Artisteer

After the Ball is over

~ Many a heart is aching.... ~ (Michael's last night) - Part 2


19 th July 2003; 2:33 pm; Place: The London Palladium
Subject: The Last Matinee of the original Caractacus Potts!

There was still time to relax, Michael was not due for some more minutes, when we had our first surprise! Peter Bishop had not been there to collect his trophy after the race! How very rump! Furthermore we had learned that David Henry would be our Baron tonight! Actually as well the commentator/Phillips and Lord Scrumptious were played by different people that night, but as we were in a hurry, I did not check for the names of the understudies!

Michael promised us a funny show and we got it! For the first time ever I saw him getting onto the stage walking behind the breakfast machine, hammering heavily on the poor machine! He was welcomed by wild applause, when the show finally seemed to start properly!

Excited we were waiting for the first pranks and of course I nearly missed it. When Grandpa came back to go to India the audience started laughing and I did not realise why! It took me some moments to discover Anton had taken the "I take my clothes off!" sentence more literally than usual! There he was: Grandpa just wearing shorts! Michael was still clueless as for sure he could not look around the stage searching for the reason of the laughter. So Anton stopped right in front of Michael, whose facial expression I will never forget! Face to face they were talking, when Michael let drop his gaze for a nanosecond to discover Anton's state! He suppressed a laugh, though his dimples were showing slightly and he tried his best to behave as if everything was just as it should be! Grandpa was off to India and Michael still had problems to keep his straight face, broader smiling than usual most of the time and again being close to start laughing, when Anton got back for lunch! Still wearing shorts! How Anton managed to stay as calm, we shall never know ;-).

When Michael introduces Truly to Toot Sweets he played a song, but I had no idea what it was, only that it seemed familiar. Julia went through the notes twice and said: "Love, love changes everything"! Right! That's what he tried to play!

The second last "Me Ol' Bamboo": They would not be as mean to do anything to Michael during this song, would they? Nay! Everything went fine! Caractacus has the money for the car and we have the encore! When suddenly the dancers stopped doing their jobs, all just looking at Michael! Poor Michael hesitated only a short moment, before he went on doing the rest completely alone! And very well indeed!

POSH: You know the scene: Grandpa is looking after the children, doing all the housework, while Caractacus is working on the car in the workshop! Usually at some point during the song Caractacus comes up through the trap door, just grabs the carpet-beater and is gone again after loud protests of Grandpa! This time, however, they fastened the said beater tightly to its hook, so Michael had a really hard time to get it and leave again. Having Anton broadly smiling at Michael, he went over do Anton and even hit him with it, laughing! When Michael made some cheeky comment to Grandpa while climbing back down the trap door , Anton reacted very fast, took a cup filled with water and emptied it onto the famous curls. Michael clearly didn't expect that!

Grandpa gets the children to bed and sings them a horrible rendition of "Hushabye Mountain". Being told off by the children. "You don't sing it like Daddy does!" he comments: "Yes, but he can't sing anyway, can he?"

Still not really recovered from the POSH incident we are in for another laugh as Michael emerges from the trapdoor once more, with an electrical hair-dryer, doing the best to recover his curls!

Chitty presentation: The car comes up, does the slight turn and... we are presented with two huge fluffy dice dangling from Chitty's dashboard!

The The usually rather funny , as heavily ad libbed, scene of the Childcatcher following the Potts family and Truly into the Toyshop was not too impressive though this time! The childcatcher starts with his "I smell children!" sentences and out of nowhere rather silent farting noises were produced, resulting in the childcatcher twitching his nose in disgust. Anyway, as the scene is mostly about entertaining Robert Scott, who was in stitches laughing about the joke, it fulfilled its purpose.

Each time the childcatcher gets into the shop Truly and Caractacus hide at two different curtains. This afternoon though I think they left some of the children in mild surprise, when Caractacus came out of Truly's and vice versa!

Having read the reports on Michael's "costume changes" on March 15th during th e Music Doll scene, we were quite curious what he'd come up with this time! And even though we KNEW something hilarious would be coming, nothing prepared us for the sight. After the understudy Baron (David Henry) and the Toymaker were jumping around the stage, as the Baron was so excited about the present (I'd advice to leave that bit in, after the whole scene was changed very much to the worse!), Truly thought she was very cheeky with her hearts instead of red dots on her .. well .. cheeks...but she nearly fell off her box, when she caught eye of her Caractacus. She even forgot he final pose! The toymaker came and pulled her into the correct position. She was shaking with suppressed laughter The audience however, were far from suppressing anything....we were all roaring with laughter!
Michael's box had opened and revealed him wearing a bright red clown wig, a very long false nose, false distorted teeth and huge glasses! He took those teeth out for his dash past the audience. One very careful step he bent down very low and slowly raised his head to make sure he knew where this path should take him! After this very thorough inspection he ran on, making a quick stop to ruffle through Robert Scott's hair, then ran on, to free his children. We had tears in our eyes and could hardly stop giggling at all!

Side remark: If you still had not recognised today's performance was not just an ordinary matinee, all you had to do was look at Anton and Michael, who kept hugging other much longer than usual!

Vulgaria was freed once more and the Potts and Potts-to-be (Is Truly aware that her name will from now on be Truly Potts?? OR will it be Caractacus Scrumptious??)could "go home now". Anyway, Truly turned out to be a rather modern woman today (so probably Caractacus Scrumptious, eh?): Whilst our hero still enjoyed the celebrations, Truly hopped into the driver's seat and fastened her seat-belt. I am sure most men would share poor Caractacus' shock, when he realised he had to be driven AND flown by a woman! So he tried and be gentleman saying "Oh, your drive then Truly!" She surely did...but he lost all good manners as soon as they set off into the air. He kept intervening with the steering wheel, driving her mad. Somehow this made us wish never to be Michael Ball's driver. (We bet Scott is happy Michael sits in the fond all the time!). being not used to the passengers seat Caractacus nearly fell out of his beloved four-fendered friend when she does a slight turn and had to hold VERY tight to the dashboard. Talk about change of perspective for the poor man. Never mind Michael! After all the technicians thought of your safety and built-in those huge dice as a kind of pre-modern airbags!

Eagerly he got the rifle out when th e CC threatened them from the roof of the theatre. Truly showed him what he had to do and, being a natural hero, he shot the gun, the glitter flew down on us! Michael: "Now, will you marry me?" - Truly:  "That wouldn't be entirely inappropriate!" She did very well up to here! But after that sentence she clicked back into her own part and replied on his behalf: "What?". They both started to giggle and agreed "YES!". Cheers and Truly got her well-deserved (and rather passionate!!!) kiss.

It goes without saying that the audience went wild at the curtain call. Standing ovations, of course. Also they let the curtain up a little bit longer than usual, so Michael could take his time waving at us (or they had a technical problem and it just suited us all;-)

That's it now. Only one Bamboo left. Does it sound a bit pathetic that we are sad after having seen the show a rough 19 times? Please don't comment ;-). ... sigh one Toot Sweets dance, one Bombie Samba, one Hushabye Mountain reprise. siiiiiiiiigh. If that's not enough: Time to say good-bye to Pat! No, we won't be depressed. It's not as if 106 days till we meet her and Michael again would be a long time! IT IIIIIIIISSSSS! Okay, okay, will calm down! Oooh, oooh oooh. It works! Positive thinking works and even affects others! Some nice people standing outside the Palladium handing out flyers for Michael's tour! Woweee! Okay, Sylvi gave us one the very same morning, but who are we to deny a little cute Michael flyer a nice and cozy home! You see? Don't you agree?

After one more emotional good-bye we head off to dinner at Bella Pasta. Darren and Angela invited us again! No, we don't feel like worms, parasites.. Great god, dinner was fab and what are we doing now? We are on our way to learn how the other half lives! We are on our way to our sweet couple's hotel! Actually the very same hotel, that was the set of the famous London double feature of "Friends" some years ago, so Darren told us, as if we needed persuasion to have a look at the London Marriott! (Side remark: Funnily those episodes were repeated on German TV just after that very day!).

We changed and no we did not cry at the look of their bathroom, well hardly anyway! Actually we were not even envious of their wardrobe, not to mention the functioning - and really big TV set! Sob, sob, sob.. And no that was not the reason we nearly missed the start of the show! A very fast walk back to the Palladium, we see Pat standing there in front of the entrances waiting for us. Smiling at her, we hardly noticed a taxi stopping only feet away from us. Only when the door opened, something made us look over! And guess who was beaming at us lovely as always! Right: Mr. Tony Ball! No idea how we managed to bump into him (thank heavens not literally!) three times on just one day, it was always lovely.

We stood there again, chatting to him, until we really had to dash in. Just then Tony commented on how hard it had been to get tickets for this show! Well, it should not be too much trouble for the Dad of the Lead, should it? Our umpteenth goodbye later we are on the way down to the stalls, while Tony takes the usual way up to the Royal Circle! Did he though? We hardly reached the bottom of the steps when we realise...to quote Truly "HE was following us! That creature was following us!!!!" Well, it was a really lovely he .. and no creature at all .. we were just all in Chitty mood and made some comments along those lines...Tony laughed and said he might be our stalker .. we said we wouldn't mind as long as it's a Ball man. We were too impressed how easy and normal it can be to be chatty (..even naughty!) with a Ball, to notice that Tony actually walked into the stalls with us. More good-byes and enjoy the shows and we see him take his seat in OUR row! Row L! Ok, it was on the other side of the theatre, but it was our row! He was right. Even a man who is greeted by all staff AND is the father of the lead wouldn't get a single ticket up in the Circle anymore. Wow!

Such a constant in our lives .. we remember the very first time we walked down Argyll Street so well .. looong before the first ever preview, joking to each other that this will become our second home before long. That was shortly after CCBB was announced. Little did we know how true this harmless comment would prove to be a mere two years later. So vivid the very first time we walked into this beautiful theatre...

After the usual security announcement (no picture taking "for the safety of cast and car!" Also for copyright reasons.) the man added that tonight was, he was tempted to call it: a "theatrical landmark", as it was the final show of their very first Caractacus. As soon as he said those last words a cheer erupted that drowned everything else he might or might not have announced. We only could hear him tell us that Robert Scott would be our musical director for the evening. Bit curious, as he usually is...but still nice to see him do it one last time.

The show itself was like it always is...and completely different. The feeling about it was different but also the audience reaction. Although the theatre was filled with Michael fans there were still enough people who had only come to see a good musical. But those joined in and made the night extra special. The response was amazing. I rarely had such a good time, as the cast gets better and better with every extra laugh and cheer. It was perfect. Everyone seemed determined to make the last night of the lead extra special. The show flew past like a hurricane. It seemed over in two minutes. Much too fast anyway. The curtain call began and everyone waited for the man of the moment.

And on he came to tumultuous applause and - naturally - instant standing ovations. We could see, even from row L (which, we have to say were the best stall seats we ever had!! Surprisingly. Finally one could see the feet at Bamboo and ALL the action on stage .. not just the front), how touched Michael was. Actually he didn't even manage his wide smiley but had to fight to keep his tears back...not too successfully one might add. This alone sufficed to make us all shaky and watery eyed.

We thought the Circles would come down, such was the enthusiasm of the crowd. Michael kept mouthing thank you's in all directions. Finally, Anton Rogers took his step forwards and -with some difficulty - managed to quieten 2300 people.

He said that one had to be blind, deaf and drunk to have missed it was Michael's last night (or something to similar effect) and began a really sweet speech. All went well, we were very touched and then it happened. This experienced actor's voice broke with sadness! He attempted to say that it had been a long journey and couldn't continue for a second. I think everyone in the audience and on stage blinked a way a few (or a few more) tears that moment, when he turned to Michael and said that it was this person who made the journey special. They hugged for a very long time, like they had throughout the Chitty finale several times, and kissed cheeks. Now it was Michael's turn and he looked like holding a speech was far from what he'd prefer to do right now.. i.e. get a tissue from somewhere.

But he fought bravely and said how amazed he was at the kind reaction and how he wanted to thank everyone from technicians to Gareth for this wonderful time. And no matter whether we had seen the show just once or 150 times he thanked us for the support and the energy he got from the audience. Massive applause erupted once more and Michael Ball took his final and long bow at the London Palladium stage. There was no one in the entire audience who wasn't genuinely moved by this performance. He is an exceptional performer and an exceptional personality. Everyone knew that now, but most of us had known it for a long time already. Still it was great to see "ordinary" theatregoers leave the auditorium in amazement and with shiny eyes.

Knees still shaking we made our way to the stage door...and met total chaos. Ok, when he arrived it had been crowded but this was madness! We found a square inch to stand on and for the next  - what? - maybe 30 minutes, we got pushed an shoved this way and that. It was still rather warm and the massive crowd made everyone feel slightly claustrophobic. Also it gave a hell of a lot of trouble to the poor Palladium staff who tried to make a path for people leaving the theatre....even worse one could not see the stage door .. so no idea who was coming out. At least we were near the car, so we wouldn't miss him.

Luckily the flashes of those people near the stage door ramp were a sure sign someone of interest would be coming. Whenever someone from the Chitty cast left there were two cheers or recognition: one from the front group , one form the rear group ,further down the street .. where we stood.

Luckily the flashes of those people near the stage door ramp were a sure sign someone of interest would be coming. Whenever someone from the Chitty cast left there were two cheers or recognition: one from the front group , one form the rear group ,further down the street .. where we stood.

The first to receive this enthusiastic greeting was none other than Richard O'Brien! We couldn't believe it! He smiled at everyone and seemed to enjoy the hysteria... Next were Anton Rogers and David Henry.  Then came Gary Wilmot who looked very nice but a bit scared. Someone asked him whether he'd enjoy taking over the role and he replied "No!", but was laughing. I could understand him all too well. Michael isn't the easiest act to follow. Also I am not sure to how many adoring fans at stage doors Mr Wilmot is used to... There was a flicker of hope when we saw Gareth, but no screams this time, so no Michael. He handed things to Scott (I think!), still clearing out the dressing room. Silence and waiting , then came Caroline Sheen and smiled at everyone waving her good-bye. Scott fought his way through the masses (now how did he get back in there??) and was followed by Cathy. We knew she was there with Callum McLeod, so he must have been there somewhere, too. He was in the van later on. As she was in the car now, we knew it wouldn't be long and sure enough the first real screams and blinding flashlights came. Michael was on his way to the van. It took us quite some time to catch a glimpse of his curls und suddenly he was there, right in front of us (the path must have made a turn somewhere as he was there so suddenly!). Wearing a black shirt, looking as gorgeous as ever. Thanking everyone on his way to the car. Rushing through the scary crowd. We really admired him for this, but he had Scott and Gareth as his bodyguards , so all went smoothly. No one groped him. Instead of simply waving and driving away, he stepped back onto the doorsill once more and delivered a short but touching speech, face filled with emotion: 

"Hi all! The only thing I wish..I wish you could have seen what I could see at the end of that show, looking at all your faces. Amazing. Thank you all so much for all your love and support. It's been an amazing.... an amazing journey. And I hope I'll see you all on the road! Thank you! I love you. God bless."

And the black-windowed door was shut. That's it. Slowly, very slowly Scott manoeuvred the van through the crowd that had started blocking the street. We later on heard from Darren, who was watching form a distance, that it had been really dangerous once Michael got at the car, as the people form the other side of the road just ran across the street, not turning right nor left for passing cars! Anyway, he turned the car -slowly- and everyone had started to wave and stopped taking pictures. And suddenly the door opened again and Michael was back. We were too far away to hear what he said, but gathered as much that they had trouble getting away with all that people. He took a few hands that grabbed his when he tried to wave at us all, thanked us all again and was definitely gone. Door shut again, Scott found his way out of the masses. One last farewell hoot of the horn and he was gone.

It was over! We stood there, watching the space where our beloved car left, the car with all the people in there, who had become parts of our lives! Did it feel strange? It did! Did it feel completely unreal? Oh yeah! Did we realise Michael would not really be there anymore? Nope, no way! Maybe it does help, that we are not "blessed" with the coverage about Michael's successor Gary Wilmot, who knows! We can still live in denial, back in our snail shell!

The crowd became smaller and smaller, until only some dozen fans - all very tearful and sad - were left! We searched for our friends and most of them were crying! Crying because there would not be the chance to see Michael tomorrow! What's in store for us now? An autumn tour, an album being released around the same time to look forward to! Thank you Michael for announcing that before you left Chitty. Life would have been so much sadder without having something to look out for! Tearful goodbyes, hugs and kisses later we managed to say goodbye to hopefully each and every single friend we had made over the year (and who had been there as well!). Sylvi, Melli, Angela and the still very patient Darren were waiting for us! One more goodbye and we left. The bags were packed, we had to leave our beloved second home behind in the dark night, all alone and fan-less. Bye Bye black gate on Great Marlborough Street. Farewell Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

We will miss you... Truly, Madly, Deeply and Seriously.

Epilogue

The last very difficult good-byes were to come. After we got our stuff from Angela and Darren's room the moment has come: the next good-bye. Thanks to both of you for giving us such a brilliant time and for just being you! Especially thanks to Darren who was just so patient with us and our madness being completely jet-lagged, but never showing! You are a star!

To sum it all up we can easily say that our Chitty trips have been the nicest ever stage door experience and we are infinitely grateful for making so many new friends whose kindness and generosity made us speechless (rare occasion!). You made it special! You made it more than just a musical about a flying car featuring the best singer in the world. And you know who you are. Now we feel lost and lonely but the tour will come and that means more stage door meetings. Though we know far too well that nothing in the world will ever be the same (to quote a very popular love song we all know)!

Nothing more was left. We used the few hours we had to drive and walk around a beautiful nightly London and said our final good byes to all our favourite places until we really had to get to Marble Arch to catch our coach to Stansted airport. We were far from being the only ones going there at this ungodly time of night! Who cares, if you manage the last two seats together! Bye Bye London! For a very long time! Unreal after having been there every three weeks! No London in 2003 anymore...oooer, now it really starts to sink in.

Now, only one good bye was left and that would be without a doubt the worst one! Julia's flight left at 7.30 am, when I still had five hours left! Air Berlin was nice enough not to let me change to the earlier flight or rather only for a rough 145 Euros! I don't think so! (An 8.30 am flight was added to their schedule after I booked my flight, gurrr! Only discovered this perfect flight now! Air Berlin said, they were almost completely booked due to strikes at Heathrow! It's another story, that the people who boarded the flight later on only filled half of the plane!). The time for the last and biggest hugs had come: Julia had to leave and after her plan grew smaller and finally disappeared from view, there was only one bunny left! But worry ye not: The time passed quicker than anticipated and Michael kept me from falling asleep. At 2.30 pm the last bunny hit German ground!!!

The only thing left to say is that  that we will never forget what fun we had and that we will never doubt Michael's decisions again. How silly we were to be apprehensive at the prospect of Chitty coming up! And how much we fell in love with it on first sight. Off to the next adventure!

04/09/2004 14:32

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