WE got back to London on Tuesday and saw our first Sweeney after the opening night from the last row oft he Upper Circle (by choice!). since Chitty we have had the habit to see a show from different perspectives as you tend to find new bits and pieces here and there, depending on where you’re sitting. The view was very good actually and the sound up there is immaculate. We were quite impressed. There was a large group of school children, well teenagers, but young teenagers, sitting in front of us and they were incredibly well behaved and really into the show. We do hope however that the teachers will discuss the very challenging scenes at a later date (after all there’s murder, rape and child abuse to cover). We admit to having wondered whether they should have put up a firm age limit, but then again the youngsters today are made from much sterner stuff than we were, when we were as young.
Even up there we noticed slight modifications in the routines. It is all settled nicely now and everyone seems ready to experiment with their character a bit. It’s great to see Mrs Lovett getting more and more tactile with the emotionally remote Mr. Todd and we are just so jealous. This lucky woman, well, not in the end obviously…. The crowd was very enthusiastic and even warranted a second round of bows from everyone.
Today, well yesterday now, well on Wednesday we experienced the polar opposite and were lucky enough to sit in the stalls. Completely different experience of course for the matinee at least, because for the evening show we were back in the Upper Circle (not by choice this time, but we really can recommend the first three rows of the Upper Circle, the view is excellent, you can still see the faces, just the leg room is a bit limited).
The show is still as wonderful as it was back in March. It got even better now and we did not think that possible. Epiphany tonight was out of this world. Terrifying and mesmerizing. How he managed this twice in one day is beyond us. We just felt in complete awe to witness such talent and we know we are very privileged to be able to see the show as often as we do.
What was funny about tonight’s performance, we were up in the goods, as we said, and this time surrounded by a class of much older school children (probably 16 – 17) from Austria. We were quite curious to see how they reacted to the show. And you could tell they were quite unsettled in the Judge’s self-flagellation scene. It’s always intriguing to witness in every audience so far that watching this always gets a more emotional reaction that watching gruesome killings. So the feeling of shame seems to override the shock of murder. Quite intriguing really, but anyways….
During the interval we heard the kids speaking and nearly all of them complained that they could not understand a word of the dialogues and that there was too little blood. So they thought it was boring. We almost wanted to search for the teacher and ask them how they could choose this musical without going through the lyrics and vocabulary first. Such a waste and shame. Sondheim is very wordy and loosing out on these brilliant lyrics is just a tragedy. Luckily they did not fidget and actually did applaud loudly in the end. So we hope the music won them over after a while.
Sorry to bore you with audience observations, but really, what can be said about the show that has not been said before? Imelda and Michael are just outstanding. And everyone else as well. It gets repetitive. No obvious glitches, just the bodies sliding down ever so slowly now and then, but they all vanished eventually.
The arrival stage door today was lovely. A small crowd, no rain, a very handsome Ball (see photos for proof). Between the shows we wandered around Piccadilly and Leicester Square and happened to be at the right spot, because, just when we crossed the street at Leicester Square none other than Mr. Johnny Depp was chauffeured past us and to the Empire Cinema, where he opened his new movie Dark Shadows. We have been around Leicester Square for several opening nights, but we never heard hysteria like that! As we saw him on the big screen outside the cinema we contemplated grabbing him and drag him with us to the Adelphi to have him watch Sweeney Todd done properly (just kidding).
And the celebrity spotting continued at the stage door. When Michael came out after the show he was with Alex Kingston. Quite a glamorous da, for an ordinary Wednesday.Permalink
So that’s it, the last two Sweeney Todd shows in Chichester. Thank heavens, the official announcement about it’s transfer to the West End came a day beforehand. Otherwise we would have been stranded with something we have not experienced for 5 years: Not knowing what he is going to do next. We have realized how spoilt we have been the last couple of years, as there was a time we would receive messages like: Michael is going to do a concert in three weeks time….
We got to the stage door in good time, just to be sure we would not miss him while we were circling to get a parking space, you know the story. This must have been one of the oddest and certainly shortest arrival stage doors for a last show ever!
Michael arrived, there were more than 50 people waiting for him. He parked his car as usual, he got out quickly and moved in front of his car and no one went to him to get a photo, a signature, nothing. We all stood there, around him, forming a huge circle. Helge handed him his and Petra’s present, after all it’s the last time we are going to see him before Christmas. Once Michael moved many of the people standing around moved back to give him space instead of the usual rush to him. He kept repeating, he’d be going in now and that is, what he basically did. Yes, he was finally asked to sign some stuff and pose for photos, but basically he was in very quickly as we all just stood there and stared in awe instead of speaking LOL. Stage doors sometimes are odd experiences.
The matinee performance was fabulous. Of course they have not really changed anything about the performances. Everything seemed to be more intense and the moment Sweeney killed his wife unknowingly was almost as horrible as the first time we had seen it.
The evening performance saw our first technical glitch for a very long time. At the end of the contest Pirelli walks over to Sweeney to hand him the 5 Pounds and he tripped over the trapdoor, that is used very so often during the show to put props and actors on and off stage. It’s centre stage and is usually shut and invisible unless used during scene changes. But this time you could see how one panel of it gave way under Pirelli and was half open afterwards. It refused to shut again. So once the scene finished all the actors left and a technician walked on stage informing us that there will be a short break. 5 people then worked feverishly on the malfuntioning trapdoor. I bet they wished the theatre had a curtain but no such luck. It must be VERY stressful to work with 1200 people watching your every move fretting that they’d have to cancel the final performance! But they did manage to get it to shut properly again and the performance continued as if nothing ever happened - well apart from the actors walking on stage from the sides instead of being lifted on and off and the props being carried by stage hands dressed in black. We wondered about the finale of the first act where Mr T and Mrs L disappear through said trapdoor (usually to tumultous applause). Would they walk off stage? Or disappaer into the back of stage? But just in time for this exit the trapdoor worked perfectly again and they had their usual disappearing act exit (indeed to tumultous applause). Naturally the break was used for some further mending of the faulty equipment and the second half went smoothly. Hats off to the actors who all adapted so well to the spontaneous change in routines. The joys of live theatre…what can you do?
While the audience in the matinee was a bit weird (there was MASSIVE applause when Sweeney finally gets to kill the Judge…Panto feeling) the evening crowd was quiet in the appropriate places and roared with laughter at the right moments, embracing this fabulous cast and Sondheim’s masterpiece just as it should be. in the end we all started the standing ovation for the ensemble (most of the times we have been it began with Michael and Imelda entering the stage again) and stood through the whole “curtain call". We screamed ourselves hoarse it has to be said. and it was so touching to see them all having tears in their eyes and Michael and Imelda in a big hug…a magical moment. And so well deserved.
And now it’s all over and we are back at our cosy bed and breakfast packing. Oh and guess what? We are only four guests here and we met the other two guests at the theatre! They also came to see the final performance! It’s a small world.
Now we will battle with fighting off our post-show blues (focus on March, focus on March!) and had back to Germany to give in to pre-Christmas madness and Sweeney ticket booking frenzy…
After chancing a first glance at the Adelphi on our way back to the airport. Afterall this will be “home” next year. And no doubt we will be back reporting from our London adventures then.Permalink
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.Permalink
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!Permalink
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.Permalink
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