Woo, back to the Sunset Strip! After almost two months away from the show, I was raring to go. I’d nipped to Tesco before we went to buy some goodies for the cast – wine gums for Natalie Andreou, Haribo for Nathan Amzi and a penguin key ring for Ross Hunter (he likes penguins.) I’d also put in a few small bags of Haribo (11 for £1 – bargain!) and some fruit pastilles. If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it properly!
Whenever we go to London I like to be in charge of hotel bookings, train tickets, theatre tickets etc and my Mum knows better than to argue with me. I got us into London around 1pm – plenty of time to check in, find the theatre (I’d not seen the show since its move to the Garrick in January) and maybe grab a coffee before the show. Again, the hotel was a bit out of the way, but theatre tickets are expensive and we wouldn’t be in the room for that long anyway. By the time we got to the hotel I was bouncing off the walls, ready to go and see the show. Nicky and Laura, two girls I had met on twitter, were also going to the show that afternoon, as well as Steve, another Rock of Ages fan, who was actually sitting on the same row as us. The theatre was easy enough to find, however the stage door was not.
Because the Garrick is in the middle of a row of shops and other theatres, I presumed the stage door would be around the back. Nope. When we walked around the back we found yet more theatres and a Starbucks. No stage door. I appealed to twitter for help, and eventually found out that the stage door was in fact a stage gate, right next to the main entrance. Duh. It was still only 2:00pm so we decided to go to the newly-discovered Starbucks for a hot chocolate. At 2:20pm I could stand the suspense no more, and we made our way back to the theatre.
Once inside I bought another programme (new theatre, new programme. That’s the rule) and had a look at the cast changes, letting out a very girly squeak as I did so. Nathan Amzi would be playing Lonny! Don’t get me wrong I think Simon Lipkin is very talented and a very good Lonny, but Nathan is something else. When in Tenerife we had a cloudy day so I tweeted Nathan, “it’s cold and miserable, any ideas on how to cheer me up?” and he replied “find a karaoke bar and rock out!” Later that night, there was a power cut so again I tweeted Nathan “Power cut, karaoke’s off, any other ideas?” and he suggested beat boxing. Where else could you have that kind of banter with a performer? He’s so lovely and approachable, and an amazing Lonny to boot. My Mum, a dedicated Simon fan, was not so convinced. Once in our seats (no claustrophobic bar this time, thank God) we had a look around the new theatre. Very nice. It was smaller than the Shaftesbury but for a show like Rock of Ages that was actually an improvement – it’s a very audience orientated show and the smaller theatre made it feel more personal. We had an amazing view – Row A, seats 11 and 12, and I was very happy to be back.
There were a few changes to the show due to the venue change: the flamethrower they had at the Shaftesbury was now a glorified sparkler, there were no showers of gold sparks when Drew and Sherrie’s hands touch, and the Chateau Marmont had shrunk considerably. Still, it was an amazing show. Nathan was on top form, as was everybody else. Carly Mercedes Dyer replaced Rachel McFarlane as Justice (what a voice!) and Ian McIntosh was Franz instead of Sandy Moffat. After the big song at the end of Act One, (Here I Go Again) Nathan runs to the front of the stage, makes the audience do “jazz hands” and then… “You! My Dressing room, two minutes!” he shouted, pointing straight at me. Yes, it may be a part of the script but I still screamed like a girl! Down came the curtain and up I jumped. Rule number one of the theatre – RUN to the bathroom, unless you fancy waiting in a queue for the rest of your life. The man sat behind me gave me a funny look so I said “what? I’ve only got two minutes to get to his dressing room!” and ran off. His face was a picture!
When I’d returned from “Nathan’s dressing room” I sent him a tweet. “So, your dressing room, two minutes eh? Pretty please come to the stage door afterwards!” almost instantly he replied “It’s been a minute already hurry up! Ha! I’ll be out after for sure x” Yay! I was going to meet Nathan Amzi! Oh crap. I was going to meet Nathan Amzi. What if I said something stupid? (This was highly likely) or worse, froze completely? (Also very likely.) I relayed these fears to my Mum. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ll kick you if you say anything stupid.” Wow, thanks! Because we were near the end of a row we had to keep standing up for people so they could get back to their seats. As a woman squeezed past my Mum I stood up to let her past, and she stopped right in front of me. “You follow my husband on twitter.” Oh, shit! Luckily before I could get out some grovelling apology about how I didn’t know Nathan had a wife and I didn’t really go to his dressing room, she smiled at me and gestured down the row. “I’m sat just down the row, with Steve?” Jeez! I let out a sigh of relief and waved down the aisle to Steve, who waved back. My Mum, who has always had a talent for reading my mind, damn near wet herself laughing at me.
After the show had finished me and Mum ran round to the stage gate (pausing only because I managed to somehow fall UP the stairs) and picked a spot to wait for Nathan. There were quite a few ROAdies, (technical term for Rock of Ages fans. We think it’s cool) and they all started cheering when Nathan came out. He did a few “rock” poses and then walked straight over to me. “Hiya!” he said. I managed to keep my cool and gave him the goody bag to give to the rest of the cast, making sure to tell him to get the wine gums to Natalie. He gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek (eee!) and signed my ticket (Big love! Nathan Amzi <3) I asked for a picture but my Mum – hopeless with a camera – didn’t know which button it was and by the time we’d sorted it out, Nathan had been nicked by another ROAdie. He glanced over his shoulder at me and gestured for me to wait, and as soon as he’d had his picture taken he came back over to me and had TWO pictures, (mainly because the first one was terrible.) After he’d been lost in the crowd I turned to see who else was coming out. Oh god, there was Natalie Andreou! After six shows and no Natalie, I’d resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to meet her. Until now. I tried to keep calm as I asked her for an autograph, and just happened to mention that I’d seen a picture of her cat on twitter (a ragdoll with blue eyes) and I thought he was gorgeous. “Oh, you mean Drew!” she said, pulling out her phone and showing me a picture. I couldn’t help but laugh at how normal she was. We posed for a picture, I told her to make sure she got the wine gums from Nathan if he made it out of the crowd alive, and then looked at my phone. Ten to six. The next show was at half seven and we hadn’t even eaten yet! Shit!
Luckily our restaurant of choice – not Zizzi’s – was only a tube station away. We walked (quickly) to the nice Italian me and Mel had been to a couple of months ago and settled down for a meal. With it being 6:15pm, we decided not to have a starter. As we were eating I received tweets from Nathan Amzi and Ross Hunter thanking me for the presents – bless! I checked my bags to make sure I still had the other goodie bag – the one for Oliver Tompsett and his wife Michelle. In it there were six fingers of fudge, six kinder bars (Olly’s chocolate combination of choice) a “Top Banana” mug and some jelly beans (also for Olly) some nice bath stuff for Michelle and a “Mummy Survival Kit” for her and baby T, which I thought was really cute.
After the meal we headed straight back to the Dominion theatre. We had amazing seats, row B of the stalls, seats 21 and 22. I knew from other twitter friends that there was a cast board in the theatre somewhere, and it happened to catch my eye as I made my way to my seat. Galileo – Oliver Tompsett. YES! I stopped dead in the middle of the crowd and, once again, screamed like a little girl. This did not impress the other, more dignified, theatre-goers. When we got to our seats there was a man on his own at the end of the row next to us, so we shuffled past and took our seats. What. A. View. My Mum nipped to the loo whilst we waited for the show to start, and when she came back it turned out she’d met one of her old friends from her nursing days and they’d had a good chat. She was even going to come over at the interval to see me, because she’d not seen me since I was one. Oh good.
As the curtain went up, I was ready for Oliver this time. On came Kevin Kennedy, then the GaGa girls and then… THERE! My poor Mum, I nearly gave her a heart attack. I have a really bad habit in the theatre of slapping my Mum’s leg when I’m excited and this, combined with the obligatory girly scream, was enough for her to give me a pretty impressive death glare. Rachael Wooding was Scaramouche again, and she was amazing. I’m so jealous of her wardrobe it’s unbelievable. And her hair. Yes, I know it’s a wig, but that is one gorgeous shade of purple! It’s common amongst theatre fans to have a connection to a certain character – mine was Scaramouche. She was an outcast in a world of GaGa clones, who isn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd. I get that.
After the first act (in which the man next to us sang along to every song and clapped like a maniac, before everyone else) Mum’s old friend came over. Cue the “haven’t you grown!” with a side of “I used to change your nappies!” To his credit, her husband looked as uncomfortable as I did as his wife and my Mum chatted away. Why do people always gossip about who’s died? It’s morbid! Several deaths later, she went back to her seat and it was time for the second act. I watched Bohemian Rhapsody with baited breath, but Oli was word-perfect. In fact, the whole show was perfect.
This time I was ready for the curtain call, but I was also ready to get the hell out of there and run to the stage door. Whilst Oli was still on the stage I screamed and waved like an idiot, and I’m pretty sure he saw me and waved back. Eee! Time to initiate our escape plan. I looped my camera around my wrist, took out my ticket and marker pen and made sure I had Oliver’s goodie bag in my hand. I’d carried it around London all day – no way was I going to lose it now! As the curtain went down we made our way up the aisle. Unfortunately, because we were at the front, it was taking forever. I’ve never been a patient person, but I have always been good at sneaking through crowds. Me and Mum had a previous agreement that, if I could get through, I should run for it and she’d meet me at the stage door as soon as she got through. As the crowd ambled around and stopped to let other people out, I’d had enough. “Excuse me!” I shouted, pushing my way through the crowd, “I’ve got a train to catch!” Technically I had an Oliver to catch, but they weren’t to know that. I continued this strategy until I made it into the foyer and then I bolted for the door. Amazingly, my Mum was still right behind me, so we both ran to the (very stupidly placed) stage door. Gasping for breath, I watched the stage door like a hawk. Rachael was one of the first out, so I grabbed her for a picture and told her I thought she made an amazing Scaramouche, which she does.
As more and more people left the theatre, I was beginning to lose hope. It had taken us a while to get to the stage door – what if we’d missed him? There was no way, unless he’d come off the stage and out of the door. But what if he had? Finally, Oliver came out of the door… straight towards me and gave me a big hug! He confirmed that yes, he had waved at me, but instead of melting into a puddle I actually managed a full conversation with him. We talked about Michelle, the baby, holidays, (I’d tweeted him from Tenerife) and how he had a bit of a cold, not that you could tell. He also laughed at me when I told him I’d screamed so loud when he announced that he and Michelle were expecting a baby that I woke my Mum up. It’s not my fault they announced it at 11pm!
I gave him the goodie bag, which also included a letter I’d written to him, thanking him for helping me through my depression. When I was at my lowest, I didn’t leave the house. I didn’t even open the curtains. But when I saw him in Rock of Ages, something changed. I felt better than I had in months, even years, and from then on I realised that, as long as I had a show to look forward to, I could make it through. We had our picture taken together and he signed my ticket, and then gave me another hug before he left to talk to the other people who had waited for him. So, that was it. The end of a perfect day. Two shows in a day is exhausting but, because of the amazing casts, I’d never felt better.