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 Post subject: Re: Hamburg Reviews
PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:10 am 
Tall Boy

Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2015 8:02 pm
Posts: 147
Location: England
Some thoughts and comments about Hamburg. I had originally decided not to go to Hamburg as I thought that the difficulties in translation might mean that the local audiences would struggle to fully understand the subtleties and nuances which often do not transfer easily from one language to another. How do you translate understatement and irony ? Would this mean they would simply “not get it” and sit there in bemused silence ? I did not want to witness the tour finish on a possible low. Fortunately I had a change of mind shortly after Milton Keynes, and made the journey for the final weekend. These translation problems did in fact exist, and I understand that although the translation was quite “inventive”, at times it did not clearly reflect the intended humour of the original dialogue. There were one or two alterations to the original text to suit local tastes, but very minor ones. Did any of this matter ? In the event I think not greatly. The Billy story has always been multi layered, and the visual comedy, the drama of struggle against adversity, the pursuit of individuality and above all the singing and dance scenes shone through. The locals “got it”. Although it was a building process from one scene to the next in each performance, the enthusiasm steadily grew and the applause and cheering was loud and long and often.

Each of the last four performances in Hamburg was dramatic and special in itself. Each Billy and Michael taking their own final bows in highly emotional scenes, compressed into just over 30 hours, start to finish. Adam and Bradley, Lewis and Elliot, Emile and Samuel and finally Haydn and Henry. They must all have wanted to get the final slot on Sunday evening. Maybe due to the luck of the draw, Haydn represented the Billys . Without taking anything at all away from anyone else - Adam, Emile and Lewis each have their own particular strengths - I think many would agree that Haydn - with the most performances on tour - was deserving of this final slot. In the words of Mrs W. to Billy, he had worked so hard, and he was a stalwart of the tour. He may or may not have been the best individual actor, singer, acrobat or dancer but as a balanced whole he is unstoppable, easily connects with an audience, and did himself and the whole company proud on that final night. There was just so much action over the weekend that picking out bits and pieces here and there would not do justice to what took place. The audiences for these last performances were certainly international - apart from the good citizens of Hamburg I spoke to both long time supporters and first time attendees from other regions in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, USofA and UK. There were many, many friends and family of cast members, who gave loud support throughout. It was interesting speaking to those individuals who had maybe seen only the film or the DVD featuring Elliott Hanna . They were surprised by the difference in seeing the performance live, with the added emotional impact. It is easy for long time supporters to take almost for granted what the young performers do. As each performance unfolded, and the skill levels of the youngsters was revealed, it was obvious that those completely new to the show found it astonishing that anyone of that age group could excel in so many ways, as they all did.

And then, last performance, the curtain fell after huge applause and cheering of the finale . Would there be a special add on as speculated ? Yes ! A mash up which followed the same format as the Netherlands production, but this time involving the Debbies and ballet girls. A professional and approved cameraman was there on the night, and with luck this was recorded in high quality and will become available for viewing in the near future. You don’t have to look too hard on the internet however to get some idea of what it looked like !

I have often thought about why BETM is so special and even possibly addictive to so many. Having seen the final shows in The Hague, London and now Hamburg at least part of the reason must be the sheer joy and enthusiasm of all the performers - adult and young - who obviously love what they are doing, and this is in turn mirrored by the audience. Every performance is a labour of love, never a chore. But, when it comes to an end, inevitably this brings a feeling of sadness with it.

In the lyrics of Once We Were Kings are the lines

“So we walk proudly
And we walk strong
All together
We will go as one”

And so they did - everyone on stage together at the end of what was a thoroughly enjoyable touring production. Best wishes to every cast member, and all support staff for the future. The next weeks and months may involve difficult adjustments back to everyday life.

But, there is also the line “.......... a seed is sown to rise again …….” After such a well supported tour, and many new converts, can this really be the end of the road for Billy in his own country ?

David


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 Post subject: Re: Hamburg Reviews
PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:56 pm 
Tall Boy
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Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 2:09 pm
Posts: 200
Location: Germany
Saturday 22 July 2017

Billy: Lewis Smallman
Michael: Elliot Stiff

This will not be a review, but rather just a few thoughts on Lewis' and Elliot's last performance.
This was my 4th time seeing the tour and I was hoping to see Emile (Adam had already had his last night and I had already seen Lewis and Haydn), so I was a little disappointed to see Lewis and Elliot's (who I had also seen before) names on the board. But in retrospective I could not be happier! The first time I saw those two they felt a little bit low energy, even though their dancing and singing were top notch. I know every performer has a bad day once, so maybe this was it.
This time however both were beaming, exuding energy across the stage all night! Lewis is a fantastic ballet dancer and he baffled the audience one last time. The standing ovation after Electricity easily went on for two minutes - when Lewis broke his pose and stepped forward with this big smile the audience went crazy. His family was the loudest :D my favourite moment of the whole night was when Jackie said 'He's my son!' (which got a loud applause), Lewis' grandmother shouted 'He is MY gandson!' I would be proud, too, if Lewis was related to me ;) I already complemented Lewis on his singing the last time - beautiful.

One aspect that I have always loved about the tour was that in the beginning of Expressing Yourself, when Michael is being pulled out with his closet, every Michael sings another song. Elliot's song was Girls just wanna have fun and OH MY was he singing it brilliantly! I won't be surprised if he'll start a singing career soon! He and Lewis were having the time of their lives on stage, smiling and laughing at each other all the time. Both were very amused when Lewis lost his purse-hat during their dance.
I wonder if Elliot also does ballet? In the Christmas scene he easily pulled of the split and his facial expressions had the audience in stitches and cheering for him even BEFORE the nut-cracker line. Elliot really is a natural comedian :D

Even though I missed Emile as Billy I saw him twice as Tall Boy and he certainly left an impression even in this small role! His acting as Posh Boy was so spot on, for example the way he took of his hat and positioned it carefully on his bag before going over to Billy. And also how he looked left and right to make sure nobody's watching before saying in a low voice 'It was only a stupid audition.' I can only imagine how fantastic his Billy must have been.

This was a show I would not have missed for the world! What a great pairing those two were and what an amazing last night for both! I loved it how grandma gave Lewis a kiss back on the hand after Grandma's Song. Dead Mom also got very emotional during the reprise and sounded like she would start to cry soon. Lewis was welling up at the curtain call but controlled himself very well and was all smiles again in the curtain call.

This was also the third time for my mom to see the show (she saw it 6 years ago in London) and she told me 'There is something so special about this Billy.' I think she liked it ;)

PS: I would love Daniel Page's Mr. Braithwaite on tape as an anti-depressant. Usually I cannot take my eyes of Billy but in Born to Boogie Mr. B easily steals the show. He had me in the stitches every time :D


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 Post subject: Re: Hamburg Reviews
PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 8:24 am 
Tall Boy
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Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 2:09 pm
Posts: 200
Location: Germany
This will be very random and certainly not as beautiful put as Real Geordie's post but I simply have to write something about this final night...

I also was able to attend the final performance on July 23rd. It was a very special night for the whole company and it showed! So much love and energy on stage. Scott Garnham as Tony was in a very good mood and certainly enjoyed joking with the audience one last time in the beginning of act 2. Martin Walsh (who has really grown on me in the role) and Anna-Jane Casey gave their all and delivered splendid performances, as gave my not so secret favourite of the adult cast, Daniel Page, who simply is a riot. I also really liked Big Davey (lovely baritone and what a giant!) and George, who is not exaggerating in the role - very enjoyable performances!

But the true stars of the show are the kids. The fantastic ballet girls, who are so often overlooked, were simply amazing again and among them a little super star, Nicola Turner, who plays two roles at that tender age! Her small boy was so good (I loved the fist shake with Tony in Stars Look Down and the fist bump she gave Big Davey in Kings), and you would never notice that he's played by a Ballet Girl if the cast board didn't show it.
This was my first time seeing Henry as Michael and let me just say that he fits the part perfectly. He is a natural on stage with wonderful acting in all his scenes. He's the first Michael I've seen who really seems to be sorry after hitting George :D After Billy's audition, when Billy said he only pushed the dancer over a little bit, Haydn had something special in store for Henry and brushed over his head, shifting the hat so that his left ear showed. Especially the families loved it, but I also found it quite touching - a little cheeky good-bye by Haydn ;) In the very end, poor Henry had a hard time not to cry, and who could blame him. Haydn's and Henry's good-bye scene was so heart-felt...I was crying, too!

And what to say about Haydn that hasn't been said before?

Real Geordie wrote:
He may or may not have been the best individual actor, singer, acrobat or dancer but as a balanced whole he is unstoppable, easily connects with an audience, and did himself and the whole company proud on that final night.


Todd wrote:
Lots of smiles and a genuinely warm nature that he exudes, which makes the audience root for him even more.


I will never forget how Haydn hugged Scott in the end (which started the waterworks with me)...
Haydn's portrayal of Billy was just so special, with his perfect timing/acting/facial expressions and above all "the genuinely warm nature that he exudes" (it's so true!). I will certainly miss his Billy. He did himself and his company proud that last night! The extra finale which included all the children was the icing on the cake.

It's hard to say good-bye to the tour and this wonderful cast, but all great things must come to pass. I hope all the kids can adjust to their normal lives fast. They will certainly miss their tour family, but enjoy being home at the same time. This whole cast was so talented and just a joy to watch. I wish them all, children and adults, all the very best for their future.


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 Post subject: Re: Hamburg Reviews
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:10 am 
Miner
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Joined: Sun Feb 27, 2011 1:39 am
Posts: 429
Location: Boston, MA
A few thoughts I've had on the UK/Ireland Tour finale to supplement Lola's and Real Geordie's comments.

In spite of the musical being presented in English, it was clearly evident how much the German audience was enraptured by this foreign-language show. For the whole weekend, I only heard one cell phone and that might well have been a Mehr Theatre employee. On a few occasions, one could hear a bit of (presumed) explanation of a line, but no candy wrappers or fidgeting or extraneous talking. Aside from the laughter and clapping, complete silence representing 100% attention was demonstrated by a wholly engaged crowd.

Those of us who have primarily seen Broadway and North American Tours are accustomed to two Michaels and it was a bit of adjustment seeing four. Worked really well with the pairings of specific Billys and Michaels. As a group, these were some really high performing Michaels. For me, Elliot Stiff completely owned the role with some very impressive singing to accompany the top-notch tap dancing in Expressing Yourself.

Emile Gooding distinguished himself with flawless and quick rope skipping, complete with multiple crossovers.

Standing a little above all these was Haydn's finale.
Lola wrote:
Haydn's portrayal of Billy was just so special, with his perfect timing/acting/facial expressions and above all "the genuinely warm nature that he exudes" (it's so true!). I will certainly miss his Billy.
I loved it as well, Haydn's Billy character has such a natural feel. On top of that, the thing that struck me about Haydn's dance was clean lines. Haydn's turns are so graceful. Attitude promenade was short (as all of them were on Tour), but a real picture of stability. I marvel that Haydn is still just 12 years old! In my BETM experience, the characteristics described are more commonly observed with 14-year-old Billys. I remain in awe hearing that Haydn was the senior Billy only in terms of number of performances; agewise, he's actually the second youngest of these final four?!? That's amazing!

Last but by no means least in the list of notable items was the camaraderie among fellow forum members and BETM enthusiasts. This was one venue where conversations in English on the theatre floor or outside in the parking lot meant one of three things primarily: Member of the cast/crew or relative thereof, lorry truck driver or BETM superfan. Connecting with fellow BETM zealots from all over the world continued being a key part of the Billython experience.

And now it is finished. Many thanks to the cast, crew and compatriot fans for the wonderful memories we've had. See ya, Billy, until the next time we can accompany you on this miraculous journey.


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 Post subject: Re: Hamburg Reviews
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:43 pm 
Small Boy

Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2016 12:10 am
Posts: 47
atreyu wrote:
I loved it as well, Haydn's Billy character has such a natural feel. On top of that, the thing that struck me about Haydn's dance was clean lines. Haydn's turns are so graceful. Attitude promenade was short (as all of them were on Tour), but a real picture of stability. I marvel that Haydn is still just 12 years old! In my BETM experience, the characteristics described are more commonly observed with 14-year-old Billys. I remain in awe hearing that Haydn was the senior Billy only in terms of number of performances; agewise, he's actually the second youngest of these final four?!? That's amazing!

I'm not sure what "Attitude promenade" is. For me one of the most special moments in Haydn's shows is the pick up the biscuit routine when he moves into that dancer on a music box position. He has a poise that is is quite special, it's a moment of beauty that brings tears to my eyes every time, and, in the same way, his poise and body shapes in Dream Dance are just perfection. All four of the final tour Billies have been great, but Haydn, through the strength of his acting and through sheer personality, has been my favourite.


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 Post subject: Re: Hamburg Reviews
PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:08 pm 
Miner
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Joined: Sun Feb 27, 2011 1:39 am
Posts: 429
Location: Boston, MA
cheltonian wrote:
For me one of the most special moments in Haydn's shows is the pick up the biscuit routine when he moves into that dancer on a music box position.
That would be exactly the attitude promenade! We see with the same eyes apparently. :D

http://www.abt.org/education/dictionary/terms/promenade_tour.html


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 Post subject: Re: Hamburg Reviews
PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 10:35 pm 
Tall Boy

Joined: Tue May 03, 2016 11:18 pm
Posts: 108
Location: Sheffield, UK
Whilst some regular attendees of the show had decided not to go to Hamburg, for entirely understandable reasons, I first saw the show some seven weeks into its run, missing Plymouth entirely. So felt that I needed a bit more time with the show. Originally I had booked only the last show on Sunday 23 July, booking everything very early in November last year. I hadn't looked at the performance times too closely, but the fact that the Mehr Theatre schedules 4 of the 8 weekly shows at the weekend, meant it was possible to eventually book the others without having to change my flight or hotel bookings. I had planned to spend lots of time sightseeing, as I had never been to Hamburg before, but on this occasion this had to go by the wayside. Hamburg was much friendlier than I expected and I had no problems communicating or getting around.

Was it worth going to Hamburg? A resounding yes. Whilst many fans were justifiably upset at there being no special last show in Milton Keynes, given that you can only really do a “last night” once, it probably only really made sense to the cast to do this in Hamburg. I also had some very special experiences that happened away from the theatre whilst I was here...see the final paragraphs of this blog. This really gave me a lovely sense of closure to my “tour journey” and made up for any sense of sadness that the tour was ending.

From everything I heard, the cast all had a really memorable time in Hamburg. I felt the German promoters Mehr Entertainment made a very good job of promoting the show, for instance for the first time, there was video footage of the actual cast on stage and plenty of backstage interview clips...much more interesting than the rather scripted “meet the cast” videos we saw early on in the UK.

Each of the 4 shows was introduced by resident director Ed Burnside (with subtitles) coming on stage giving a short speech thanking all the children individually and their families for their dedication and commitment. Therefore, the audience knew at each show that for one of the Billys or Michaels, it would be their last ever show. Naturally, the families in the audience were very touched by this and cheered and applauded loudly. There being only three Debbies, Italia had the honour of being in both the first and last show of the weekend and the two remaining Ballet Girl teams had two shows each.

I'm glad I had booked the front row for the last 3 shows as this was the equivalent of the eight row or so in the average theatre. The translation screens were hardly noticeable from here and most of the Germans I spoke to said they didn't need these (and in any case many had seen the show in London at least once).

Audiences in Hamburg didn't seem to eat, drink or talk during the show itself so it was great that both Nicola and Isobelle got respect and attention right from the start, as they made their way up from the audience, than has been often the case at the other venues. At at least once performance, the audience applauded their arrival which has rarely happened before. As others have said, it was obvious that the emotional bond between audience and cast was really strong here. Billy is a universal story and transcends nationality and language so that is no surprise. As one Germany guy sitting next to me said: "There are other shows and Billy Elliot. This is special and different". Each show had three standing ovations and in all cases from the entire audience in the obvious places. The audiences response was loud, frequent and unequivocal. To me, Sunderland, Dublin, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Liverpool and Hamburg have been the most enthusiastic audiences on this tour.

Just a little bit of trivia - for some reason there are no pyrotechnics with the frying pan in the breakfast scene at Hamburg and also George omits "Palestines" and just delivers the line "straight" referring only to "Philistines".

Saturday matinee: Adam and Bradley paired for their last show. It was such a relief to see Adam back after his injury. He didn't appear on stage at all during the MK run. Adam was really focused and emotional throughout, fire in his eyes. He got a massive standing ovation after Electricity, the whole audience were up very quickly. After Martin's “He is MY son!” his real mother shouted out the same which met with further applause. As with Annette's last show in Birmingham, Adam had to wipe tears from his eyes at the start of Once We Were Kings. Nikki gave one of her best performances with Adam during The Letter Reprise, both seemed to be really struggling to contain their emotions. Someone told me in Milton Keynes about Bradley's robot dance during MCMT. Thanks to that tip-off, I spotted it here and really enjoyed it... there is so much going on in this scene it is hard to notice everything.

Saturday evening: Lewis and Elliot's last show. I find it hard to think in terms of a best Billy or Michael and like them all, but just looking at the performances at this final weekend I think this last Electricity from him was truly special to me. The audience went wild with emotion, reaching the almost deafening levels I last experienced in Liverpool. Some of the audience started applauding during his last sung lines and well before the final acro. Lewis was really on the verge of breaking down and it I think he himself will never forget this final tribute paid to him by the people of Hamburg. This time his real grandmother shouted out “He is my grandson!!” after Martin's line. The Letter Reprise was once again very emotional – Lewis looked really overcome at one point, for a moment I thought he wouldn't be able to finish the song, yet with the remarkable tenacity we've come to expect, he did. I'll really miss seeing Elliot, my most seen Michael. His family must be very proud, he will go far in the years ahead. His acting is full of an emotional intelligence few adult actors can match.

Sunday matinee: Emile and Samuel's last show. Great see to see Samuel back after being ill for most of the MK run. Wacky as ever and as endearing as always, the audience truly took him to their hearts. Perhaps a little less laughter at the start of Expressing, nevertheless I was surprised that the audience were clapping during the dancing dresses scene at the end...haven't noticed that happening before. I have only seen Emile a few times. If I'm honest, his best performance for me was in Manchester when he made me cry during Electricity. Still a total standing ovation here though I must admit. He is a fine actor and graceful dancer, he will go far in the future.


Sunday evening: Haydn paired with Henry - one of the greatest double acts in musical theatre at the moment. “I can’t really explain it....” Just to say that I concur entirely that Haydn quite rightly deserved this final recognition. He has true star quality, a fine dancer and actor, immense pathos, a good all rounder, funny and emotional in equal measure and dovetails perfectly with his co-stars in every scene. I think he foreshortened his Electricity applause slightly by leaving the stage, so as to save some of the energy for the finale. I expect the hug with Tony in Once We Were Kings was spontaneous and like others found it very touching. One of the reasons we love this show is that its emotions seem real and unforced and this small gesture was entirely in keeping with this spirit. Henry was visibly upset as the curtain was falling on him and his bike but recovered well at the finale. Great to hear he has a few ideas of future parts he would like to play. Good luck to him.

Everyone expected some sort of special finale and it was certainly worth waiting all weekend for. As I expected, it was along the lines of the Dutch one, unsurprising as the choreographer is the same. The Billys looked great in their Angry Dance red trousers. I’m glad that all the children took part towards the end.

There was plenty of space at the side of the front stalls. Parents and relatives were in tears after this spectacle and made their way here after the show to embrace each other. I expect these were of joy to a large extent. Most people had left but nobody bothered us and we watched as final group photos were taken next to the Billy logo selfie area in the foyer, which had been left intact from opening night.

Some people commented on the heavy handed security at earlier shows especially as there were many attempts at filming (very common in German theatres according to a local guy I spoke with), but on this occasion lessons had been learned and they were far more sensitive. I couldn’t bear to see the crew coming down the stalls aisles to start dismantling the set, so I left at this point. I must express gratitude to the local promoters as they made a real fuss of the cast. It is not difficult to find photos of the opening night curtain call when all the children received flowers.

I stayed at the nearest hotel to the theatre. I was getting the lift downstairs to breakfast when I bumped into Lewis and his family. I had a few words as I finished breakfast, by which stage Adam and family had joined them. I just said how much I had enjoyed seeing them perform and best wishes for the final weekend and for the future. They struck me as very nice ordinary people, as I expected.

It was great to meet so many fans – some from the UK and USA whom I had previously met in Birmingham. Six or seven of us went for a quiet drink afterwards and there were four nationalities – in addition Belgian and German to those mentioned above and I also was sat next to a Dutch fan at the Sunday matinee. It was a pleasure to meet so many committed fans with no cross words at all. I hope we will all reunite soon for future productions of the show.

By a remarkable coincidence on the Monday, I found myself on the same flight to Manchester as Lewis, Adam, Henry, Samuel, Elliot, Italia, Lily and Martin. We were delayed 2 hours in Hamburg but that failed to dampen anyone’s spirits. The airline’s random seat allocation had put me with Samuels mum and dad. We had a nice general chat throughout the flight. The chief stewardess made an announcement as we arrived home requesting a round of applause and all passengers responded enthusiastically!! Can’t think of a better final memory of this show, the icing on the cake and a fitting end to my time following the tour.

So its the end of an era but what a good time I’ve had following this show around the UK, many of the theatres and cities I visited for the first time. "Are we downhearted!!!"....NO!!! What next...I’m now following the Miss Saigon UK tour, its third in 15 years, which has just moved to Birmingham Hippodrome for a two month run. Catch it wherever you can – it is very emotional. I'm also up at Sunderland in November for the Blood Brothers UK tour (which has run almost continuously since its 2012 West End closure).

I’m quite optimistic that the show will eventually be revived in some form. Yes, there will be challenges resurrecting it but where there’s a will, there’s a way as the saying goes.

So until next time...See ya Billy!! You're VFS!!


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