I have to confess that I was a bit naughty booking these tickets. Nathan Amzi, who was producing the event, had said on twitter that he was doing a We Will Rock You vs. Rock of Ages after show on the 20th of March. Great! I immediately went onto the London Hippodrome website (Nathan’s venue of choice) to book my tickets. One problem. The show was at 11pm on a Wednesday night. In London. I live in Manchester, two and a half hours away. There was no way I was missing my two favourite musicals going head to head, but there was also no way my Mum would let me go down to London on a Wednesday night. So, after a lot of sulking and “it’s not fair,” I booked the tickets anyway. Now, how to tell my Mum. I had booked two “beautiful booth” tickets, because I didn’t fancy going to something like that on my own. Who would take the pictures of me with the cast? I really didn’t fancy facing my Mum and telling her about the tickets, so I rang her when she was at work instead so it would have been unprofessional for her to have gone absolutely mental at me over the phone, in front of a clinic full of people (she’s a medical receptionist.) I told her about the show, the concept, the people involved, and she seemed really enthusiastic. So far, so good. Then, when I could stand the tension no more, I decided to just go for it. “Unfortunately it’s on a Wednesday night at 11pm in the middle of London so we’re going to have to book a hotel and go down to London after you’ve finished work but there are some really cheap train tickets and I’ve found a Travelodge practically round the corner so really if you think about it it’s actually quite a good idea… Mum?” Deathly silence. Uh oh. After what seemed like forever she said “I don’t really have a choice, do I?” I’ll take that as a yes!
The train to London was at 6:35pm, so my Mum had the chance to come home and have a shower before we headed to Manchester Piccadilly to catch the train. Unfortunately, I have never been a patient person, so I was up, dressed, packed and ready to go for 9am. That gave me plenty of time to worry about all the things that could go wrong. As well as going to the after show, I was meeting up with a few people I’d met on twitter, either via Rock of Ages or We Will Rock You. Having struggled with anxiety for the past few years, the idea of walking into a room full of people I’d never met before didn’t exactly thrill me. But, amongst them was my new girlfriend, Lucy, who I’d met on twitter a few months earlier. My Mum was convinced she was an axe murderer or something. Although we’d never actually met face to face we had an amazing connection and when something feels right you just have to go for it. But now we were meeting face to face I was nervous, what if it was really awkward? Or we didn’t get on? Or I wasn’t what she was expecting? This, combined with the thought of being surrounded by my favourite West End stars, was enough to give me a pretty impressive stress headache. I filled my day with Disney films until my Mum got home then, after a quick change, we were off.
I was so eager to get to London that we ended up arriving at Manchester Piccadilly a good 45 minutes before our train was due to leave. To be honest, I’d rather be waiting around than running like a maniac to catch the train! Even though the journey is two and a half hours long it seemed to fly by (that could be because I fell asleep) and soon we were in London. I love the feeling of arriving at Euston; it feels like I’ve come home. We headed to our hotel, checked in and, with a few nervous texts exchanged between Lucy and myself, we headed to the Hippodrome.
I’ve never been to a casino before, so the Hippodrome was pretty overwhelming. Lucy had said to get the lift up to the first floor and we’d see them, and I have never been as nervous as I was in that lift. It had wall to wall mirrors and I was checking my hair, jacket, t-shirt, everything. As we got to the first floor, and the door opened, I knew right away I’d been worrying about nothing. It felt like I’d known them all for years. Bonnie, in particular, was lovely. I picked Lucy out, went straight over and gave her a huge hug. It’s a strange feeling, meeting someone who you’ve been talking to for months, but it was perfect. As I looked around the room I noticed another girl, Sarah, who I’d been talking to on twitter. I’m hopeless at recognising people but I was certain it was her, so I went over and said hi. Again, it was like we’d known each other for years! She was with her friend Rebecca who I’d actually seen at a Rock of Ages show a couple of months ago. We all got on really well, and they came over to sit with the rest of the group.
As the cast started arriving from their shows, I went into full fan-girl mode. The first person I saw was Nathan Amzi and, after hanging back and blushing like an idiot, I went over to talk to him with Sarah and Rebecca. He is so lovely! As soon as he saw us we all got massive hugs (he actually picked me up off the floor – this is most definitely an advantage of being so small) and we chatted away about how excited we were about the show. As he wandered off more and more people were coming up the stairs. Tim Driesen, Katie Paine, Rachael Wooding, Rachel McFarlane, Dan Fletcher, this was a theatre geeks paradise! As we were queuing to go into the performance room, Rachel McFarlane was stood behind us – it was so surreal! I’m used to seeing her onstage belting out songs as Justice in Rock of Ages, and here she was chatting away like we were old friends! We’re both from Manchester, so we were talking about home and the differences between Manchester and London. I want to live in London – she misses home. We were soon taken to our beautiful booth, and oh my God what a view! The booths were in a semi-circle at the back of the room but we were practically in the middle. Sarah and Rebecca soon joined us and we waited for the show to start.
After a few “technical difficulties” the show was underway. Simon Lipkin and Jamie Muscato were the hosts, and they were hilarious. Soon, the teams were introduced. Team Rock of Ages: Natalie Andreou, Dan Fletcher and Ross Hunter. Team We Will Rock You: Rachael Wooding, Oliver Tompsett and Katie Paine. Seeing all of those people on stage together was absolutely fantastic however, being a fan of both musicals, it was so hard to pick a side. My heart said Rock of Ages, my first love, but I also loved Olly, Rachael and Katie. I decided to be a ROAhemian, (Roadie/Bohemian, a fan of both.) It was set out like a quiz show, with Simon and Jamie asking the questions. The first game was wine, house, or Winehouse. The teams were shown a picture and they had to determine if it was wine, a house, or Amy Winehouse. Then onto the true and false round, at the end of which I learned that Ross is a certified football referee, Dan once broke into the hotel room of the King of Malaysia and ate the buffet food, Natalie made out with her cousin at a wedding (knowing full well he was her cousin – she comes from a big Greek family, I won’t judge) Rachael peed in a suitcase whilst sleepwalking in Ibiza, Katie owns Elton John’s piano stool and Oliver was once set on fire by a group of school children whilst dressed as a giant banana. Not much to say about any of those really.
The first musical interlude was Ross Hunter singing a song from the Book of Mormon. He. Is. Adorable. It was strange to see him without his eyeliner and brown curly wig, but the voice was most definitely still there. Then Katie came on, singing a brilliant song, “Always the Bridesmaid.” I’ve seen Katie as Killer Queen three times now in We Will Rock You and her voice is spectacular. Her personality really came across as she belted out the song, and I was completely in awe of the power and control in her voice. There were a few more games, including “rock your socks off” where Dan and Oliver literally lay on the stage, wearing socks that were tied together, and they had to pull the other persons socks off. Oliver won. I’m not sure if that’s something to be proud of or not. Straight after that Oliver, who was very out of breath, and Rachael, sang a Mariah Carey duet. I love the chemistry between them as Galileo and Scaramouche, and they are obviously close, which made their duet absolutely phenomenal. All too soon, it was time for the interval.
After grabbing a quick drink (it was SERIOUSLY hot in there) we settled down for act two. John McLarnon, currently rebel leader in We Will Rock You, stepped up to sing some of his own material. This song, Sweetheart, almost reduced me to tears. It was about children always wanting to grow up so they can drink and smoke and then, once they reach adulthood, about how they’d give it all up to be young and in love again. It was beautiful. The next game, wasn’t. I can’t really tell you what happened because I was hiding behind Sarah. Everyone has an irrational fear, something that we’re scared of with no particular idea why. For me, it’s dinosaurs. So when Simon announced that they would be playing a clip from “Jurassic Park” I nearly died. Mum did too, but from laughter. I’ve no idea what happened but apparently We Will Rock You won the round then, mercifully, it was on to the next game, who“Drew” it best. See that’s funny, because both Ross and Oliver have played Drew. It’s actually probably only funny to ROAdies now I think about it… Anyway, Rachael and Natalie were blindfolded; Katie and Dan had to guide their elbows to draw Oliver and Ross, who had to pose (I have a brilliant picture of Olly’s pose.) It was a clear victory to We Will Rock You, and then Natalie stepped up to sing a solo. Bless her, she was so nervous, and she’d even written the lyrics on her arm to make sure she didn’t forget. She sang the best version of Emilie Sande’s “Heaven” I’ve ever heard. Her range is incredible and she is so beautiful, it was a true pleasure to watch her perform. I’ve loved her since I first saw her as Sherrie in 2011, but to see her as just Natalie, stood on stage singing, was amazing. I cheered as loud as I could (which, for a short-arse like me, is pretty damn loud) and then Simon and Jamie came back onstage to put Natalie into her “costume.” It was a bin-bag (no arm holes) goggles and a shower cap. Only Natalie could make that look good. As the rest of the cast came on in similar attire, we knew this was going to be good. It was a word association game, where Simon would say something, for example “types of confectionary” and the people at the front of the queue had to say as many as they could, until the other person gave a wrong answer or hesitated. Then, they’d get a plate full of shaving foam in their face. It was incredibly surreal to watch. Dan most definitely came off worst, bless him, you could hardly see his face any more. Oliver wasn’t much better. Jamie couldn’t stop laughing at him, until Oliver picked up a plate of shaving foam and put it on his head. Simon tried to get out of the way, but Olly gave him a big kiss on the cheek, covering him as well. The whole thing was just hilarious. The last round was a quick-fire round, and this was when it got seriously competitive. It was first to the buzzer to answer, but the We Will Rock You buzzer wasn’t working properly, so Rock of Ages were getting all of the answers, which all rhymed. “Monarch of the… Glen!” “Feeling of inner peace… Zen!” “Now or… then!” It all came down to the last question. “A small brown bird… Wren!” “Erm, no,” said Simon. “We were actually looking for Halle Berry.” I have never laughed so much in my life. In the end it was victory to Rock of Ages and, of course, they had to end the show with a medley. Olly, Rachael and Katie kicked off with We Are the Champions (even though they lost) then Dan, Ross and Natalie burst into Don’t Stop Believing. After We Will Rock You, Here I Go Again and a final chorus of Don’t Stop Believing, the show was over. Everyone took a bow, still covered in shaving foam, and made their way backstage.
The best part of the after show was the fact that you don’t have to leg it to the stage door like at a theatre production, because all of the casts hung around in the bar outside afterwards. As we were leaving Oliver was outside the room, so Me, Sarah and Rebecca all went in for hugs. And all got shaving foam in our hair. It’s a good job we love him! Olly went off to get cleaned up, so we hovered around the door where the performers would be coming out. First out was Nathan and, being too pumped up from the show to be nervous, I asked for a hug and a picture. I wasn’t disappointed! I got another massive hug and a lovely picture, then he chatted to us for a while before going to talk to other people. Next out was Ross, who is a lot taller than I remembered. My camera is shockingly slow and a real pain sometimes, so the picture with Ross is him looking all tall and blonde and cute, and then me, halfway through saying “did it take?” Not a good look. Oliver was next out, minus the shaving foam, and we all grabbed a picture with him. He is an absolute pro at taking photos with an extended arm, and that was totally fine by me because it meant I had to snuggle up to him. Tee hee. We missed Katie coming out because we were talking to Olly, but we spotted her at the bar and went over for a chat. She is so lovely! As Killer Queen she is absolutely terrifying, but she is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She said that she knew I was waiting for her and was actually keeping an eye out for me, and that she really liked my blog so far. I mentioned that I was going to see her next week and she insisted that I go to the stage door to say hi. As if I wouldn’t! Her partner offered to take a picture of me, Sarah and Rebecca with Katie, so Sarah put the coats on a table and we posed for the camera. After Katie had said her goodbyes and wandered over to the bar, my Mum spotted Simon Lipkin, also at the bar. We weren’t sure whether to go up to him or not, but Rebecca cornered him for us and he stood for a picture with my Mum before heading back to the bar. We stood at the table chatting, and then I realised I could smell something burning. “What’s on fire?” I asked, and then we realised. There was a candle on the table where we’d put our coats, and it had set them on fire. Whoops! We quickly put them out and acted like nothing had happened. I was still keeping my eye out for Natalie but I couldn’t see her, so I asked Nathan if he knew where she was. “Sure, she’s still inside, do you want to come and meet her?” he said, so I followed him to where Natalie was sat with her parents. I’d written a letter to her about how she’d helped me to feel more confident through her performance, and she very kindly wrote a beautiful letter back, so I sent a box of chocolates to the stage door to say thank you. As soon as she saw me she wriggled out of the booth and gave me a lovely big hug. I never realised she was so petite! After Nathan had taken a picture of the two of us I left her to her family and went back out into the bar. By this time it was 2:00am and both me and my Mum were absolutely shattered. We said our goodbyes (I absolutely hated leaving Lucy) and headed back to the hotel. All in all, both me and my Mum agreed that it was totally worth coming down from Manchester for, and promptly crashed out on the beds.