sixth Sweeney. It just HAS to transfer. A mere 6 weeks is not nearly enough. Everyone should have the chance to see this. So keep your fingers (and toes) tightly crossed.

The poor thing looked sooo tired when he came out afterwards so no one kept him for long. He gave us all a royal wave from his beautiful car and here we are now. Only 4 more Sweeneys left this trip…we need a transfer date please!

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Sweeney Todd - 10 October 2011
11/10/11 @ 02:54:10 am, Categories: Shows, Pre Stage Door, 916 words   English (GB)

We have spent the day in beautiful, beautiful Chichester. We have loved the place for many years and are very happy indeed to have a reason now to spend a whole week at the south coast. Many thanks to Mr Ball for that!
We were much too early at the stage door but at least we had fun company and the wait would not have been a problem if it hadn’t been for a fierce wind that started t pick up in the afternoon. When we left our flat it was really warm (too warm for a jacket) but at the back of the theatre it was freezing cold after a while. Ah well, no on forces us to stand there for….let’s just say a long, long while. LOL

The crowd was smaller than Saturday (no surprise there). When Michael arrived he was on the phone in his car and very kindly finished the conversation before getting out to us (he could easily have gotten out, shrugged apologetically, waved and walked straight in). But naturally you want to give him some privacy, so we were standing there looking everywhere except for the car for several minutes. So imagine us all standing there trying desperately not to look at the very person we all came to do a proper looking at. Welcome to the twilight zone. LOL As always he took his time (and gosh is he looking fiiiine . A bit like Alex form Aspects with a beard. So THAT’s what has become of the boy – a serial killer.

Not much time for anything else after the stage door, so we rushed home, did the photos and changed.
Can we trust you with a secret? When we booked the tickets for this trip we thought we must have finally lost it. Everyone kept saying what a sad, sinister and depressing show Sweeney Todd was an we decided to spend the last few days of our year’s holiday seeing the show 8 times in one week (plus the two shows on Saturday when we arrived, so 10 time all in all this trip). We were sure we would need anti- depressants afterwards. And now guess what: we could not wait to be back in the theatre, to hear the first notes again, to enjoy the privilege of seeing a masterpiece in very able hands. The tunes stay with you and are very melodic in their melancholic beauty, the staging is just perfect (we feel very, very fitting for a West End stage) and we already dread having to fly home again, and then having only 2 shows left. 12 Sweeneys won’t be enough. It’s addictive!
So there we were again in the company of this haunting, terrifying, handsome stranger on stage.

Once you get over the shock of the gruesome story (yes, they really ARE discussing selling pies with human filling etc. etc.) you can begin to relate to Mrs Lovett finding a dark but compelling beauty in this desperate man. And the sadness…on the brink of tears we watched him mourn the loss of his wife and daughter on his knees (such a powerful gesture of resigned sorrow) and transform from avenger to merciless serial killer. There was a definitive urge to reach out and comfort him at one point, but we would never have Mrs Lovett’s courage to touch him while he’s holding a hungry razor blade ready to strike. Just to clarify, we STILL move as far backwards as the seats allow us when he gets all angry and bloodthirsty (utter terror when he is beginning to circle Mrs Lovett in the finale, really, this is utmost terrifying. A man turned predator.). Just because you can appreciate the beauty in the beast doesn’t mean you lose perspective. This is a deadly man and you would not survive his company long. So we enjoy sitting in the safety of the dark auditorium – spellbound and deliciously horrified at the same time.

It was another great night out and we could hear the people behind gasping in shock and fear every now and then. Always a good sign. And indeed the entire cast received a rousing applause and many bravos at the end. It’s a bit of a relief every time you see him smile at the “curtain call” (there is no curtain at the Festival Theatre), a genuine, warm smile. Not this cold, merciless smile of a stranger.

When it comes to audience reaction it is fascinating to see how people react to being afraid: whenever there is only the hint of an opportunity to do so, people will laugh with all their relieved might. Naturally Mrs Lovett’s character offers many a chance for this but it is the relieved laughter people display at the smallest hint of humor coming from Mr. Todd that is endearing.

What a privilege to be there and behold this breathtaking performance and to be able to go again and again. We would have regretted it not booking tickets for all the shows and one more trusting in Michael’s judgment paid off. He knows his stuff, we know we like his stuff, so we book it, whatever it is. This has been our policy since the Donmar all those years ago and we were never disappointed.

More sightseeing today and then it’s back to the theatre for another rendezvous with Mr. Todd (maybe it’s best to be wearing a scarf…).

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Bristol - 18 June 2011
18/06/11 @ 07:56:04 pm, Categories: Shows, Pre Stage Door, Post Stage Door, Travel, 706 words   English (UK)

Took the scenic A36 to Bristol instead of the quicker, but more boring motorway. Got there with plenty of time, met up with Angela and family and eventually joined the other fans at the stage door.

The Colston Hall has several back doors, so we were relieved that the others had sussed out, where he would go in. At roughly 20 to five he came walking up the street, tour bus safely parked at the curve. He took his time with everyone and even held a baby of one of the fans. That was so cute.

We spent the rest of the day with Angela and her lovely family and time jsut flew by. For this concert we had tickets in row G and had been busy moaning about being so far back, but you know what? Those were excellent seats, we were in the centre, surrounded by lots of fan friends and all in all had a much better view than from row C on the side in Portsmouth.

From the final Hairspray show we knew the Bristol crowd could make some noise and we were not disappointed.

Quite a few flashes went off (although were we were sitting, it was not as bad as it has been at Portsmouth) and we got the group flash again. This is a fabulous idea and we had already liked it in 2005. Sadly not everyone got it and there were still several flashes going off through the next song, but after that it got much better.

The New York Medley got a great reception with lots of applause after every single sequent. Certainly a highlight for us. Again Michael said they would be all so young, attractive and stars of the future and again he wondered “What the hell am I doing? I must be out of my mind!”

He also told us all that he had met Barry Manilow, when Michael was hosting the Laurence Olivier Awards.

After the interval Michael re-appears on top of the stage at the end of the Sunset Boulevard Overture. This is a quite dramatic entrance as he is already full in character, performing “As if we never said goodbye". Tonight however the audience got a bit distracted. Due to the confined stage Michael had to make his entrance through the opening in the middle of the starry curtain. And his microphone was already on, when they parted it and you could clearly hear the ripping sound of the velcro strips. But this was only a moment of laughter, then everyone listened in awe.

He praised the Bristol crowd for having given Hairspray and Edna the perfect send-off and then talked about Sweeney a bit, saying he was really, really nervous about it, which led to a lady from the circle shouting something encouraging to him and he said he wished he could hear it and took out one of his ear monitors and actually had a quick conversation from stage to circle. It was quite hilarious.

Party time again saw people running to the stage for “Avenues and Alleyways". A security guy sent about two people back, but then gave up and a few latecomers joined the crowd during “A pencil full of lead". By then the audience just went wild. Sometimes during “Help Yourself” it felt like Lady’s Night at a high end night club! Bristol really loves Michael and it’s always a joy to see him getting the reaction he deserves. We like a noisy crowd.

The person who designed the light show really deserves a special mention. For the first time during this tour we could fully appreciate staging. The set with its many clever lights seems like one of the performers. It has its own role to play and sets the tone beautifully. These lights can be anything, fromt he star-spangled banner to the skyscrapers of New York, but also a dramatic Sunset. Quite amazing.

This reception must surely have meant even more to him as Cathy was in the audience tonight.

And it did not rain. What more can a fan ask for? Tomorrow we’ll head back down to the coast for the Southampton gig. Another Hairspray venue, so we expect a lot of noise again. YAy.

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Portsmouth - 17 June 2011
17/06/11 @ 07:16:59 pm, Categories: Shows, 532 words   English (GB)

We have been looking forward to this concert as Portsmouth is always so very enthusiastic seeing that Michael is a “homey” (his second home is just a few miles down the road). The fact that it had finally stopped to rain was an added bonus.

This time we had seats at the side and it was an intersting change of perspective. Portsmouth did not disappoint. He got a very warm welcome and the crowd seemed determined to love whatever he was giving them. We love these kinds of concerts.

In contrast to the previous shows we’ve been to there were many flashes going off during the first few songs, which must have annoyed Michael quite a bit as he then said he’d forgotten to make an announcement. He asked to refrain from using mobile phones, recording devices and flash photography. Instead he re-introduced the classic “group flash". This means that he asked everyone to get their cameras out and promised he would pose for one shot. The ensuing thunderstorm of flashlights when he poses looked really rather pretty. A few still kept going on and he told individuals off for flashing him.

While introducing “Misty” and mentionning the uncanny similarities between Michael’s and Clint Eastwood’s characters life (both have their own radio show) Michael announced that Sunday Brunch would be back from 3 July! YAY!

As a side remark: Michael mentionned he first saw Tom Jones live in Portsmouth.

After finishing the New York medley and having introduced his five guest singers he remarked how they were all good-looking and younger than he was. “What the hell am I doing sharing the stage with them!?!”

Talking about being now “Bessie mates Bazza Manilow” and him having lent Michael the sparkly show biz jacket he joked “Yeah I wish I could get into anything of this” (awww).

In the second act, when he had finished the Les Mis section he said he could still be Marius, if “you (the audience) are a mile away". We learned that rehearsals for Sweeney Todd would start really soon. Exciting times!

The rest of the evening went swimmingly, except for one thing. Most people ran to the front straight after “Somebody to love". Could we here now please start a petition to officially start party time with “Avenues and Alleyways"? It is an uptempo song, everyone thinks it’s the beginning of Party time anyway and you end up way behind everyone for waiting until “Pencil full of lead". Please let us run for “Avenues and alleyways".

But anyways, everyone was having a great time. He received tumultous applause and seemed truly happy with the reception he got. He told us all how this was a special evening as it was the first “Michael Ball concert” for his nephew and niece, who were sat in the circle. They sure seemed to have a great time.

They could not have picked a better venue for their premiere and boy did he deliver. Another brilliant, amazing, fantastic, super tour concert. And when we all waved his bus off it still was not raining, bliss!

So off to do it all again tomorrow in Bristol. Let’s see if he gets them too!

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Elected? Arrested? What an evening!
07/25/10 @ 07:11:21 am, Categories: Shows, 599 words   English (US)

This got your attention, did not it? ;D

Much to our surprise our seats were not only in the front row of the stalls, but in the very centre. Wow, it felt like being back at the Shaftesbury.

It was great to be back where the action was. It is incredible what a big difference a change of perspective makes. We know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but for us there is nothing better than seeing the show up close and personal. Especially as a certain housewife was on a roll yesterday. Sometimes you just know that Michael has guests in the audience. It was a joy to watch. Edna on speed. Michael later confirmed our assumption saying that his parents had been in tonight.

Everything went swimmingly until we got to “Timeless To Me”. When Edna discusses with Wilbur that Hallmark does not do cards with names “for women who have abandoned their daughters who gotten themselves arrested for trying to integrate s sop hop type television show” (imagine having to say that sentence very very quickly without breathing and try it at home) something historical happened: Michael got it wrong. At some point mid-sentence it all became gobbledegook. The audience almost died laughing and once he had recovered a bit he started a second attempt. “What I wanted to say was: There are names for women who abandoned their daughters who gotten themselves elected….. Oh I can’t remember it!” It was hysterical. Wilbur replied “You can’t worry about people calling you names!” And Edna inserted “I certainly won’t now!” When usually she kept quiet until he finished his sentence. As you can imagine everyone went wild during the actual song. As Michael correctly says: the audience loves it when things go wrong. At the very end when Edna begs Wilbur to be strong, because he’s giggling behind her Michael added “It’s gone bad enough already” More laughter.

It was a magical night. And all around us we had people who had never seen the show before and were in complete awe. An older gentleman on the left of us kept repeating “Wonderful, fantastic” throughout the entire show. We still are a bit envious on those who can see it for the first time and feel so very privileged to have seen so many shows.

The stage door afterwards was manic. Actually so much so that Andrew policed the crowds and asked that those who already had their signature or photo would please move to the back so that others had the same chance. Michael was in high spirits and promised “I will do you all!”. Now that got a few cheers. A quite ambitious plan. Sadly though he stuck to giving autographs and posing for photos. Not the “doing” we all had in mind. We said our goodbyes and watched him disappear into the night. This was it. No more Hairspray until November.

On a personal note: we have survived the night in our “hotel”. Okay, so we had to move the pillows to the foot end and sleep the other way around, because the mattress was damaged and we did not dare use the shower and we don’t want to know the origin of all the hairs on the bed, but we live. Still we checked out rather early and arrived at the airport four hours before our flight departs, but well, it was our little adventure.

Our next blog will probably be about the recording of Michael’s TV show on September 9th. See you soon.

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