Ipswich...what can we say about Ipswich? The hotel was really nice and convenient. Only 10 minutes by car. The town centre itself was pretty actually, but by the time we got there everything was closed, naturally. That's the eternal curse of the Michael Ball fans on tour: You always are in a hurry to get to the stage door in time and then you wait a couple of hours ( or minutes, depends on how lucky you are) and when he is finally in and you are finished exchanging pictures and memories and hellos/hugs with friends, it's way past five ( or even six) and all shops are either about to close or already closed. But back to the getting to the stage door in time thing. We figured parking near the venue would be easy. It looked like it on the map. How very wrong we were. Nearest parking available was WAY too far away, especially when we had to get back to the car in posh shoes after the concert again! We passed the stage door in our car about three times and we do hope that no one thought we were simply too daft to recognise a fan crowd when we see it! When we were about to either scream or cry with frustration a miracle happened: we found a parking lot on the street, for free, only one minute walk away from the venue. YAY!
So we went up there, said our hellos and it was rather hot in the sun, so Bunny Julia said, rather foolishly, as it was only 4 pm and half of our friends hadn't even arrived yet: “He is allowed to be early today.” ( I meant not at half past five, honestly!!) and Bunny Kerstin looked up the street stating rather relaxed: “There he is….”, Bunny Julia looked up, expecting a joke but there it was, the all too familiar Star Line coach, Michael all waving at the crowd! Just like that! EEEEK!! Again we seemed to take ages to get the equipment going. But finally we were all set. As happened before he merely had his window open to sign things, shake hands and collect pressies. He looked amazing, but what's new. This tour was such a joy for the eyes as well as for the ears...mmmh…ahem. Back to topic. It didn't take too long until the coach was safely parked behind huge iron gates and everyone started relaxing again…okay, so we waited to see him step off the bus and wave again, but after that we REALLY relaxed. Sadly it was only then that lots of fans started to arrive, thinking they'd be well in time. Who'd expect him to change his arrival time that late down the tour schedule?? This man likes to be unpredictable! Okay, or he had experienced just what we had: empty streets all the way up from London to Ipswich, which usually is a rather busy route…
Luckily we were well taken care of by lovely Pat, Linda, Pam and another Linda. We were united in the never-ending quest for pre-concert food. FINALLY we found a place that was open and it was really nice, too! Pizza and Penne and cinnamon ice cream…all that plus a hilarious time, spent mainly laughing (and drooling over a certain Welsh singer we needn't mention) with only brief spells of eating in between. Sigh, how we miss all that fun and going out with the best girls (and occasionally brave hubbies) in the world…
Now, concert time. The venue was tiny. We even heard it referred to as flee pit, which we really liked! But it had its own charm in a way...apart from the not to charming non-existent air con (mind you, we never knew what no air con meant until Bournemouth, but that's another story and will be told in another review!)…BUT it had ladies' rooms IN the auditorium! That comes very handy in a show without proper interval and a mainly female audience.
We sat next to Joan and Nadine (and Sharon was one row in front of us), so it felt like a girls night out again. Joan also told us Martin Crewes was in tonight ( that's “young, virile, handsome Walter Hartright”, the character Michael didn't get to sing in Woman in White, but had thought he would, when the producers called him and begged for help, replacing an actor who fell ill…). As we knew Michael would sing Walter's / Martin's two big love songs from WIW we couldn't wait for the concert to start. Surely Michael would add an extra 150 % to impress his young colleague. And so he did. He also informed us that Jill Paice, who was Laura Fairlie in the musical, was present, too. He held very fond memories of working with them all and we were all genuinely happy they did come to see him perform in this different genre. We are very sure they enjoyed themselves as much as we did.
Missy behaved that night to utter perfection, this time it was Count Fosco who played up! Would you believe that? As said before, the venue wasn't the largest, so the stage was rather crammed. When Michael set of to fetch the Count from the wings he soon realised that Annie's microphone stand was blocking the way ( as the Count needs to be rolled onto the stage on tiny wheels and cannot step over obstacles). “Live theatre, don't you just love it?!”, Michael murmured while rearranging the set slightly ( which consequently led to Annie looking for her microphone once the Backies were on stage again…luckily Dean found it in time), so the Count could have his big entrance.
The audience was amazing. As this concert was originally planned as the final one the house was packed with dedicated fans. For us this concert will be remembered as one of the best of the lot we've seen. The place literally rocked….we could feel it shake! We quiet enjoy turning around at the end, seeing what he sees from the stage. What a sight! No wonder he kept getting all emotional and teary at the end!
In their exuberance someone in the audience threw a pair of tiny knickers at Michael during the party bit. This was sort of funny for the moment as he wiped his sweaty face with it and threw it back, but then he had about ten knickers thrown at him at once which we all thought rather spoilt the (old) joke…
When we all floated out of the theatre into the mild night air we prepared for a long wait. Half the cast of Woman in White was in after all (well, okay, only two of them, but still…), but we didn't mind seeing we had so many fresh concert memories to cherish. We chatted away with Rose-Marie and were taken completely by surprise when the gates swung open and his coach left at a rather normal sort of leaving time! We stood in exactly the right place for a good night wave and smile and off he was. Leaving us slightly dazed and confused, as usual.
When we said our good-byes to everyone we gave Linda and Pat ( who stayed in our hotel, too) a lift back and had a marvellous après-concert party in their room till very early in the morning, or very late at night, which ever way you want it. Having naughty food and drooling…errr…enjoying! the latest photos Bunny Kerstin had taken during this concert. So they got a sneak peak and we got their crisps and Snickers…good trade!
No generous late check out at this place, so the alarm mobile was set ( gosh, where would we be without the alarm mode of our mobile phones?? Still in Edinburgh, we gather..) and we were all set for the last night of the tour: Bournemouth, on the 27 th of June, Michael's 43 rd birthday, JustBall.Net's 5 th birthday and a melancholic last night.