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Sweeney Todd - 14 October 2011
10/15/11 @ 03:39:44 am, Categories: Shows, Pre Stage Door, 321 words   English (US)

Another fabulous night at the Barber’s yesterday. No Stephen Sondheim sadly, but he will be in next week we were told.

Stage door was good fun and we got our photo with Mr Todd. Mmmh all mean and glowering.

Unfortunately the pics came with a price. When Kerstin handed the camera to Julia the first bunny let it drop and while it’s still working it’s literally broken at the battery compartment. Great, not. Fingers crossed it can be repaired.

Totally overwhelmed again. Our final front row (for this run). There is no being too close for this show. The stage is very low and it is appropriately terrifying to be so close to those razor blades. This time it felt even more intense (lots of heavy breathing down Imelda’s microphone after Epiphany – chills down our spines!). No laughter at the death scene but instead (hooray!) a very impressed audience yet again.

We cannot believe the week has gone so fast. Only two more shows and then it’s packing time. At least it is a nice day. Sun is out (it’s cold though). And naturally we do keep our fingers crossed for Wales this morning.

Just like every day of the week we woke up with Sweeney tunes in our heads. At least it’s Worst Pies in London now and not the very life-affirming line “We all deserve to die! Even you Mrs Lovett, even I!”. While this number (it’s from Epiphany) is the absolute highlight of the show, it really does not help to cheer you up in the mornings.

Wouldn’t it be dreamy to get a DVD recording of this production (and an original Chichester cast recording while we’re at it)? We know this is not what happens with musicals these days and how theatre is all about being transient, but it would definitely deserve to be captured for posterity.

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Sweeney Todd - 13 October 2011
14/10/11 @ 04:11:04 am, Categories: Shows, Pre Stage Door, Post Stage Door, 1212 words   English (GB)

Yesterday’s stage door was a short but sweet affair. We managed to ask him whether he’d be part of the post-performance discussion that was planned for this night. No, he said. Well, shame, as we thought it would have been interesting but you didn’t want to miss out on waving him good night, right? Okay, we are sure this is something only fellow fans will be able to understand. Ah well, we had a lovely post-stage door chat at the theatre bar next door and were soon back with Mr T and Mrs L.

If anything the show gets better with each viewing. There is always something new to discover and words simply cannot describe the sheer brilliance of Michael’s performance. Leaves us breathless and shaken every single time.

A special mention must go to the stunning visuals of the show. The lighting is superb and it really feels like watching an epic movie up for the Oscar for best photography. Some of the pictures they created (him backlit, a towering silhouette above the audience) will stay with us forever. No doubt about that.

Scene applause again for Epiphany. We are torn on that one, as there is really no question as to whether he deserves this (a revelation indeed), but it is interrupting a very tense moment. At least no laughter at Sweeney’s death this time.

So what to do now. Throughout the entire interval there had been loads of discussions whether we would all stay for the post-show talk or leave for the stage door. What if he did appear after all? Why wouldn’t they let us wave him good bye and then back in again? What to do, what to do? Our little group gathered in the auditorium for a quick pow wow after the final bravos of the evening. Word had it that he was doing it after all, so we gladly rushed back to our seats…to find them blocked by people who had moved forward a few rows. We all apologized and said that we had merely been talking to our friends down the aisle and most of the people moved back to their own seats or took one of the other vacant ones but not so much luck for Bunny Kerstin. The lady on her place refused to move. We had left our seats full stop. Heated discussion ensued and even an usher had trouble persuading the lady to take up one of the other seats. Not a lot of love around us after this intermezzo. Her friends were quite put out we fear, but come one, we had merely wanted to sit down again after having been away for 1 minute. And we were also sitting with friends.

Anyways, the cast appeared on stage to big applause (really many of them were so kind to spend a little while longer with us). When Michael came on stage the substantial crowd erupted into massive cheers. He did look rather delicious in purple shirt and jeans (no socks…mmmh). We were allowed to ask questions then. Many good questions from the audience. Imelda had brought her cute little dog (“This is Molly with her carer,” introduced Mr Ball LOL). Were they inspired by the movie, er no, not really did it look like it? The idea to set it in more modern times was to make it more relatable for a modern audience and also to shake off all the ghosts of past productions or indeed the movie. They had an incredibly short rehearsal period of 5 weeks to get to this perfection (Michael and Imelda had rehearsed an extra week together before this). Many young actors in the audience who wanted advise on auditions and getting into character. Really insightful replies by Imelda an all the others. Did they know they had a hit when still in rehearsals. You could tell they all thought yes, they did really, but didn’t want to sound too self-absorbed so went for they knew it when they had the audience in for the first time.

A daring question on the temperamental chute (some victims were rather hesitant to slide down into the bakehouse). They explained how the blood is based on sugar and is a very sticky affair. So at one point, when one poor victim was indeed stuck in the middle (we had seen this show) Michael told us all how eventually a hand came up from below and pulled the actor down and out of sight. And he had to remain singing throughout the entire drama! LOL mind you, as we said, we had been present at the incident and you couldn’t see the tiniest hint of a flicker of irritation on his face or hear it in his voice. That’s a true professional for you.

Another question surrounded the blood flow during the killings. As sometimes you hardly see a drop and at other times it’s splashing around like a broken water pipe. The guy who plays Sweeney’s first nameless victim explained the situation. When they started rehearsing with the blood they all had belts that made them look like suicide bombers, including blood packs and battery packs and so on. They needed to push a button and the blood was supposed squirt. At the beginning it merely trickled and then exploded into Michael’s face. Now they do this mechanically in a way. Actually he did not completely reply to this question.

There was lots of praise on stage and off stage for the actors, the musical direction, the sound design and the set. Michael explained how important the sound design was for the show as they did not use the existing system of the Festival Theatre, but had something individually designed installed. It’s rather complicated but there seem to be many small speakers that are individually controlled.

Then he continued to talk about the emotional impact of the opening scene, when he is still hidden from view and hears the almost operatic intro from the ensemble. He said the soundwaves hit you and what an amazing moment it is, when the entire cast calls out to him (“Sweeney, Sweeney…!”). So, if we ever get the chance…. This earned him a big laugh. As if they’d ever give us the chance to sit on that chair in turn…. We wish!

It was over all too soon, but they had all been very generous with their spare time.

At the stage door afterwards there was this huge crowd of acting school students and we thought he’d never get out of there, but just like in Rugby, where there is a huge huddle of players and the ball sometimes escapes unnoticed, he appeared in front of us after just a few moments and waved good night. How he did it, we will never know! The cast then went into the bar of the opposite Minerva theatre. So this was our clue to go. It’s really not the done thing to wait for him after he said good-bye. Did not stop some though.

The sun is shining in Chichester today and we cannot believe it’s Friday already. We’ll get back to you soon.

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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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Southampton - 19 June 2011
06/19/11 @ 11:52:53 am, Categories: Pre Stage Door, 269 words   English (US)

Touring can be mad at times… well most times. In these past three days, the schedule took us from Portsmouth ( A ) to Bristol ( B ) and then to Southampton ( C ).

For both trips we chose to drive via Bath and Salisbury on the A36 and strongly recommend that route to anyone who wants to see a bit of scenic England.

Anyway, we’re back at the coast and we’ve been here before. We came and visited Edna in May 2010 and not much has changed, apart from one vital bit: The stage door is on the other side of the building now! But luckily we have wonderful fan friends who informed us of this innovation the night before.

We got there nice and early and watched the ominous dark grey clouds gather. The buses arrived shortly after four pm and then nothing happened for 15 minutes. We thought this is odd, when suddenly he appeared at the bus doors and stood there chatting to his crew for a few seconds before anyone really noticed him. We all cottoned on quickly though and he apologised and explained that he had to finish watching a movie in the bus. Surely it must be odd knowing that there are 30 women waiting outside your tour bus to watch you walk into a building while you are immersed in watching a movie.

We can happily inform you that although the clouds grew darker by the minute while he was finishing his movie it remained dry until the second he was out of sight! Perfect timing! Enjoy the photos and we will get back to you after the concert.

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