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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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