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Disco Tour Pictorial Diary May 2011

Four decades have passed since Middle of the Road was on an extensive tour and on the 2nd May rehearsals began in Wetzlar, Germany, for the "Ilja Richter 40 Year Disco Show" Jubilee Tour. Four weeks and many miles of travel around Germany lay ahead.

"Disco" was one of the most watched Pop Music shows on TV in Germany in the 70s and Ilja Richter presented all of them. It was his unique and quirky style which was its trade mark and most charting groups and acts of the 70s appeared on the show. In fact, there are lots of clips of Disco on Youtube.

Rehearsals took place in a large warehouse in Wetzlar, where the sets, lighting and Audio were designed and put together.

Tour trucks
Photos Courtesy: EPM Production
Tour bus

The cast included Ilja Richter, Middle of the Road featuring Sally Carr, Harpo, Chris Andrews and Night Fever, the resident band and a talented act themselves.

With a company of 20 performers and a crew of 40 technicians, catering and production staff behind the scenes, the show got on the road with the obligatory fleet of trucks and buses for scenery, lighting, audio and catering equipment to accommodate the tour.

Tour trucks
Photos Courtesy: EPM Production
Tour bus

A quick game with one of the production company's dogs before departure was a necessary and welcome exercise to work off the calories provided by the first class catering facilities.

Shug
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production
Shug seen normally stuffing himself!
After 3 days of "foodie" self-indulgence, Shug (Middle of the Road's keyboard player) actually admitted " I am not hungry." when lunch was announced. This is unheard of and we suggested that he have a quick visit to the doctor for a check up. The doctor reported that there was nothing wrong with him and that he was simply stuffed ... something that we have been telling him to get for some time now.

Disco tour
Photo Courtesy: John Gordon Photography

The tour opened in Munich, Circus Krone, on the 5th May to a packed house and a great reception. An opening night is always a highly charged occasion and it was gratifying to witness the reaction to what was, up until now, an elaborate "sketch on a blank canvass." The audience added the colour!

At the end of the night, Ilja and the director made the happy announcement to the assembled company, "We have a show!" That is all that any travelling company wants to hear and we set off on the criss-cross trail over Germany.

Within a short period of time, a tragedy struck. The coffee machine on the bus appeared to malfunction and panic broke out, with every able handed male grappling with the problem. Ken was kept clear of the location since his reputation for "making things worse" had reached most parts of Europe.

Coffee machine
Photos Courtesy: EPM Production
Coffee machine

After they found the ON switch, the tour continued.

Trier Arena
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production
Disco dancers
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production

Following the relatively compact venue of Circus Krone in Munich, the set was rigged in Trier Arena where Sandra and Anne, the company's travelling dance troupe and the fittest performers, took to the floor with sprints round the seating and exercises on the stage.

Not wanting to be out done, Sally took her exercise with a quick trip to the shops. A trip that was to prove a more serious disaster than the incident with the coffee machine. She missed her footing and fell on a section of uneven paving and hurt her foot. After struggling back to the hotel she was taken to the hospital where she learned she had broken a bone in her foot in two places. Plastered and on crutches, she was to face the most demanding challenge any performer has to confront; performing to an audience while balancing on one foot and in considerable pain.

Wheelchair
Photos Courtesy: EPM Production

A wheelchair was rented in Wetzlar and she was advised to use it where possible. Ray, the tour manager, could be seen regularly grappling with the complexities of folding and unfolding a modern wheelchair.

Wheelchair

In the process, his fingers were constantly at risk of amputation. Decapitation was also a threat since he usually chose to attack the wheelchair under the threateningly - suspended door to the luggage compartment on the bus.

Impatient traffic also tried to mow him down but his Irish stamina and true grit prevailed.

Sally camera shy
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production
Sally hiding from the camera on her wheelchair supported by Anja, from Night Fever, at a cast barbecue.

acoustic performances
Photos Courtesy: Anne Hamann
acoustic performances

As is customary in the great outdoors, there was a serious outbreak of acoustic performances from the multitude of guitarists, lounging in the grass, during the cast barbecue in Aschaffenberg. One after the other they burst into song filling the air with music and alcohol fumes.

acoustic performances

Kenny, the wandering minstrel and lead guitarist in Middle of the Road (right), was no exception during this day-off event.

He had to be restrained from performing his entire repertoire of favourite songs which would have lasted for at least 3 hours.

Sally being Sally, she was often seen struggling along with her crutches. She hated the wheelchair.

Sally and crutches
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production

Sally is no stranger to challenges of this nature and she soldiered on and after a week she, once again, attended the hospital, this time in Dresden, only after falling in her very cramped hotel room and smashing her head against the bedroom door. Fortunately, her head was empty at the time and she had only to suffer serious embarrassment.

Kleine tootsies
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production
Wilkommen kleine Tootsie!

Unfortunately, all her attempts to walk with her crutches had put weight on her foot and damaged it further. To try to remedy the situation, a new plaster was administered and she was confined to her wheelchair.

With this new plaster came a new member of the company ...

Sally singing
Photo Courtesy: John Gordon Photography
On stage, she had now mastered the technique of balancing on one foot and supporting herself with one crutch, without putting her weight on the damaged foot.

The audience responded to this with cheers and handclaps, while those customers, sporting similar crutches, waved them back, frantically.

Stephan Wolter
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production

In an effort to out-do Sally, Stephan Wolter, the member of Night Fever with the deep and growling voice, tried to impale himself on an item of street furniture. As a result, his deep and growling voice was instantly converted to something considerably higher. It turned out to be a huge asset during the band's featured performance of the Bee Gees' hits in the show.

The tour continued through Leipzig, Dresden, Braunschweig and cities around and between. By now, Sally had understood the message, "No weight on your foot!" and was content to be whisked around in her wheelchair.

Everyone took a turn behind the wheels but it was Ken's duty to wheel her on and off the stage before and after the band's two spots in the show.

Disco poster
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production

During the finale, which was played out to the company's performance of "D-I-S-C-O", Ottawan's classic hit, Ilja and Sally enjoyed what could only be described as a Scottish Reel, aided and abetted by Ken. His dexterity with the wheelchair, it has to be said, was nothing short of awe inspiring.

Regrettably, he parked the chair in the centre of the stage to go off and demonstrate some choreographed movements himself, and Harpo, after taking his bow, made his normally dignified exit to the rear of the stage. This time, he collided with the wheelchair and caused utter chaos with arms and legs spiralling out of control, neatly followed by Chris Andrews, while Ken tried in vain to release the brakes on Sally's chair. After a few seconds and bruises all round, Sally and her wheeled obstacle were whisked off leaving the stage clear for the other performers to exit in safety. Needless to say, the audience enjoyed the debacle and applauded even more, believing that it was all part of the script. No one was seriously injured or upset and Sally escaped without a scratch.

Ute
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production

The pictures have been withheld due to the distressing nature of the carnage! We apologise to all those who would like to have seen it.

The unsung hero of the tour was wardrobe mistress, Ute, whose expression (left) was a reaction to the news that Kenny had a load of washing to be dealt with. Ute was responsible for keeping stage clothes and personal gear in perfect condition for the entire cast and she was more than up to the task. Nothing was too much trouble and she went about her business with a smile and a nod.

Sally and crutches
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production

By the time the tour had reached Flensburg, right on the Danish/German border, the stress began to affect Sally's voice and she had to bow out of the 2nd half of the show performing a short duet with Ilja.

They delivered a rendition of "It's a Wonderful World", sounding remarkably like the late great Louis Armstrong and received suitable applause from the audience.

Harpo and Ray

The proximity to Scandinavia had a profound effect on Harpo. He was tempted to make a dash for the border and on to Sweden, where his beloved horses were reputed to be winning races right, left and centre.

Here he is (left) explaining his escape route to Ray. Not the wisest of decisions.

Ray was then able to arrange a curfew and locked him in his room every night.

Sally singing
Photos Courtesy: EPM Production

Happily, after Flensburg, there were 2 days off and after 2 visits to the local hospital in Dortmund, in her wheelchair, and some peace and quiet, Sally returned to almost full voice for the show. Her appearance in a wheelchair at the hospital did cause some confusion when she indicated that she was having trouble with her voice.

Everything was made clear when Ken explained that every time she opened her mouth, she put her foot in it. Thus the source of infection was pin-pointed and a course of antibiotics was prescribed.

Sally and crutches

Practically everybody on the bus had other businesses to attend to while on the tour and the travelling Wi Fi Modem was an absolute boon. Jacek, Middle of the Road's Polish bass player, operates an online IT Service and has to be in constant contact with his customers.

His enthusiasm and attention to detail is something that he takes pride in and he was always alert and responsive to their constant demands.

Bamberg
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production

All work and no play is not a philosophy anyone should subscribe to and in Bamberg the cast was invited to a local restaurant owned by a friend of Stefan Wolter, who, apart from being a member of "Night Fever" was also a local personality, having started his career on local radio there.

Sally and crutches
Photos Courtesy: EPM Production

Just after this photo (left) was taken at the "night out", Sally was arrested for speeding and being drunk in charge of a wheelchair.

She was seen careering down a one way street the wrong way and it took 4 police officers to catch her... one to arrest her and three to work out how to fold up the wheelchair.

Her case was dropped after she refused to stop singing "Chirpy" in the police cells.

Sally singing

Shug and Ken were able to talk to each other using Ken's built-in Radio/TV system which also received Sky, ZDF and RTL in High Definition.

Ilya with cigar

Ilja, who generously treated everyone to the evening's festivities, spent some valuable time convincing the restaurateur that his cigar was actually a stage prop and that it was perfectly legal for him to brandish it indoors.

Harpo
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production

Harpo spent most of the evening taking bets on which of his horses would eat his straw hat when he returned home.

Nobody took him on since it was a foregone conclusion that the hat wouldn't get through Swedish Customs without at least 6 months quarantine!

John, the tour bus driver for the cast and originally from South London, practised his almost non existent German on "Izzy" one of Night Fever's sparkling singers (below). The fact that she was from Wales and spoke perfect English (for a Welsh person) did not register with him until "Izzy" burst into a well known Welsh Anthem. Anglo-Welsh relations were restored .....

John tries German
well known Welsh Anthem
Anglo-Welsh relations restored
Ray and Ania
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production

Unfortunately Irish-German relations were put under a severe strain when Anja, of Night Fever began reading Tolstoy's "War and Peace" while tour manager, Ray, was relating the interminable story of his life to date.

 

 

 

Spot on
Photo Courtesy: EPM Production

After Bamberg, it was on to Stuttgart for the final performance of the tour.

When the final "Licht Aus... Spot on" was announced, the company dispersed with fond memories of a tour, which took 40 years to organise and 29 days to complete.

© Middle of the Road
Thanks are due to all those appearing in this publication. No offence was meant to those whose images appear here, except Shug, who deserves everything he gets!