Welcome to the 60s!
~ JustBall.Net goes Hairspray Again~
Okay, last time we were over to see the phenomenon that is Hairspray we had already established that the show was HIGHLY addictive (don't say you haven't been warned) and simply couldn't stop humming ALL of the songs all day long. It was quite nice to sometimes zoom out of a working day with a grin on your face and find yourself back at the theatre grooving to You can't stop the Beat…We HAD to go back and soon. The original plan was to see the show in October, January and April. (Shortly before the opening night, after his holidays and for his last night, to be precise.)
Now January did seem incredibly far away. And Kerstin's birthday is on the 25 th of November and flights were at about 40 Euros (ridiculously cheap!). And so it happened that we found ourselves back at the Shaftesbury Theatre much sooner than anticipated.
What was best was that we were flying together this time. Usually we meet up at Stansted airport but airfares made it possible for Kerstin to first fly over to Bunny Julia and then make the journey together. This actually was her early birthday present (entirely selfless, I may add) This way, being delayed for one hour wasn't too bad. We had lovely company and it was so relaxing to have her with me rather than know her to be waiting for ages at the arrivals hall. So we arrived in London on late Monday night, managing (just) to get the very last train into the city centre but naturally missing the last tube to get us to our hotel. We opted for the bus instead. It turned out that by the time we got to London (00:46 am), it had started to rain, no pour and we only had a rough idea what our bus stop might look like. It took us some time to locate the correct bus and we actually got out one or two stops too early…in the still pouring rain. Entirely by chance (kismet?) it turned out that we were actually walking down the very street where our hotel was located. No planning or cleverness involved here. It was mere luck. We were SO happy to have found it (it was only 5 minutes' walk away from the theatre, but in the dark, from the back and in the rain we had no idea where we were, to be quite frank with you). You cannot imagine the joy we felt when we finally stood at the reception of our B&B, ready to collapse on ANY bed they'd offer us (we had a VERY early start that day). It was way past 1 am at this point. We notice the slightly shabby look of the place, but were used worse. The smell is something different altogether but we really needed some sleep and somewhere dry. We were filling out the form for the billing address etc when a lady walks in, declaring she has now found another PROPER place to stay and wants her money back at once. We gulped and while the clerk counted her money, she kept mouthing “Don't stay! Go somewhere else! Really do not stay!”
Great, we were tired, soaked and scared of our room now. But honestly couldn't master the energy to go hotel hunting in the middle of the night (and monsoon). So we accepted our fate and trotted up the stairs to the first floor (oh yes, we had two large bags, and naturally our room was in the second floor) we had already reached the first landing when the clerk called after us saying that no, no, it wasn't in this house, it was two houses down the road (their annex). He just forgot to mention that when he told us the floor and room number. So back down again, out into the rain, up two flights of stairs (steep and narrow). To our relief the room was neither new, nor pretty but clean and it would do for just three nights.
Tuesday ~ 20th November
The next morning we got our front row seats organised and set out to buy the new DVD. The first shop on Oxford Street did sell it…at a price of 26 £. We almost fainted! We love him dearly, but not THAT dearly, so on we searched and found HMV at Covent Garden (those familiar with the area will notice that all we ever did was circling the venue at some distance) which sold it for 17 £. Not the cheapest but MUCH better, so we went for that as we were quite keen to see whether our beloved Savoy Story was on there (yes it was). We also bought a hairdryer which turned out to be cheaper and also MUCH better than those we both have at home (when in need buy the one for 10 £ at Boots, it's worth every penny!) and ended up at Dress Circle shop buying the libretto for Hairspray so we finally can sing along with the proper words (at home, NOT at the theatre of course). We felt we were right as soon as we entered the shop and were greeted by Michael singing What the World Needs Now. They played Back to Bacharach!
Out of nostalgia we walked towards the Donmar Warehouse (we have a habit of visiting past stage doors) and whom would we almost bump into? Boris Becker and his (by now apparently ex-) girlfriend. Cool, a proper celeb-sighting!
After our little shopping spree and some food we positioned ourselves at the stage door…only to discover that the narrow street was now blocked entirely for cars, as work at the water pipes was in progress (or said to be in progress at least). Before they have decided to rip open the street you could always make way for cast members and people using the back street as a shortcut by stepping on the street. Now there was a big metal fence which makes the stage door even more…shall we say cosy?…then before and you have to make a real effort not to block anyone's way. We dread the evening, as even when at the time for Michael's arrival the place is relatively empty, after the show there is usually quite some crowd of autograph hunters etc.
Anyways, we stood and waited in what can be described as a very small crowd. When he arrived he was relaxed and we had a nice little chat, asking a few questions, getting a few answers. We had a great time. He had even remembered that we originally were not bound to be back until the next year. We are spoilt rotten by this man, so thoughtful and taking so much of his time. When he got in, we had a lovely hot chocolate and got ready for the show (it's SO handy to have a hotel just down the street). What was a slight drawback was that we knew by now that Leanne wasn't to be in the show for she was still suffering from a cold. We were curious as to what her understudy would be like though.
Having sat down on what were to be our standard seats from now on (Michael even remembered that! Take care ladies, he is watching you closely from up the stage!) we saw Charlotte Riby as Tracy. And she was really good, a voice a bit more mature than Leanne's but we did miss some of Leanne's typical gestures. It just wasn't the same (naturally). Just when we got used to it, we noticed something didn't quite go according to plan. In the opening number, Tracy is on her way to school and describes her neighbourhood, greeting various people on her way…and after a while we realised that non of those people were actually on stage. It was still only her…and wasn't there supposed to be a scene change? And without as much as a puzzled blink, Charlotte walked off stage, still singing! Such a professional. The curtain came down and the music stopped. People who hadn't been to the show before will up until that moment not have noticed anything going wrong, so there was some confused whispering all around us. Then came the announcement that due to technical difficulties there would be a short break, would we please stay seated. As we sat right next to the MD we smiled at him and shrugged our shoulders, signalling that it's not a big thing, he grinned back. After about five minutes he got the phone call that they could start again. Lights out, curtain up, and off we go. Charlotte was back on stage and with her all the people she should have met on her way to school. Everyone with a big smile on their faces. To huge applause they continued as if nothing had ever happened. After that everything went according to plan and we had the most fantastic time. Well, there is not much else you can have at Hairspray, if you ask us. Then again, we are addicts, so are a little biased…Oh and we already feared Johnnie Fiori was next to miss a few shows due to this awful cold everyone keeps passing on to each other at the theatre. Her voice, SO impressive even with a cold, sounded a bit rough.
At the stage door afterwards there was a manageable crowd, we had a short chat and he asked when we'd all be back. One of our little group informed him, she'd leave tomorrow and we said we'd see him tomorrow at the stage door. He also said he feared Johnnie would be the next to suffer from the infamous cold. After he has disappeared into the night, we had talked to Andrew a little while (what a star that man is!) and then it was time to catch up with ALL the sleep we had missed out on the last few nights.
Wednesday ~ 21st November
After getting our tickets from the box office we spent some time shopping in London (SO many shops and SO little money, life is just unfair!). Today would be a different kind of stage door for us as we needed to arrive all poshed-up. We were to meet our friend Peter for pre-show dinner. And yes, we DID convince a tenor from the ENO to use his day off to see Hairspray!
We stood at the stage door and were alone at first (this always feels a bit weird), but with time passing it got a little more crowded. Or quite a bit more crowded. The road works really do not help…but we cope. No metal fence, no rain, no wind can stop us fans from doing our job.
We met Gill and Maureen again and had a lovely time chatting, also Caroline from Utah had come all the way to see us again after all those years since Stars in Barnes (okay, okay, we MAY not have been her main reason after all…but it sounded nice! Admittedly it might have been more about a certain Welsh singer we all know.). With great company time flies…even when it keeps raining.
When he finally arrived he took his time (sorry for the lack of photos by the way, but with it being winter and Michael arriving rather late, it is WAY too dark in that backstreet for decent photos and you wouldn't want to use flash all the time), as always. When he spotted us he said he thought we were on our way back home! We said, no this was a misunderstanding, one of the crowd yesterday had her last night, not us. He insisted we had, we insisted we hadn't (it was SUCH a laugh!) and at one point Bunny Julia said “Well, sorry, but we are still here.” He just laughed and said “Don't worry, I like seeing you.” (Awwww!) Then Kerstin cleared the whole thing up and said that we had said “See you tomorrow!” last night. “Oh yes, that's right!”, he finally remembered. LOL We were still giggling when he was inside.
That would be really rich, to say you leave to get a goodbye from him and then have the cheek to turn up at the stage door the next day…we'd die with embarrassment!
Anyways, giggly we were when we met up with Peter and had a really lovely Italian dinner just around the corner from the theatre. We mainly talked Christmas and Hairspray and Aida (the ENO's latest production).
Back at the theatre we saw that Sandra Marvin was to take over as Motormouth Maybelle for tonight's performance. We really were a bit sceptical about this, as Johnnie has the two big numbers of the show and you need a hell of a voice for those (I Know Where I've Been made your reviewer cry at the previous night…). What was great though was that Leanne was back as Tracy. We saw her arrive and were over the moon when she confirmed she felt much better and would be up for the performance.
Peter was sat in the upper circle and we resumed our usual seats at the front (SO relieved he wouldn't be able to see us party-ing at the end). The opening scene started, all was back to normal with Leanne up there and it went really well until...yup, the scenery was stuck again. And even earlier than the night before. Poor Leanne looked a bit lost when the MD signalled for her to stop, as it was no really use. Nothing would move, not even the “rats on the street” She smiled at us all and left the stage. This time it all took a little while longer and they resumed at a few lines earlier but after that all went smoothly. You leave this show on such a high, it's unbelievable. And it has a proper party time, like at the tour. After the big Finale and the bows, the audience is invited to join in and dance along with everyone on stage. Such a blast!
The Stage Door
High as kite we left the theatre and took our place at the stage door when the (massive) rain set in again and we were soaked almost immediately. What made it worse was that we had forgotten our umbrella in the theatre. Our darling Peter was such a gentleman and fetched it for us, so that his mad friends didn't have to leave the spot in the puddle outside a backstreet door at a metal fence…amazing display of dignity there from our part! LOL Imagine our faces when he told us that due to his knee he needed a bit more legroom and was relocated in one of the boxes, which gave him a splendid view on…us. Party-ing away like mad-bunnies!
Peter had a train to catch so he didn't wait for Michael (he calls it Ball-watching LOL), but said that he had REALLY enjoyed the show. We were very happy to hear that indeed.
We got talking to two young men who had come all the way from Malaga in Spain to see Michael, we retorted we had come all the way from Germany and knew people from the US and Australia who did just that etc. They were really impressed and we had a wonderful time chatting in the pouring rain. Andrew got out a few times and remarked on the horrible weather. We said, we, after having sat for 12 hours in the pouring rain at Dyffryn Gardens WITHOUT any rain gear, this was a piece of cake. LOL We helped our Spanish friends to spot the cast members when they left (really difficult, as wigs and make up DO change a person's look). It took ages for the Turnblad family to come out.
When Leanne finally got out, they had no umbrella for her! So while she signed programmes and the two young men had their photos taken with her (Kerstin volunteered), bunny Julia held our umbrella over her so she wouldn't get too wet. The things you do.
Same applied when Michael got out. Only this time, Kerstin held the umbrella and I took the photo of the two gentlemen with Michael. He apologised to the crowed having let us wait in that rain so long, but they all got chatting and forgot the time. That's so very thoughtful of him, but I am sure no one would dream of complaining. After all he does not HAVE to come and talk to the fans (especially in that weather!). Some cast members simply walk up the street in the opposite direction when they leave and no one could talk to them. So we considered us all very lucky.
One of the Spaniards greeted Michael by saying: “You are the best singer in the word!” and Michael laughed and replied: “And the most beautiful woman!” He signed things and chatted away. Saying that he is sure we all really enjoy when things go wrong on stage (he has said that before) and we only said that no, we don't. (Imaging us doing this nerve-wrecking job, everyone looking at you and then something plays up and you are left up there, stranded, not a clue what is going on….nightmare! Except that they, of course, do enjoy this job in the first place, we'd just faint at the mere thought of walking on a stage!).
When he drove away we had two VERY happy Spaniards who couldn't believe he really came down to us all, signed their programmes and had his photo taken with him (we had told them before that he would be doing that, as he is always so generous with his time). We said our goodbyes to Gill and Maureen (see you next year!) and left the Shaftesbury feeling a little bit sad. This was our last show for this year. Tomorrow meant flying back home in the afternoon. But one stage door to look forward to (we LOVE matinee days!), onwards and upwards etc.
Thursday ~ 22nd November
We were a bit melancholic when we left our luggage at the storage room of the hotel. Checking out is never fun. It all goes too quickly. Always. We did a little more searching for Christmas pressies, but the bags were too full already, so we left it at looking at the lovely shops. Covent Garden is a wonderful place to be. There are always young and so very talented musicians playing there for everyone to enjoy. After a bit of sightseeing (we have obligatory things we HAVE to see when we are at London….might be we have been a little too often recently! LOL) we surrendered to the immense weight of our backpacks. Travelling with light luggage has always been a challenge for us. So there we were, at the theatre. EARLY. But luckily our friend Joan had agreed to meet her friend Chris there at 11 am. So we had great company and after Chris had arrived, we all decided to just take our spots at the famous stage door and spent the waiting time chatting. With fascination we watched one of the road workers to sit in the little digger they had and being fast asleep! Then he had his breakfast and walked away. When the next brainworker arrived, we thought work was to begin now (would have been typical to have deafening noise when Michael arrived), but oh no, he read a newspaper in there and walked off, too. The building site was complete deserted after these two had left. Nothing happened, zilch. We had the theory they put the digger up to save the money for a little hut for the men to sleep in and have their lunch…)
It didn't take long and we had formed quite a crowd. Hardly surprising on a matinee day. So we formed two orderly lines on both sides of the street and waited some more. At half past one he arrived. Me, Julia that is, stood right at the end of the queue in his direction and I said “Here he is.”, getting the video camera ready, waiting for some frantic movement to my left where all the others stood. But nothing. They were all still very busy chatting. So I repeated that he indeed was arriving like NOW. Still nothing. I looked at him a little lost and he just grinned. It took me about four “It's him. It really is him.”-s to get anyone's attention. By the time everyone had turned towards the right direction he was already in front of us. LOL First thing he said? Exactly, a bit of a rant about the road works. What was the point, he asked, of a street being ripped open when there is NO ONE in sight working there?! He got really agitated about it, we all agreed wholeheartedly. Quite out of the blue he turned to us two and asked whether things were any different in Germany. Nope, we sighed. Not in the slightest. Lost of frustrated sighs all around. But after that was off his chest he was very happy to lean at the doorframe and talk to everyone, have his picture taken and just being Michael. Says it all really. It seems everyone had bags with pressies for him and soon he didn't know where to put all this stuff. He tried long and hard for quite a while until he seemed to realise he was actually paying someone to do that for him. “Where is Andrew?!”, he asked. Andrew had arrived by then, but from the opposite direction and was still trying to make his way through the fans. So he had to take over the pressie bags and all was well again. We actually did apologise for not bringing a present ourselves. We just never can decide what to bring him. He can afford everything he likes and Germany isn't exactly a culinary stronghold. So nothing to tempt a passionate cook really.
We did manage a bit of a conversation (about Justy) though. She is nearing a big milestone and seeing we wouldn't be in the vicinity of the theatre for a few weeks, we felt we had to share it with him. This got a little more attention than we thought it would. LOL
Shortly before he was in, he asked whether we'd all be seeing the show today and we said no (much to his surprise) and said that we had to leave and would only be back next early next year. He wished us a safe journey and a happy Christmas (awww!) and we said we hoped he would enjoy his holiday it and that was it. Or last stage door in 2007. Massive SIGH.
We collected our bags, did the mini-journey up to Stansted, all went well. Flight was on time, the company delightful (remember, we never usually travel together, to this was the best flight we had in ages! 85 minutes pass incredibly fast when you are rabbiting on about Hairspray, Michael, London…you name it).
We cannot wait to be back (and STILL need this Original London Cast Recording) and even though we will probably be back in January (merely some six weeks) it still feels far too far away….
Hopelessly addicted and loving it!