The next day, with Mel safely back in Manchester, I wandered over to Euston to pick up my Mum. She arrived with no problems and we headed underground so we could check into the hotel I’d booked before I noticed I’d messed up the ticket bookings. This hotel was a bit out of the way (but it was cheap) so we didn’t stay long before heading back out to find something to eat before the show. We stuck pretty close to Shaftesbury Avenue and found a Zizzi’s tucked away in a little precinct just around the corner. We’d had nice meals at a Zizzi’s in Manchester in the past so decided to go in, and proceeded to have the worst meal of our lives. Don’t get me wrong, the food was average, nothing to complain about, but the service was shocking. The restaurant was huge – at least 50 tables. And there were three waiters. Yep, three. We thought we’d get our meal a bit early and then go shopping before the show, but as a result of the appalling service we received we went straight to the theatre afterwards.
This would be the last time I would see Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury before it moved to the Garrick, and I was determined to make the most of it. The performance was at 7:45pm, so when they started letting us through at 7:15pm we were a bit surprised, but, eager to get started, we went through. Unfortunately, the actual seating area was not yet open, so we were all ushered into a bar. A very small, warm, crowded bar. I’ve never been particularly comfortable in crowds – because I’m so small they can be a bit overwhelming. At first I wasn’t too bad, I was reading the programme I’d conned out of my Mother and looking at the new cast who I’d only seen once before. I turned around to see if the door was open – and that was it. I took one look at the amount of people crammed into such a small space and completely freaked out. My Mum used to be a nurse and is usually very good at keeping me calm, but this was too much. I pushed my way through the crowds to the door, which unfortunately led me into a narrow corridor with yet more people. Totally panicked I ran down the stairs and back towards the foyer. Luckily they chose that moment to let us into the seating area and I pushed my way through into the open space. Normally after an attack like that I want to curl up in a ball and hide, but because of where I was, The Sunset Strip, within minutes I was back to my usual self, chatting away to my Mum as we took our seats. The theatre had always had a calming effect on me.
As the familiar chords of the first song blared out, I couldn’t help but grin. I was home. Right at the beginning Lonny, played by Simon Lipkin, picks out a member of the audience in the front row and, for want of a better word, thrusts at them. He was in the middle of his “dirty little… sitting in the front row and clearly regretting it…” routine when he noticed the young boys either side of the woman he had picked out. “Those… those are your sons aren’t they…” he said, going a very impressive shade of red. “This is awkward…” Having been to the show many times before I knew what was coming next, and couldn’t help but laugh at Simon as he realised what his next line was. He whipped his nunchucks from over his shoulder, dangled them in front of his crotch and proclaimed “it’s going to be a schlong night!” with a look of utter embarrassment on his face. Brilliant! Another reason I love the theatre – no two shows are ever the same. It definitely wasn’t poor Simon’s night – he also had trouble with his nipple tassel, which refused to spin around for him. Trust me; you need to see the show. I was also totally captivated by the new Drew, Ross Hunter, who had taken over from Oliver Tompsett in October. He is the most adorable Drew I have ever seen, and works really well with Natalie Andreou who plays Sherrie, the leading lady.
Because it was the last time I’d see the cast at this theatre, I decided to go all out at the stage door and grab as many people as I could. No need for an escape plan – I could get to the stage door with my eyes shut. I positioned myself right beside the door, so I would be the first to see people. This was not a good strategy. I am hopeless at recognising people. Simon is always easy to spot because he doesn’t look any different on stage than he does off, so when he came out I asked for a picture and an autograph. My favourite line in the whole show is “sometimes the dreams you come in with, may not be the dreams you leave with.” I had this tattooed on my left forearm in September so I don’t really notice it any more. It just so happens that Simon has the same tattoo on his bicep, so as I offered him my programme to sign he said “oh, we have matching tattoos!” to which I said “how do you know?!” not realising that my sleeves were rolled up and my tattoo was in plain view. Not my best moment. Behind him was an adorable-looking lad with blonde hair and a baseball cap on. Why was he so familiar? Crap! It’s Ross! On stage Ross has long, dark, curly hair with plenty of eyeliner and suitably “rocking” clothes. Now here he was all blonde and cute. “Ross?” I ventured, praying that I was right. “Hey!” he said, his massive smile showing off his dimples. Adorable. I had my picture with him – the worst picture of me by a mile – and he went to talk to some other people who were waiting for him. I really wanted to meet Natalie Andreou, because I’d seen her as Sherrie five times by then and every time she was flawless. I kept an eye out for her, but when Sandy Moffat, who plays Franz, came out of the door, I was so overwhelmed by the fact that he was Scottish, not German as he is on stage, that she must have slipped past. After managing to grab Tim Driesen (Stacee Jaxx for the night – he usually plays Joey Primo) Rohan Tickell (Hertz) and Rachel McFarlane (Justice) we decided to call it a night.