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Shooting Star CHASE - Act 2
11/12/13 @ 02:30:14 pm, Categories: General, 2412 words   English (UK)

The first Act flew by and felt like it had only lasted about 15 minutes. But in actual fact it had been about 1.5 hours long! To think many of the current “stars” are only on stage for 45 to 60 minutes this truly was value for money.

The second Act started just like this years’ tour did. Adrian, Soophia and Alice stood on the platform serving as the back wall of the pub (please read all about the staging in the blog about the first act or you might think, what on earth have they drunk?). Adrian started his famous solo of The Lion King, which lead to Michael’s interpretation of “Circle of Life”.

As we already had our Les Mis section and the Andrew Lloyd Webber section there was no doubt he would treat us to a Stephen Sondheim section. He started it by giving his all singing “Being Alive”. This is always special. Another song he has made his own and we could not think of anyone who can do justice to this (literally, as he said once) breathtaking piece of music.

Afterwards he spoke about doing Sweeney Todd and that it was a dream come true but also how he would be cutting throats during that next song. He looked at the front row, spotted Kerstin and asked her to watch out for him. Needless to say Kerstin was glad he did that being Michael Ball and not being Sweeney Todd in his “Epiphany”-state of mind. Back then he had been so extremely menacing, that we would not have guaranteed for anything really.

“Pretty Women” was linked to “Not While I’m Around” as has become a concert classic. It’s still shocking how completely different you perceive these songs when they are not in the context of the show.

We just knew this had to be the moment Imelda had to be introduced and had to get on to the stage. However, no such luck. Michael said Imelda was so very sorry. She really wanted to be here, but she just could not make it. However, she had kindly sent her husband Jim Carter as we have seen earlier …. And then you heard gasping and shouting from backstage. Imelda dashing on stage, seemingly out of breath, declaring she made it, she just about made it.

Michael and Imelda teased each other a bit before Michael declared they would soon be working together on a Victoria Wood (“who is in tonight!”) movie (based on her play) as “Enid and Tubby”. “I am not Enid” commented Michael much to the delight of the audience. And remarked that they had to discuss this title! They then launched into a hilarious rendition of “Making Whoopee”. What a privilege to see the dream team reunited again. The chemistry is just right between them and nothing beats the banter of seasoned performers in a good mood.

Afterwards Imelda shooed Michael off the stage (him muttering “the story of our lives”), grinned a menacing “Finally the stage is mine” and then gave a fabulous interpretation of “You are my Sunshine”. This arrangement was extraordinary. It started off quite sad, almost melancholic and then evolved into an amazing upbeat number (which we are actually still humming today, three days later). We were, are and will always be huge Imelda fans and this appearance only cemented that.

Once Imelda had left the stage, Michael announced a very special guest, someone who has never been on a West End stage before and would now be giving her West End debut. 10-year old Cara from Feltonfleet School. Her parents contributed so much to Shooting Stars that Michael granted Cara her big wish to sing a duet with him on stage at the Phoenix Theatre.

He asked Cara on stage and she was just angelic, as she got up there and stood center stage next to Michael. She looked petrified, the poor lamb, and who could blame her! All those people staring at her… But you know Michael; he did the talking and did everything to make this a good experience for her. He even knelt down next to her. He talked with her for some time and then asked her to give him a hand and help him up as he’s so old, which she did. Then he stepped aside for her to have her moment in the limelight. Although she must have been dead nervous, she suddenly started to sing the first verse of “Silent Night” and we were stunned. It was perfect! What a strong, clear soprano! And everyone who ever tried singing this song knows it is one of the hardest Christmas songs there is when you want to do it properly. For the second verse Michael joined her and the backing vocals supported their performance. At the very end of the song Michael motioned his backing singers to stop singing and stopped himself so that Cara could shine alone for the finale. This seemed to take her by surprise and she stopped as well for a second, but he quickly joined in again (true pro that he is) and she shone for those very high notes at the end. Naturally we all gave her a standing ovation for this brave and beautiful West End debut. A truly magical moment.

After this Michael kept the Christmas spirit up by singing one of his favourite Christmas songs, “River” by Joanie Mitchell. Now this is not your classic happy go lucky Christmas song, as you will all know. But why not allow a more pensive Christmas mood every now and then? He sat down on a bar stool for it and it was a wonderfully peaceful moment in the show.

With enough tribute paid to the time of year he introduced Alice back onto the stage and the mystery about her former-duet-turned-a-Michael-solo now was solved: She had a new duet with him. They would be singing “The Prayer” together. Now, we know that Cathy always wanted him to sing this song and he doubted he could do it justice for a long time. Well, everyone lucky enough to have heard him sing it live will know that these fears were completely unfounded. We have also never heard Alice sound better. They really nailed it. What a powerful song! Michael beamed at her afterwards and we could hear him say “amazing”. Actually this was one of the best bits about sitting so close to the stage and the performers: you get to hear the quiet exchanges that are not being said via the microphones. We could hear him humming along to the music at parts or say the odd quiet praise for the guests that are not meant to go out via the speakers. You also hear the actual voices and not the amplified ones. We love this, as it feels more real somehow, more intimate. It feels like being on the stage with them, part of the action. We never before heard the sound of his stamping his foot during Sunset Boulevard before, for example. This time, we did not only hear it, but felt the vibrations of the stage. He always does it but you just do not hear it transmitted via the speakers at a tour concert.

After this brilliant duet followed a real test for the (regular tour) audience: “Don’t stop me now” has been the introduction to party time for many, many concerts. It usually means you should get up and dance/run to the stage at a certain point in the song. We could almost feel people itching to get up. But as he has not invited the audience, everyone stayed in their seats and wriggled away sitting down. It took a lot of willpower though. Wonderful to watch (especially the dancy bits) naturally. And what a feel-good song this is!

After that he rewarded the obedience of the fans and invited everyone to come to the stage and party. For us this meant simply standing up, but the aisle soon filled with party people who came rushing to the front. Happily we all punched the air to “One Step out of Time” and danced along to “You can’t stop the Beat” (the latter with an extra reprise of the chorus at the end as a bonus).

The final song was another classic: “The Wonder of You”. He gave our little group the ultimate high when he shook Helge’s hand during the line “You’re always there to lend a hand” and then he moved away and got to “And when you smile the world is brighter” smiling in the other direction, slowly walking over to her and after winking at Angela he knelt down and kissed her at “Your kiss to me is worth a fortune”. We are not sure that she has floated back down to earth yet! LOL It was priceless to see this. So much joy caused and he had so much fun!

That was officially the end of the concert. Michael left the stage, but as we all know, the concert will never ever be really and truly over until he has sung “Love Changes Everything”. We did our part of the bargain that is to clap, cheer and basically go mental, begging for an encore and eventually he obliges and returns. This evening was no exception. Mind you, the place did go wild! We rarely heard a more enthusiastic crowd.

He thanked us all for the fabulous evening and said he was so proud that the following song was chosen as the background music for Shooting Star Chase’s latest video. He would have loved to show it to us, but unfortunately the theatre did not have screen . The first notes were played and we knew he’d sing one of our favourite songs of all times: “Run”.

Now, we already mentioned, how you can listen to a song forever and it has a special meaning to you and then you put it into another context and all of a sudden it gets a whole new meaning. This is exactly what happened with “Run” for us. Think about Shooting Star, about a hospice for children with severe and life-limiting illnesses. Think about that one sentence Jackie Llewelyn-Bowen said at the very beginning of the concert: Many of those families present will spend their last Christmas with their child this year. Now turn to your computer or your CD player, put Both Sides Now on and switch to song number 9….

Hardly anyone could escape this sad notion. Least of all Michael, who was so extremely overcome with emotion at one point that he seemed a bit lost and relied on Soophia to find back into the song (for us that only meant that the song went on for longer, no one who is not very familiar with it will have noticed the repetition) . With tears in his eyes he finished the song and he surely was not alone. Definitely the emotional highlight of the evening. It took him a moment to compose himself again for the last song of the night.

Michael thanked everyone who contributed with their time and efforts. He thanked especially Cathy and Callum. Michael claimed all he was doing, was showing off for a couple of hours, but the real work behind the show had been done by Callum whom he asked to the front for a well-deserved round of applause. Michael told us, that every single penny we have spent there (tickets, programmes etc.) would go directly to Shooting Star.

“Love Changes Everything” was the perfect closing note, of course. The title says it all. How very appropriate. The evening was such a well-balanced affair. You never forgot why we were all here and yet you never felt hopeless either.

His friends and guests finally joined him for the final verse of the song but he caused a lot of relief among them when he said “I’ll take it from here” and stood the money note alone.

It has been the most amazing concert but we know we say this after every concert. He just gets better and better. It is true and if you do not believe it, come and see it for yourself.

All the guests and the casual setting changed the energy from “usual” concerts. We also loved him doing some completely new material mixed with old favourites. It was just the perfect mix. Not too many guests but those who were there really added to the magic of the night. What a wonderful end to an amazing year!

We went round to the stage door, waiting to wave Michael good-bye for one last time this year and hoping that it won’t be too long until we see him again.

We did not have to wait too long, until he appeared. We thanked him for a truly special evening and he commented that we should have seen the rehearsals. Apparently he really feared for the worst before the concert began. But he was really pleased with the result as he joked that tonight he really was jealous of us all and would have loved to have been in the audience himself just to watch the show.

Michael introduced little Grace and Connor (who was almost as tall as the man himself!) to the crowd and asked who had been there in Nottingham the night Connor was born. No one replied. “And you call yourself fans!” he chuckled.

Connor’s birth actually did coincide with our first Michael experiences but no one of us was there on the actual night. Julia had seen Michael for the first time that tour at the Royal Albert Hall before Connor was born, Kerstin saw him a couple of weeks later for the first time in Amsterdam, and the bunnies’ paths crossed about 7 months later. So, when this tall teenager stood next to us, it was incredible to see how long we have been doing what we do (and we still feel like newbies compared to many of our friends who have known him for all his professional life).

So thank you Michael for another fabulous year and thank you for the fabulous send-off into the Christmas season. We will be missing you very much, but hopefully not for too long. Here’s to 2014, another year, another show and at least one new character we will be getting to know.

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Shooting Star Chase Charity Concert - Act 1
11/12/13 @ 03:42:21 am, Categories: General, 2279 words   English (UK)

The show
After a wonderful dinner with friends we really found ourselves in the theatre, knees almost touching the (not too high) stage. Usually this theatre is the home of “Once – the Musical”. The musical uses only one set: an Irish pub. The look is very cosy and homely with lots of small framed mirrors on the walls and it’s a rather small stage. What is amazing about Once is the change of perspective (and for us this treat for the audience was worth the admission price alone!): you actually have a fully functioning bar on the stage that the audience can use to buy their pre-show and interval drinks! We have seen the show recently and though we didn’t buy a drink we joined the people milling around the stage and enjoyed the view that is otherwise only reserved to West End performers. It was fantastic. So we knew what his perspective would be for the concert and how far he would be able to actually see the audience (about four or five rows back, but of course this was with the lighting for the musical). Needless to say the bar was not open for the concert (and could not have been, as they had build a podium in front of it for the musicians of Michael’s band and Callum), you could still see a lot of the walls and it added to the intimate feel of the place.

Finally the lights were dimmed, the audience went quiet and we heard a deep voice announcing “Directly from Downton Abbey – Myself!” Massive cheers and applause for Jim Carter, husband of Imelda Staunton and known to the wider public as the butler Mr. Carson in the widely successful TV series Downton Abbey. A consumed actor he most charmingly did the introduction for tonight’s events and had the crowd in stitches in seconds. Even a bit of Panto atmosphere came up. He received the most rousing reaction of course and seemed to enjoy himself immensely. He went on to introduce Laurence and Jackie Llewelyn-Bowen, who are Patrons of Shooting Star Chase like Michael. They reminded us of the good cause we were supporting, informing us that the money earned that night would be used to buy two buses which were necessary to drive the children from home to the hospice and to hospital appointments. They reminded us what Shooting Star Chase meant for the families and how many of those families would experience their last Christmas with their child. Some of those families were present on Sunday and received the warmest round of applause possible. It was a touching speech by both of them, making it apparent that this charity was really close to their hearts. And how couldn’t it be? What a worthy cause. For us it is so hard to imagine the unimaginable, so their speech made quite clear what the evening was all about and that while we were having a wonderful night out, others were going through the hardest time possible. A very humbling thought and we were thanking our lucky stars that we were not in this position. But it was inspiring rather than depressing, if you know what we mean. They told us about how much our contribution would help to make life a little easier for the families and what a wonderful person Michael was to organise this event from scratch and making it possible in the first place.

The tone was set for the night to come, when Jim Carter announced Michael. The place almost exploded. You could tell everyone was keen for the evening to be a roaring success and most fans hadn’t seen him for a while so there was a definite party atmosphere in the air.

The music started and we were happy to recognise “Dancing in the Dark”. A song he had sprung on his poor backing vocalists the day before and they were still learning when they arrived for the rehearsal. They did very well, of course. And we felt reminded of many happy tour concerts that opened with this upbeat number. Everyone got to their feet and danced along to Michael. He wore jeans, a dark blue shirt and a dark blue crushed velvet jacket with black (or even darker blue, hard to tell) lapels. He later commented he didn’t know what he was thinking to go for crushed velvet as it was so hot on stage…
It was great to hear “Fight the Fight” again sung by Michael. The night before we had heard the musical version in “From here to Eternity”. This has to be the only song known to mankind that is much faster sung in the original version than by Michael. The song felt really rushed in the stage show but this is probably because we are so used to Michael’s version by now.

This was followed by “Bad Things”, which has a special place in our hearts it was as always performed sufficiently naughty to make us question our dress choices as well (too hot indeed!). He followed this with “Won’t let you go” which until then has been merely one of the more up-tempo numbers on the Both Sides Now album that we have enjoyed immensely on tour. But he gave it a completely different spin by merely saying how the lyrics matched the cause of this night perfectly. It’s amazing, how differently you can conceive a song and its lyrics in different circumstances. With lyrics like this: “If your sky is falling, Just take my hand and hold it, You don’t have to be alone, alone, I, won’t let you go.” and “And if you feel the fading of the light, And you’re too weak to carry on the fight, And all your friends that you count on have disappeared, I’ll be here, not gone, forever, holding on.” there could not have been many people left without a lump in their throats.

There is the danger of an evening like this to turn into a very somber affair, but this was definitely not intended and did not happen once. It was more like a celebration of all good things in life and made you remember to give your loved ones this extra hug tonight.

When Michael introduced the next song we had a broad grin on our faces as we knew at once which one it would be and hadn’t heard it in ages. He said it became his and Cathy’s song, when they were separated for the first time for a longer period while he was on Broadway doing “Aspects of Love”. (Yes, we are sure many of you will also know which song it was. Everyone who was at the This Time-…It’s Personal tour will know). He said that Cathy had been the driving force behind their commitment to the charity and without her we would not be sitting there tonight. So it was just appropriate he dedicated “If tomorrow never comes” to her (she was in the audience, as was most of his family). It is such a beautiful song and again mirrored the sentiments of the charity perfectly of course.

Afterwards Michael introduced his first guest to duet with him. She was now living in Los Angeles and had flown over especially to take part in this concert! Imagine that! Julia Fordham entered the stage and Michael said he had had a major crush on her when he was younger, well not that big a crush! he quickly amended with a glance in Cathy’s direction and said he’d be in trouble otherwise. We had quite a laugh. Michael told us how he had joined Julia on stage for her recent London concert and how they were going to reprise their duet for us. They flattered each other for a bit and she finally said how excited she was to be singing with him tonight, to which he replied “I wish I was you – then I’d get to sing with me!” Much laughter was followed by the most beautiful rendition of “Where does the time go”.

While pouring himself something to drink he asked, if we’d like to hear something new and only got a lukewarm applause. So rather not then? He remarked and chuckled. However, many of you know Michael had sung “Stars” from Les Mis in Shanghai and we had high hopes he would sing it again this night as it received such a rousing reaction from what we heard. And we were not disappointed. When we heard the first notes of “Stars” played we knew we were in for a very special treat and by God did he deliver! Should anyone ever search for a definitive version of this song, surely Michael’s has to be a strong contender (poor Russell Crowe, bless him).

His voice was perfectly suited for it thanks to his new lower register and once the last line was sung, the audience jumped to their feet and treated him with one of the most well-deserved standing ovations ever! And we wouldn’t sit down again quickly. He was completely overcome. Having closed his eyes for the final notes of the song and only slowly returning to the present, he was visibly surprised to see every one standing for him. He was literally taken aback, as he took a step backwards. As he has never been too keen on the song this seemed to have seriously taken him by surprise. People went completely wild. It was wonderful! And we have heard many, many renditions of “Stars” over the years, honestly nothing ever came close. This was utter perfection. Those long, low notes – shivers down the spine. He enjoyed his special moment, smiled and said “We might have to keep that one!” We surely hope so!

Empty Chairs followed and what a beautiful rendition it was. Very tender and very passionate. But we were a bit distracted by him singing it while still standing centre stage. We are SO used to seeing him sitting on a chair during the song that this was somehow striking.

For the final Les Mis number they made clever use of a little trick the set had to offer as during “Once” the back wall of the pub serves also as a raised platform and you can stand on it, high above the stage. So when the opening notes of “Do you hear the People sing?” sounded we saw Alice, Soophia and Adrian standing high above the Ball in the back. It was a beautiful picture not to mention the beautiful sound of course. Lovely to see Michael do the marching in place they do in the stage show at this point.

Were we up to some Andrew Lloyd Webber, we were asked? But of course, Mr Ball. The Phantom of the Opera overture rang out and we are forever hoping he would follow this by actually singing “The Phantom of the Opera” as this is such an energetic number. Or even “Music of the Night” as he does it so beautofully, but as suspected the thundering chords soon made way for the softer tones of “All I ask of You”. He sang it but this time as a solo and not as a duet with Alice like he used to during the tour. This was intriguing of course. He was not to take away her song, surely?

He then sent Adrian out onto the stage and we were treated to his rendition of “Close every door to me” followed by Soophia’s fantastic “Don’t Cry for my Argentina”. This launched straight into Michael’s rendition of “Memories” which was linked to “Sunset Boulevard” just like in the past tour concerts. We LOVE this new interpretation of both songs. Simply stunning. We actually catch ourselves holding our breaths for the final note of Sunset Boulevard. Talk about money notes!
Michael then asked, if we were up to hear him sing something new, something he has not done before, but we’d all know very well. We cheered him and were eager to see or rather hear what was in store for us, when he quickly crossed himself, sending a last minute prayer to the god above. Surely it cannot be that hard to sing, whatever he’s up to, we thought. And anyways, he had the crowd eating out of his palm. Definitely no need for nervousness. But that’s what marks the true professional: He wants to deliver 100%.

“You’ve lost that loving feeling” by the Righteous Brothers was the brand new song and when we reached the chorus Michael was joined on stage by The Overtones. It was a fabulous rendition and Michael really did not have any reason to fear it, as we knew.

Michael started to explain how the Overtones had come to join him for this concert tonight. He said he had heard them perform on Radio 2 that very morning and tweeted them and somehow the ending of the story was lost, when he drifted off into another direction but we assume that they very spontaneously agreed to appear on the very day of the concert after some to and fro tweeting and so had not had much time to rehearse together.

He owned up, that they rehearsed the following song a full half time, so really hoped it would work. He needn’t have worried a wonderful medley of “Bare necessities / I want to be like You” from the Jungle Book sent us partying into the interval, which came much too quickly.

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Shooting Star Chase Charity Concert - 8 December 2013
11/12/13 @ 02:03:33 am, Categories: General, 1098 words   English (UK)

Seven months is a long time. It may not sound like it and the words look inconspicuous enough when written down like that: seven months; but, believe us, they can feel monumental. The last time we were lucky enough to see Mr Ball perform was the last night of the tour in May.

Yes, we know, many, many fans cannot go and see him at all and we really should just count our blessings and shut up BUT when concert after concert is announced and you cannot attend a single one of them, this becomes extremely hard. Especially after having had a rather Ball-filled time before with Sweeney and the tour. So we could not attend any of the summer concerts (they are always on Sundays and our holiday allocation had dwindled too much to take off Monday after Monday) OR travel to Abu Dhabi OR see him perform with Imelda at Sadler’s Wells OR fly to Shanghai. And from the reviews we gather that we have missed out on some very special nights. But we digress. All this is to say: we really have missed those money notes. Dearly!

So you can imagine how excited we were when we heard about his charity concert for Shooting Star / Chase.
After the excitement (and signed holiday forms from work – YAY!) comes inevitably the dreaded ticket sale: You know the drill, get the computers ready, ask your colleague to stand in for you for a couple of minutes, check out from work and wait for the tickets to go on sale at 10am our time. So when the seating plan opened on screen and we clicked on the front row seats (centre, 4 of them, as we were booking for friends as well), we were sure, we’d lose them before the transaction was finished but we didn’t! Needless to say the confirmation email was one of the most thoroughly scrutinized digital documents of all times. We kept opening it, checking date, time, seats and the word STALLS umpteenth times. But eventually it sank in: we had front row seats (no such luck for the tour) in the very intimate setting of the Phoenix Theatre. We would indeed be seeing him again, up close and personal. It really was true. Life was good.

Saturday: Travelling to the UK and “From Here to Eternity”

We surely have our reputation when it comes to our travels. Unfortunately, this is no exception. Just one day after the heaviest storm in 40 years to hit Germany and indeed the whole of northern Europe we were bound to embark our flights. We kept checking the airport websites anxiously throughout the whole two days of severe storms – miraculously all flights to London were on time in Berlin and Dusseldorf. Nevertheless we were relieved we had booked flights for Saturday noon and not Friday evening. The weather had quieted down considerably and everything was super…except….

Bunny 1 arrived at the airport in Dusseldorf in good time just to be told “You do know the flight is severely delayed, don’t you?” “Uhm, no! For how long?” “1.5 hours at the moment, but the computer of the Air Traffic Control has crashed and as of yet (9am in the UK) no plane has left Heathrow Airport. So you might expect long delays.” Brill, there goes our Christmas shopping. My departure time went from 10:50am to 12:50, back to 12:10, when we actually did board.

By this time the other bunny reached her airport in Berlin and was asked by the check-in clerk, if she really, really needed and wanted to go to London today? “Uhm, yes, I do!“ Places to go, shopping to do and shows to see, so YES! A big fat YES to that. The clerk still advised to change the travel plans and fly at a different day. Her eyes were full of pity and somehow this was not an altogether reassuring start to the journey.

Unfortunately, once the first bunny was on board and in splendid mood we were told that yes, we are boarded, but due to the technical problems we got a later slot and won’t be able to leave for another 1.5 hours. Apparently we were kept on the plane in the hope we might get an earlier departure slot. That didn’t happen. Rather dishearteningly it didn’t look much better in Berlin. All afternoon flights were canceled, one after the other. BUT our flights were not. Silver lining etc.
To cut a long story short, instead of getting on the tube at 2pm, we only got there at 4pm and then the tube journey to Kings Cross took 2 hours instead of the usual 55 to 60 minutes. There went our Christmas shopping and card writing. The only thing we had time for was rush to the hotel (we will spare you the lament of our abysmal lodgings…), get changed, rush to the Shaftesbury Theater and grab your seats in the second row for “From Here to Eternity”. So at least this time we did not miss the show we had booked. But instead of it being a day of leisurely (Christmas) window shopping in the splendidly decorated London, we were completely stressed out and exhausted. Not a single pressie bought, no festive feeling had, no photos of decorations taken.

Now, on a more positive note: Being back at the Shaftesbury Theatre felt like coming home. How many happy hours have we spent in these two rows enjoying Hairspray? Not nearly enough, surely but quite a few. It was a warm and fuzzy feeling all over. Naturally the show we were about to see was of a very different mood to Hairspray, as you would expect when the subject is the attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Being in the theatre almost felt like being a Michael event as we saw several fans in the audience before the show started.
The show itself was great. Good music, good acting, great look but of course, very sad. You know all the characters are doomed so it is not uplifting. In the interval we spotted Tim Rice and several notices announcing parts of the show tonight would be filmed. We wondered what all this was about until he walked onto the stage in the finale and made a speech about it being the anniversary of Pearl Harbor (7 December 1941) and to mark this sad day the Military Wives (a choir of soldiers’ wives) would join the cast for the last song of the evening. They sang beautifully and it was a very emotional end to a very emotional day…

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Portsmouth 10/05/2013
12/05/13 @ 03:57:30 am, Categories: General, 1323 words   English (UK)

We wanted to review last night but actually, and this has happened to neither of us for a long time, fell asleep on the bed fully clothed! We CAN relate to Mr Ball sleeping half the day. We are shattered and we only had to be there on time and applaud him. I mean we all joked that we had to travel ourselves, handle our luggage etc. but at the end of the day we know he had to sing this grueling set night after night and that this was hard work. Especially as he never holds back or tones down.

Anyways, Portsmouth. Checking into the Ibis hotel was like a class reunion. We knew everybody in the busy foyer. This is brilliant about touring. You get to meet everyone in a short period of time whereas with a musical it is all a bit more spread out. After some photo uploading it was time to walk to the stage gate (another one of those where the bus drives in and they usually close the gates to keep unauthorized fangirls out). It was uncharacteristically bright and dry for Portsmouth. Usually we are drenched there. It was very breezy though so at least there were SOME weather issues to moan about while waiting. God it was cold. Generally the mood was quite good considering it was the last one but most people confirmed that they lived as firmly in denial as we did. It just didn’t feel like it was all going to be over soon.

He arrived late for the sound check and some fans feared he’d dash straight in because of that. We had an inkling he wouldn’t on the last day and were proved right when the bus arrived and he walked over to the waiting crowd. As everybody behaved and no one tried to cross the magic line, they let the gates open and we had a clear view of the Ball when he came up to us all to collect his last night cards and pressies. Naturally he too said he was sad it was all over but wanted us to make it a good one. We promised we would.

Dinner with friends, quick dash to the hotel, get changed then join the queue (!) to be let into the venue. When we arrived it looked like an open air concert as people formed a long line all across the square in front of the Guildhall. We guessed they were doing security checks and were right. At the doors they did bag searches and confiscated plastic bottles! Outrageous in our opinion. You could collect your drinks after the concert and only drinks bought at the Guildhall were allowed in the auditorium. This is just not on. Airports, okay. Glass bottles, sure thing. But not being allowed to bring your own water bottles?! Should we add it was BOILING hot in the venue?

They also said no photography. Hence we only took some during the encore as all around us people started to film it and take loads of photos on their mobile phones and no one seemed to mind.

The stage was very low and we sat just off centre in the second row. It was perfect. He was so close you almost felt like you were given a private performance. What a dreamy way to end the tour. Also we were close enough to be hearing his real voice, not just the amplified version over the speakers. We took lots of photos with our minds to remember this final performance of what must have been one of the best tours yet. Really hoping the DVD will be released in November and bring across the amazing achievement of this buy one get one free tour.

On an unusually unselfish note from us we have to conceit that for him it is good that the tour is over. Sometimes, when you caught him turned half away from the audience to listen to one of the solos from the band you could see he was shattered and also when you knew him well enough you heard the strain in some of the more taxing numbers (which we still think adds to their appeal). After so many shows in quick succession and with having a cold this is neither a surprise nor a complaint. Quite the contrary actually. We are in complete awe that he could do this – as said before: definitely super human. He so deserved his rest after this immense effort to have us all entertained so sublimely.

The audience was fantastic. He had told us at the stage door that he’d have his mum in and we are always so pleased when the crowds show so much appreciation when his family is in. Wonderful reception throughout and as we have said many times before: A concert is not only about him performing for us but about us, the audience, showing him how much his hard work and outstanding talent is appreciated. Basically, for a final concert of any tour, the aim is to have him in (happy!) tears for the final bow. We dare say we succeeded. The place practically exploded at the end. It was deafening and utterly satisfying to hear this uproar of delight when the final note was sung.

This tour was awe-inspiring and breathtaking and heavenly and delicious and moneynotetastic.

What more can a girl want? Well, apart from matinee concerts and a tour that goes on for six months like a musical…both indeed we are afraid Mr. Ball would not be too keen on – sadly.

We could not believe it was all over when he left in his car and waved us all good-bye. We couldn’t believe it when we were sitting in the bar area of our hotel with our friends reminiscing. We could not believe it on our way to London where we were heading to see Chorus Line with Gary from the Heroes tour at the Palladium and Wicked with Louise from the Past and Present tour (definitely a walk down memory lane and both great shows). Even now, two days later, we cannot quite believe it is over. We will fly back home tomorrow which is when it will hit us hard. This really was good-bye.

There will be no more standing at breezy stage doors in the British spring and no more enjoying Run, Songbird, When she loved me, Edge of Glory, Memory, Sunset Boulevard, Close Every Door, Wonder of you. No more party time, no more rushes to wave the bus into the night, no more meeting everyone everywhere, no more city centres swarming with excited Ballettes, no more hauling massive suitcases past baffled receptionists, no more dressing up, no more photos, no more post-concert get-togethers, no more travelling. The tour is over, the Ball has left the stage for a little while. He promised he would not retire when asked what was next for the umpteenth time. There is Audley End of course and there will be more.

But for now we have to face the void and deal with it. Maybe not appropriately but eventually. Memories will have to suffice – but what fantastic memories they are. We know we are blessed to have been able to see eleven shows when so many fans cannot even make it to one. And yet it was all over far too soon. Reality hits you like a shock after the dream land that is a UK tour.

A big thank you to all of you who said hello and gave us so much positive feedback about the website. We really appreciate this and it was wonderful to put faces to the names. What a joy it has been.

We need a perspective, Mr Ball. And soon. Hopefully you will find a challenge that is worth your while and we will be there like a shot.

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Bristol - 9 May 2013
10/05/13 @ 07:49:01 am, Categories: General, 999 words   English (UK)

How perfect was last night?! What an amazing concert! Surely one of the best.

But first things first: We got to Bristol on our day off after driving through the incredibly beautiful Brecon Beacons national park. We can highly recommend a visit, also to Brecon town which is incredibly cute.

The rain caught up with us on our way in to Bristol. Sadly the forecast has been very accurate this tour so we were forewarned.

On the concert day itself the day began with sunshine but quickly turned into a stormy rain festival. We didn’t have too much hope for the stage door. Especially when our little group of fans shivered in the storm and rain and we all kept asking ourselves: Why, oh WHY are we doing this?! To be quite honest: we don’t know. It’s simply part of it all. Maybe it’s about the thrill of a stolen moment with him. The icing on the cake if you will. We never take it for granted that he lets us all indulge in this way. He could avoid us lot quite easily and no one could blame him. But here came the bus and out stepped the Ball. Very graciously he took his time for everyone, said he was getting a cold but would be fine for the final two shows.

It’s always such a shock when you stand there and wait for two hours and suddenly he is there, right in front of you, in the flesh. Very hard to form a coherent sentence when he turns to you and says hello. Once again we failed to come up with some witty reply or anecdote he would then recount at dinner parties for years to come. One day…!

Now, the concert. We had swapped our seats at the very end of row G for front row Balcony right next to the stage. The kind box office staff (you rock!) were ever so patient with us and took a lot of time discussing various possibilities and sight lines. In the end we were so happy we did that as it was a completely different angle. Almost his point of view but from higher up. Excellent view of the stage and audience. How beautiful it looks when everyone sways their arms to Run and how much fun when they punch the air in One Step! We are so getting you, Mr Ball. What a sight to behold! We were on a complete high. It would have been the perfect vantage point for photos from a whole new angle, but sadly, so sadly, the Colston Hall will not tolerate photos. As in zero. As in LOADS of security guards everywhere on constant watch. Apologies for that.

It was also shocking to see how little room he had to maneuver on stage. He pointed that out between songs. There were about three feet between the raised platform for the musicians and his monitors at the edge of the stage. He did manage to dance nevertheless but it got him VERY close to the greedy hands of fans during Help Yourself. They could almost touch him when we sang “grab a share!”…

He had mentioned his cold on the way in and you could hear it every now and then but being Michael a touch of hoarse here and there only adds to the absolute pleasure for us and we know this is bad, as for him this surely is not too enjoyable. But mmmh it sounded lovely. It even led to a beautiful embellishment of the final few notes of Help Yourself which he should keep! Lovely high note in there. As usual you could hear it most when he was talking and not so much while singing. From our bird’s view it was fascinating to watch him work so hard – he really is singing with his whole body.

His dad seemed to enjoy himself very much from what we could see and the audience was dreamy. So enthusiastic, so loud, so full of admiration. It was a joy to be part of it and by the end Michael seemed genuinely touched. And GOSH the sound! As we were on level with the stage the roaring of the audience hit us from the right and it was almost bodily tangible. Utterly breathtaking.

The slight drawback for the people downstairs were the security people. They tried to stop the first barrage of women but gave up there. Some ran early again, but since there was only a small gap at the aisles for people to stand in it wasn’t too bad as there weren’t that many in this early bird group. Anyways, so security gave up at the front but then point blank refused to let people from the back join the dancing lot in the aisles at the front. We heard later that some even threatens fans to remove them from the hall if they did not return to their seats. And it’s not like they hadn’t been forewarned! Our security guy up in the Balcony came to us at the end of the interval and said if we wanted to dance later on, could we please go into the second row as the balustrade was so low that it was deemed dangerous to stand behind it. We did that of course. But downstairs they were struggling and eventually Michael kindly called out to the security staff that they should let them run already. And down they came! It was quite a sight. Everyone was on their feet everywhere and we all had the most fantastic party. Sorry Cardiff, but Bristol clearly won this time.

We waved him good bye afterwards and floated back to our hotel on a complete high.

It is unbelievable that our two weeks in the UK are almost over. One last night to go. We will try and live in denial for a little while longer….

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Cardiff - 7 May 2013
08/05/13 @ 04:40:32 am, Categories: General, 773 words   English (UK)

Day Off 06/05/2013

After three fabulous concerts in a row, including the filmed Hammersmith concert, Michael had a well deserved day off and therefore we as well.

So, what do you do, when the last concert was in Southampton and the next one will be in Cardiff? Yes, you drive back to London. We wanted to see the “Book of Mormon” as we heard so much about it and two great ladies who were not able to get over for the tour now had tickets and gave them to us. Being able to go and see the Prince of Wales theatre where Michael did Aspects of Love was an added bonus. So after a celebratory dinner across the street from the Adelphi where we toasted Mr Todd on his Olivier success we set off to the theatre (it did feel like it should open with Michael sat on a red barber chair – it didn’t of course).

What can we say? The show was fabulously funny! But of course addressing serious issues (AIDS, poverty, violence, civil war to name but a few) disguised in outrageous song and dance numbers. The audience was borderline hysteric with laughter. If you are a serious Christian you probably would be offended but then again – only if you turn a blind eye to what happens in Africa and gloss over the fact that the missionaries are there not to help but to recruit. It’s no show for kids though. Luckily we are grown-ups;-) Catching tunes, very energetic performances and clever staging made this an unmissable experience. Thank you so much for the tickets!

Such a joy to experience live theatre again. We do miss the West End. Please announce a musical soon, Mr Ball!

Cardiff 07/05/2013

After the show we drove the three hours to Cardiff on empty motorways and got here at about 1am. It’s great to be back in Wales with all the street signs in both languages. Just loving it! And Cardiff is a great place to spend a lot of money quickly. Luckily we were busy meeting friends. The stage door was not so much a door but a ramp leading to the loading bay of the big shopping centre of which the St David’s Hall is part of. So we all just formed a line along the ramp and waved at Michael in the bus when we was driven up the ramp. No direct contact so no photos. Sorry.

The audience is always wonderful in Wales. We haven’t been at the St David’s Hall before (and Michael realised during the show that the last time he performed there was 15 years ago). It’s a good venue and the stage is rather low. Excellent for the intimacy of act one.
Wonderful reception (especially for Anthem!) and he was in great voice after the day off. Sadly we were surrounded by many early-clappers as we call them who will not let him finish the songs before going completely mad with ecstasy (a feeling we can relate to very well!) but will clap into the final notes making it impossible to hear them.

The venue was very strict on photos so we only took the one in the beginning.

There were sound issues and during Love Changes one of the speakers emitted a very loud crack which must have sounded horrible in Michael’s in-ear monitors (he took one out and continued singing as if nothing happened, of course, as he is a true professional). After that the sound and equipment behaved.

Sadly everybody around us was already grabbing their stuff during the final lines of Love Changes Everything and they were standing long before he reached the final note and ran too early. We could not see whether this happened at the other side as well as we were in the side block but we were almost trampled over by determined women in our row. Why not run when he has left the stage? There is plenty of time before he comes on stage again and you will not gain a thing from being there early as he will ignore all those who spoilt his song. And quite rightly so.

But it was another special concert and lovely to hear him say thank you in Welsh. Mmmmh, nice!

Now it’s the final day off and we are heading to Bristol. The rain has finally caught up with the tour and it looks like the tradition of a wet final concert in Portsmouth will be continued. Let’s see what tomorrow and the day after bring. We will keep you posted.

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Southampton - 5 May 2013
06/05/13 @ 05:16:35 am, Categories: General, 285 words   English (UK)

We dropped Julia’s mum off at the airport and got to Southampton in time for the stage door (we had missed him going in at Hammersmith). His security person was a bit nervous even though we had hardly ever experienced a better behaved fan crowd. People even formed two orderly lines so he’d have a corridor to walk through.

The crowd at Southampton is always so appreciative that we love the concerts there. The theatre brings back wonderful Hairspray memories and you are really close to the not very high stage. Perfect setting for the intimacy of act 1! We marvelled at him for performing to such high standard after yesterday’s tour de force. You could hear the voice could do with some rest but this will only have been evident to those who have seen several shows. The crowd loved him and it was an utter delight from Edge of Glory to Wonder of You. We’ve sussed it out now, the secret is out, the game is up: Michael Ball is a super human. There is simply no other explanation how he can do this night after night with such perfection when it surely is the most taxing set list ever.

Another aspect some people might be interested in. The Photo Flash Opportunity has not made an encoure since Bournemouth. That’s because there were hardly any flash photos taken during the other concerts.

How he has earned this day off!

We are off to London now for Book of Mormon (thank you soooo much Arlene and Dee!!) and then it’s Cardiff next and the final leg of the tour. OOER. Only three concerts left. It doesn’t bear thinking about…

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Hammersmith Apollo - 4 May 2013
06/05/13 @ 05:14:41 am, Categories: General, 774 words   English (UK)

Sorry to be so late with this but we have been so busy that there simply was no time to sit down and do this properly. Now it’s the day off and here we go.

For those of you wondering what it is like to be present at the DVD recording: There is no big difference from a normal concert except you see more people in black standing on the stage holding cameras. Usually the only people in black clothes you see during a concert are technicians. They did not obstruct our view once and you totally forgot about them after one or two songs. This was different when we were at the DVD recording at Hammersmith a few years back. They had to change people’s seats (from the front side block to the back!) to make room for the camera crane but luckily the lenses have evolved and now no such drastic action was necessary.
Sir Tim Rice sat right behind us (centre row G, we were aisle row F) and seemed to enjoy the show immensely. Especially when Michael kept singing song after song of his. We kept hearing the word “amazing” being muttered. Quite right.

Oh, we never posted the set list, did we? But it’s all over the internet anyways. Nevertheless, here goes:

Act 1
Edge Of Glory
Marry Me
Fight The Fight
Closest Thing To Crazy
Songbird
Both Sides Now
Love And Affection
I Won’t Let You Go
When She Loved Me
I Will Always Love You
Run
Act 2:
Circle Of Life
Being Alive
Pretty Woman/Not While I’m Around
Anthem
Empty Chairs Empty Tables
Suddenly
Do You Hear The People Sing
The Perfect Song
Close Every Door To Me - Adrian
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina- Soophia
All I Ask Of You - Michael & Alice
Tell Me On A Sunday
Memory
Sunset Boulevard
Oh What A Circus
Any Dream Will Do
Love Changes Everything

Encore:
One Step Out Of Time
You Can’t Stop The Beat
Help Yourself
Wonder Of You

As London is his home venue the atmosphere is usually electric and this night was no exception luckily. We are hoping this will come across accordingly on the recording. They loved him from the word go. His family was there to support him and we are sure this helped after the trauma of having been burgled (why do terrible things happen to someone so incredibly nice?!). It was wonderful to watch. And BOY did he perform. This DVD will be stunning if they even catch 10% of his energy. It was the second and final concert for Julia’s mum and she was rendered speechless (well, no, actually she found her whooohooo ;-)). Songbird, When She Loved Me and Run were our highlights of the first half. The things he can do with his voice (during Run while swaying his arm and body!)… All praise to Mr Todd for challenging Michael to explore a new range of voice and opening a new approach to singing. The album has such an intimate feel to it, loungy, like in a dark and cosy jazz club, you hear every syllable clearly pronounced and he paces himself so precisely. Sometimes when the sound is well-balanced, you feel engulfed by this luscious blanket of perfect sound and cannot help a little swoon. Then come the money notes and leave you gasping.

Highlights of act 2 were definitely Sunset Boulevard, Anthem and Being Alive. We would have given him standing ovations after every song but didn’t want to look like morons LOL. But in all honesty he would have deserved them. This was an outstanding performance and he worked so hard up there to deliver sublime entertainment for us all.

At the end we thought people would tear apart the Apollo (which looks a bit tired, it has to be said) with ecstasy. Stamping and howling for more before he returned to the stage for the encore.

This was definitely a standout performance and the best concert of all eight we have seen so far. What a joy to have been there.

The slight downer for us were two women who were clearly very drunk and kept shouting at inappropriate places, clapping into his moderations and generally were very badly behaved. At least they shouted appreciative stuff but it was still annoying. This happens so often, we wish they would not sell alcohol at venues. Sorry when this seems harsh but the number of times some drunk audience member fell over others at party time or ruined a quiet moment by shouting silly stuff into the silence…Ah well, rant over.

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Brighton 03/05/2013
03/05/13 @ 09:03:22 pm, Categories: General, 495 words   English (UK)

Still smiling at his clever tweet after Bournemouth… the early bird doesn’t always catch the worm. It confirmed what we were not sure about: He did not kiss anybody that night when people had run early. No hand holding and no kissing for the overexcited….

Anyways, what a wonderful concert Brighton was! And what a beautiful day! Sun and sea go together perfectly (too much of both clearly – this is turning into a very bad poem! LOL). We had a great day off and showed Julia’s mum some o f the most beautiful corners of the south. It felt very nostalgic to drive past the festival theatre in Chichester to show her where Mr Todd was “born”. They are taking it down or rather large parts of it and somehow this was a very sad sight.

Then we had a gloriously sunny day in beautiful Brighton. We always love coming here and seeing the Lanes and spending too much money on sweet nothings. After a stroll on the pebble beach we got to the stage door in time to see him arrive and spend a while in the freezing shades of this particular back door. It wouldn’t feel right without it. Even when the day is very sunny it will always be cool and windy back there. He arrived by bus and did the usual. Sadly with his back to us most of the time as it’s a very confined space. So no stage door photos today, sorry.

Julia’s mum was very excited about her first tour concert (the second and last will be Hammersmith tomorrow) and oh BOY did he not disappoint. The audience where we were sitting seemed a bit slow at first but this did change dramatically throughout the evening. He was in fine voice and good spirits. Excellent seats in the second row. With the very high stage it was just perfect to take it all in. You could hear he had had a day off and it was almost overwhelming. What an outstanding performance!

Apart from a slight timing issue during Being Alive which was well covered by our true professional (Julia’s mum didn’t notice a thing, only the relieved smile between Michael and Callum when things were back on track) everything went smoothly. This time, people did not run early and so there was hand holding and kissing – well, seeing the stage is so very high he kissed his fingertips and “gave” those to one lucky lady at the stage.

We floated back to the hotel afterwards and our tour guest cannot believe just how fantastic he was. Seeing Michael perform live really is something else. You have to see (and hear!) it to believe it. She was thoroughly impressed with the demanding set list and the utter perfection of the performance. Who’s surprised? ;-)

3am again – now some sleep then off to London. Thank you Brighton. So many fantabulous memories!

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Bournemouth - 01/05/2013
01/05/13 @ 08:39:50 pm, Categories: General, 642 words   English (UK)

What a perfect day it has been! Sun, 17 degrees and we were at the seaside. Okay, and yes, we admit to many spontaneous attempts to sing Mrs Lovett’s eerie “By the Sea”…we failed of course. But never mind, we were back at Bournemouth. The beach there is sandy and we like this, the sky was dark blue and everyone seemed in a wonderful mood. Spring seems to have finally won the fierce battle with winter. We even had ice cream while walking along the promenade! And we were wearing t-shirts! Enough of weather-fangirling we hear you groan.

Suffice to say we enjoyed our first day at the south coast and it was lovely seeing everyone again after a whole day;-) Michael came on foot and walked down the slope towards the stage door. Very casually, stopped, chatted had pictures. He said he really wasn’t feeling well yesterday and he really doesn’t recommend his Oxford hotel (even though it looks really nice in the internet!). As we rarely stay in 5-star hotels it will be easy to follow his recommendation.

Loved our dinner and the company. Many thanks to the Australian contingent!

We have a soft spot for Windsor Hall at the BIC as we did a venue tour a while ago there which was really fascinating.

The stage is really high so you have to keep this in mind when booking. We had great seats in row E. This time the security let everyone do their thing with regards to photography which sadly let to lots of flashes going off. We hardly saw any in Plymouth and only very few in Oxford so this was a shame. It got so bad that actually Michael had to revert to his photo opportunity solution where he asks everyone to take their flash photos now and give them a few poses (in very quick succession sadly;-)) and then everyone should put their cameras away. This worked a treat and we will now NOT rant about the uselessness of flash photography in concerts as we have done this so many times already.

Also you probably saw his tweet and wondered what this was all about. To remind you, he tweeted:
“Bournemouth was amazing. Loved it. BUT…the early bird doesn’t always catch the worm. Day off. Bliss.”
Well, you might have guessed actually. While in Plymouth no one dared running to the stage, Oxford still was very civilized with people only going down there really slowly and during the short interval whereas in Bournemouth people again ran while he was still singing Love Changes. The look on his face…

Please don’t do this, everyone. It’s neither fair nor polite and there is plenty of time to run when he is finished singing. Why would you rob yourself of a sublime money note?

Anyways, the concert itself was wonderful. The sound was excellent where we sat as the speakers were really high up in the large hall and not right in front of you.

Run is so amazing we could hit the repeat button again and again. These low notes…swoon swoon. Also songs that we really did not have on the agenda are becoming favourites. Memory was a surprise. We have heard him sing it many, many times but it is different now. He is singing so intimately and yet with such strength and modulation. Actually this is so impressive in the first half as well. He is creating the intimacy of the album in large halls with incredible pacing and modulation. It is truly delicious.

He really deserves his day off now though. This tour is hard work.

On our day off we will collect Julia’s mum (a convert) and take her on a sightseeing roundtrip before we take her to Brighton and Hammersmith. Happy days.

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Oxford - 30/04/2013
30/04/13 @ 07:37:15 pm, Categories: General, 549 words   English (GB)

When you want to get into Oxford you always have to allow for extra travel time. Not once have we gotten into the city centre without standing in a massive traffic jam, but we made it in time and enjoyed chatting to our friends while we waited at the stage door.

Mr. Ball got there running late for his sound check. So the stage door was a rather quick affair. He told us all he was very tired as he had only three hours of sleep in the worst hotel ever (wonder what happened there?!). This must be a tough week for him. Three shows, then the Oliviers, then another three shows. A very taxing schedule indeed.

Due to appallingly slow service at our restaurant we made it to the concert just in time before the lights went out. Oxford New Theatre has an orchestra pitch and so there was a big gap between the front row and the stage. So we thought no kissing during “Wonder of You” then, but that was a vast underestimation of Mr. Ball’s agility as he actually managed to close this gap to touch some fans and then get up again whilst singing. An impressive feat.

The reception in Oxford is always good. For us notably so because this time an elderly gentleman behind us was not only praising Michael after every song to his wife, but actually sang along. So even the husbans present were fans ;-).

There was a scary security guy positioned at the stage and unlike other venues he actually kept people from taking photos after a while. So this is why there are so few tonight. Apologies, but you have to respect the wish of the venue, even though there is no announcement.

Michael actually commented on being tired, which led to the Olivier confession. He almost makes it sound as if he is shy about it and always mentions the revival one way before his own. He sounded superb, so the tiredness did not stretch to the vocal chords.

The sound was much better than in Plymouth, even though we sat really close to the speakers. And the new lower register really does come across nicely in songs like Memory or when he is talking during I Will Always Love You – gives us a physical reaction to be perfectly honest. ;-)

It was lovely seeing Cathy in the audience – and great for us as concerts always tend to be extra special when the family is in.

The stage door at Oxford is notorious for being difficult for fans and ideal for him as the bus will park right in front of it and he can just hop in. He did that and waved at us all and even let someone hand in a programme through the driver’s window so he can sign it. Another lady tried to give him the unauthorized biography book and he refused to sign it as it is not his book. Rounds of spontaneous applause for this – we really think it is wrong that someone would use his name to earn money without asking for his consent beforehand. And off he sped into the night again.

Another amazing concert over. Tomorrow we are off to Bournemouth and the sandy beach. Yay!

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Plymouth - 29 April 2013
30/04/13 @ 04:33:13 am, Categories: General, 1160 words   English (UK)

After the Oliviers Helge said he was already knackered after just four days of touring and he did not know how we did it. We then made the big mistake of thinking about the next few days and when we would be having the chance of a lie in - suffice to say…. we still have many days to go until we reach that day!

This is a typical tour day for us: Arriving at the concert town in the early afternoon, check in at the hotel and heave our 23 kilo suitcases to the room (always gains a few confused looks from the staff as we only stay one night but travel with enough luggage to last two weeks obviously), meet everyone at the stage door, ideally see Mr Ball arrive, grab dinner, get changed, attend wonderful concert, leave for the next hotel down the road or (blissful) staying in same town, editing photos for a few hours and taking a shower. Then it is usually 2:30am and we are too tired for blogging. Then the next morning getting up at 8am to repack everything and start anew. Hence our delay in reporting. The Olivier blog was typed in the car en route to Plymouth but then we have to find a place with wifi to upload it all. But we are not complaining – we are on tour and loving it!

Anyway, back to business;-)

Next stop was Plymouth. Luckily we decided to sleep in a Travelodge near Heathrow. At least then we would not have to bother with the London traffic. Still the trip would last something like 3,5 hours. Who decided on Plymouth as the venue just after the Oliviers? Who?? Ah well….. we certainly won’t complain (well, maybe every now and then, but we try to be good – fighting the German nature). The weather was beautiful.

We got to Plymouth around two o’clock, grabbed a snack, made a few purchases, uploaded the blog and got back to the stage door, where a couple of fans had already gathered. The wait was not too long until the well-known tour bus appeared on top of the street. Loving the bus, it looks so glamorous!

As always the coach was parked inside the closed area at the stage door and we were standing right behind the barrier. Michael got out, all smiles and he was basically oozing happiness. You could tell how relieved he must have been to have won that Olivier. Unfortunately he did not bring it, but left it at home in a prime spot. We really would have loved to see it, but it’s understandable he does not take his awards on tour, although why not? Imagine what the cleaning personnel would think when they get in his room and they’d find his Olivier Award on the bedside table…. maybe not.

There is a small gap between the gates and the wall and it did not take long for the first fans to move onto the restricted zone next to the artiste (not restricted because it’s not generally forbidden to stand next to Michael, but because it really is a no go area). You just should not do it and the security staff does not like it.

As you can tell, we then went to upload the stage door pics, had dinner with lovely friends, which resulted in a necessary quick change for Kerstin in the car park, until we finally got to the venue to find our lovely seats just off centre. Weyhey, for the first time we would not see him sideways. HAPPY!!

The sound wasn’t very good but we have often experienced this in Plymouth. Maybe the hall just cannot handle these sorts of speakers. Very sharp s-sounds and it was very loud but we have had much worse. Plymouth crowd is always a bit of an enigma to us. The front is usually rather quiet while the raised back seems all loud and excitable. We did get up for his entrance and luckily were joined by a few people here and there but the majority around us remained seated. You know sometimes it feels like we are travelling with the same bunch of people, experiencing the same concert just at different venues but not so in Plymouth. Sometimes it gets a bit surreal when you think about it. Always a very different crowd here though, probably because it is so far off the centre of the country. It is a long drive after all. We were surrounded by several less than enthusiastic husbands and fathers who looked at us utterly bewildered when we got up for standing ovations LOL Bless them.

Naturally there was a change in the presentation for the Sweeney medley. He no longer talked about being nominated and what face to pull when you lost the award and the camera was still on you but admitted to being a little bit tired for having been at the Oliviers last night (massive cheers) and Sweeney did rather well. More cheering!

It was a great show and he really seemed relaxed and happy. Here comes Love Changes Everything and we waited with bated breath for the dash to the front (we wouldn’t run along as we were ensconced by non-runners and had perfect view anyways). He neared the money note – nothing. He ended the song – nothing. He left the stage – STILL nothing!! We could only see confused faces and fans hovering on the verge of going but no one daring to make the first move. LOL I bet the band wondered what was going on and it must have looked too funny, all this to-ing and fro-ing, the exchanged looks and shrugging shoulders. FINALLY someone did make the first move after what felt like an hour but must have been a minute and only when the music started again to introduce the encore. It was more of a tentative stroll than a mad dash though. This was the threshold though and soon enough more fans followed but only when he came back onto the stage and invited people to party did it get properly crowded down there and the party time was back to normal.

Wow – what a single tweet can do. Just to clarify: it IS okay to run, just wait until the song is finished.

Another wonderful concert and we had inane grins on our faces whenever we thought of those two Olivier statues sitting where they belong. At long last the anxiety was over.

We waved him good bye and then headed off to Paignton (one hour drive) to be closer to Oxford this morning. Okay, so we got to the wrong Premier Inn when we arrived at midnight…there are three of them here apparently. Who’d have thought it? But finally made it and are now picking up Angela en route. Beware Oxford – Mr Ball is coming to get ya!

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London, Olivier Awards 28/04/2013
29/04/13 @ 08:46:11 am, Categories: General, 1181 words   English (UK)

After a lovely breakfast in Birmingham we left for London town to witness the most glamorous theatrical event of the year – albeit from the outside. No tickets for us as they were 90 Pounds each and for this you would be sitting up, up, up above the stage in the uppermost circle you can imagine. But naturally we wanted to show support so we arrived at 2pm and positioned ourselves at the beginning of the red carpet where the cars would be stopping…in three hours time.

We were surrounded by theatre maniacs and autograph hunters – felt a bit like a Saturday night post-musical stage door. It was an impressive sight with the whole of the front street of the Royal Opera House covered in a bright red carpet, countless signposts and flags, all bearing the Olivier logo, huge spotlights, two large golden Olivier statues framing the carpet and already a considerable crowd of spectators and press (those with accreditation for the red carpet itself in very glamorous frocks and tuxedos). They also had hired very polite security staff (all in tuxedos of course) who allowed the curious bypassers to take the occasional photo of their loved ones posing on the very beginning of the carpet. It was fun to watch and excitement mounted. Luckily no rain, just icy gusts of wind every now and then which kept the security occupied as they hand-picked white petals from a nearby cherry tree off the carpet all the time. When the first cars started to arrive it was mayhem around us. We got squashed into the barriers surrounding the carpet and people around us where beside themselves with all the celebrities to ogle. We have to admit that we probably only recognized a tiny percentage of them but those were impressive indeed. A very gracious Kim Catrall signed autographs for almost everyone, making polite conversation and looking absolutely dazzling in her bright blue gown. Suddenly Daniel Radlciffe stood in front of us and even when his PA tried to usher him on most urgently he took time for everyone. A very humble and friendly young man. And such talent! We fondly remembered Equus where his performance was outstanding. We also saw James McAvoy, Damian Lewis, Mylene Klaas, Idina Menzel, Matthew Morrison, David Essex, Leigh Zimmerman, ElaiePaige, Louise Dearman, Brian May (who was later to present the award to Michael) and Helen Mirren. Imelda arrived a short while before Michael with her husband and daughter. She was smiles all around and took ages signing autographs and chatting to people. She seemed very relaxed indeed. Michael was among the last few celebs to arrive and did look dashing with Cathy, smiles all around but tense. Through the frenzy of security people and Olivier staff we sadly could not get his attention but he signed a few photos for the waiting crowd.

We entertained the idea of going somewhere warm and comfortable to sit down after our 4-hour wait but then found the screens mounted on Covent Garden Piazza around the corner where the BBC showed the event live (WHY OH WHY not on television??!!). We then could not tear ourselves away from the coverage as we really wanted to be part of all the excitement. They had set up a stage between the two big screens and this was used for live performances from Matilda and Billy Elliott and two presentations (one by Sheridan Smith and one by Hugh Bonneville and Elaine Paige). The atmosphere was great as apparently there were several teams from various theatres out there as well as many drama students etc. Many, many cheers throughout the evening. Sweeney Todd got the loudest of them all whenever it was mentioned. This of course meant another four hours of standing in the cold but what the heck. No one forced us to stay. There was only the briefest of showers but this did not really diminish the masses.

Award ceremonies are really stressfull when you are cheering for specific people. We never fully realized this until this very night. The first three categories where Sweeney was nominated (light, sound, costumes) went by without a win and suddenly we got very anxious. Surely they would give the three big ones to what has to have been the most outstanding production of 2012?! What if they didn’t?! And we knew Michael would have to perform at the end of the ceremony – Olivier or no Olivier. Oh dear, what if, what if?! You can tell we were a bit emotional by then, frozen to the core but only realizing this when attempting to go somewhere for the loos and noticing we couldn’t feel our legs anymore and walking felt quite peculiar indeed.

And then, FINALLY at the very end of the ceremony, it got to the interesting nominations. Best Revival first. God, the WAIT until the winner was announced and then the RELIEF when it was Sweeney and Jonathan Kent. The place erupted with delight. Clearly theatre folk had expected this and was very happy with the outcome. Fan folk agreed wholeheartedly.

We barely had our bearings gathered again from shouting with the best of them when Brian May and Lynda Bellingham took to the stage to present the award for best actor. This felt like hours and watching the faces of the nominees while they waited for their verdict was excruciating. Michael had the vote of the theatre folk around us clearly. But, oh, the wait. And then she opened this envelope and said the magical words: “Oh joy! It’s Michael Ball!” This was cathartic. Utter bliss. So well deserved, so hard worked for, so absolutely wonderful. Like totally amazeball!

And what a beautiful speech he gave. Thanking everyone who had faith in the production and all the immense talent coming together and mainly his two leading ladies: Imelda who taught him so much and Cathy who believed he could do it.

When Imelda was called up to the stage a few moments afterwards we felt on a complete high. This was just as it should be. For once the good guys had won and the world was a better place for it….you can tell we REALLY needed to get somewhere warm to sit down and quickly LOL

The announcement for the tribute to the wonderful Gillian Lynne went by in a blur as Team Germany was busy celebrating (that’s Petra, Helge and us) but then we were treated to a beautiful rendition of Love Changes Everything, complete with large choir from Arts educational centre and a very emotional two-time Olivier Award winner rounding the evening off quite elegantly.

What a rollercoaster ride it had been and we feel privileged to have been part of it all. Raise your cups, glasses, bottles to Team Todd who deserve all praise they get and more. What a perfect end to a perfect production.
We are heading to Plymouth while we type this and cannot wait to party with the best actor in a musical – as if we hadn’t known this all along. ;-)

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Birmingham 27/04/2013
29/04/13 @ 04:16:57 am, Categories: General, 518 words   English (GB)

What a couple of days. We only just arrived on Friday, have another two weeks ahead and it feels as if we are about to leave just because we have seen so much already, had a fabulous time with Petra and Helge (and the Ball) …. And spent a work day’s worth standing around in the cold dreading with anticipation… more about that later.

Birmingham – 27 April 2013

The weather forecast predicted heavy showers around the time of his arrival. We could not believe this, when we were sitting in the blazing sunshine, having a coffee / hot chocolate outside the Bullring shopping centre. Once we decided to leave our lovely space the weather took an extreme turn for the worse. Within minutes the blue sky was gone, heavy gusts shoved us in the direction of the stage door and by the time we were only five minutes away the heavens opened. We were sure this was the moment he got in, as it was a similar situation in Blackpool. And we were right. We missed him by a few minutes, so sadly no stage door photos .

We were quickly reminded that Birmingham is our kind of crowd. There was no polite clapping, but wild reception he deserves from the moment he entered the stage and throughout the concert. Michael was born near Birmingham you see, so he is always very well received. He even remarked something along the lines of this always feeling like coming home. This is how we like our concerts.

“On the Edge of Glory” – Was it ever more poignant than this very night merely one sleep away from the Oliviers?

The Symphony Hall is such a great venue and felt just right for the more loungy feeling of the first half. It is our favourite of all the three local venues we have been to.

He was on top form. The audience clearly knew their stuff for it was the first time Both Sides Now received an applause or recognition when the first few notes were played (usually this is reserved for the more familiar tunes of Empty Chairs and Love Changes).

The second have was over far too quickly and indeed some people did rush to the front BEFORE he even finished Love Changes. Come on, surely this is not on? You spoil your own enjoyment of the money note, the enjoyment of others who want to sit and appreciate it and judging by his tweet his joy of performing it! There is plenty of time to get down to party as he leaves the stage before the encore/party time. Let’s see what happens in Plymouth tonight.

After a mad dash to the stage door (gate) we were rewarded with a prime position to wave Michael good-bye. It was Saturday night and the clubs around were brimming with life. The stage gate itself was blocked by a police people carrier and we thought this was an extreme use of tax payers’ money should he be sped off to London in this ;-), but it soon left so that the tour coach could leave.

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Blackpool - 26 April 2013
27/04/13 @ 02:37:29 am, Categories: General, 647 words   English (UK)

Blackpool 26/04/13
Our journey was very smooth, well, that is if you discount the fact the airline contacted Julia two weeks before our departure to say they sadly had to cancel her direct flight to Manchester but would put her on a stop over one instead. Luckily the stop was Dusseldorf where Kerstin starts from, so the bunnies ended up beginning the tour together much sooner than anticipated. It just meant that Julia was packing till 2:30am (yes, I am this kind of person) and had to get up at 6am the next day to catch the early flight to Dusseldorf. But everything else was text book travel. We met up with Helge and Petra at the airport in Manchester, collected our car and team Germany was on the road to Blackpool.

British spring meant we left home at 15° and sunshine to arrive in 8° and imminent threat of rain in the UK. Ah well, it wouldn’t be the complete fan experience without standing at a windy, cold and wet driveway of one venue or other. And no one makes us do it. Normal people would have had a nice hot drink somewhere inside. Not us though. Naturally when the time had arrived and the tour bus turned into the street the heavens opened properly and a light shower became a grown-up downpour quickly. No lingering for the Ball then but it was lovely seeing him up close again after our last Sweeney which seems a lifetime away somehow. We also managed to say hello to the ever delightful Mr Hansel.

As we are in the process of re-packing our bags for a hasty departure towards Birmingham (and believe us, this is not an easy task considering we seem to brought our entire wardrobe with us – and yet cannot find something to wear…the age old women dilemma) we will not go into too much detail about the show but hope to do this in one of the later blogs when we are not quite so much in a hurry. Suffice to say that we loved the look of the show (and man, both men actually, Adrian Hansel looking his usual stunning self as well) and the sound of the band with small added string section. Loved the Lady Gaga opening and the smooth sound of the Both Sides Now half. Particular highlights for us certainly were Songbird, Love and Affection and the sensational Run. That he had to re-start When She Loves Me due to a slight timing issue did not diminish the humble beauty of the song at all and Blackpool crowds loved every minute of it (we actually thought them a bit quiet at the beginning –completely out of character, as we are used to unbridled ecstasy the minute the Ball comes onto the stage here in the north. But this might have been only in our corner of the stalls. But the more the show progressed the livelier the audience around us became). Second half with utterly stunning visuals and very clever staging. Highlights from the musicals delivered almost in medley style. We loved that Mr Todd now sings Cats (meaning we REALLY enjoyed this newly discovered low register of Michael’s). Anthem being a showstopper of course but Being Alive is equally breathtaking. Loved the guest singers, all three having wonderful voices (Close Every Door a highlight for ears and eyes) but wish he would do Phantom of the Opera instead of All I ask of you as a duet as while the latter is beautiful of course the former s so wonderfully dramatic. Partytime was a joy and how he deliveres Wonder of You without so much of a scratch in his voice after 2 hours of sininging the most difficult songs in the world we will never know but are very grateful for indeed. What a night! Off to the next…hooray!

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