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>>  Julia and Kerstin's trip blog
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!

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!

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. ;-)

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.

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!


On the road with Michael Ball.
April 2013
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