This was the start of my three day adventure in London. Three whole days on my own, cramming in four shows, four stage doors and one hell of a lot of walking. I’d chosen Mamma Mia because I wanted to see Michelle Tompsett on stage – this was before she and Oli announced that they were expecting Baby T, and by the time I got there she was already on maternity leave. Damn. Still, I’d seen the musical before, my first time being in 2006 on a school trip, so I knew I was in for a good night. I arrived in London around 3.30pm, dumped my stuff in the Travelodge opposite Euston (so much easier than trekking to Tower Bridge or Covent Garden) and went to meet my girlfriend Lucy for a hot chocolate. We barely get any time together (she lives in East London, I live in Manchester) so these three days were a definite bonus.
After she’d gone to work, I decided to go to the stage door at The Dominion and try and catch Katie Paine or Rachael Wooding. I bought Katie some flowers and Rachael some mini-eggs, and stationed myself outside of the door. My God, it was freezing. The kind of cold that seeps into your bones and seizes you up. I do not have good joints anyway, so this maybe wasn’t the best idea, but I was determined to see at least one of them (and I didn’t want to drag the flowers all the way round the West End.) I sent a tweet to Katie saying “I hope I haven’t missed you at the stage door!” – Turns out I had. “Sorry darling I was in uber early! Can I see you quickly after?” Damn and blast. There was no way I could run from the Novello to the Dominion in time to catch her afterwards. I sent her a tweet back saying “I’m seeing a different show, I’ll send your present up with someone” and waited for anyone I recognised. I am not good at recognising people. My phone buzzed again – it was Katie. “Oh bless you my darling! Give me 5 mins and I’ll come down!” She is amazing. She came to the stage door, already in full Killer Queen make-up, and gave me a lovely big hug. By this point I was actually shivering, teeth chattering, the works, and I was actually too cold to be able to speak properly. Not good. I gave her the flowers and asked her if she could get the mini-eggs to Rachael, gave her another quick hug and then went around the corner to Burger King. So warm! I finished off a large Chicken Royale meal in about 10 seconds flat and headed underground to get to Covent Garden.
If you’ve read this blog before you will know that I am not good with crowds. If you haven’t, now you know. Being as small as I am (5 ft 2 on a good day and a little over 7 stone) it can be very intimidating having lots of people crushing in to a train, or a lift, or a concert venue (I had a massive panic attack at McFly but the St John’s Ambulance people were lovely.) Normally my Mum or whoever I’m with can calm me down, but this time I was on my own. The tube from Tottenham Court Road to Leicester Square was hell, but it was only one stop. Again, from Leicester Square to Covent Garden was awful, and I was close to losing it, but then, mercifully, Oliver Tompsett came on my iPod singing “Kiss the Air” and calmed me right down. Luckily Covent Garden was only one stop away, and as soon as I could I pushed myself off the train, looking for the way out. I found it – lifts. A whole train load of people trying to push themselves into one lift. No thank you very much. I was about to have a complete meltdown when I saw a sign “Stairs – Only for Emergency Use.” This, was an emergency. Unfortunately, there were 193 stairs. (I didn’t count, it was on the sign.) This was equivalent to 15 floors (also on the sign.) Bring it on. 193 stairs is A LOT. When I finally reached the top I was very dizzy (it was a spiral staircase) and out of breath. But, I had avoided the lifts.
I walked round to the Novello where Mamma Mia was being performed, and joined the back of the queue. Yes, they made us queue up outside in sub-zero temperatures, for a good 15 minutes. I was not a happy bunny. By the time we actually got in I was freezing and fuming. I headed straight up to the bar, pausing only to buy a programme, and ordered a dry martini and lemonade. No martini. Great. I ordered a Bacardi and Coke instead and the barman, sensing how frazzled I was, put in a rather generous measure of Bacardi. Thank you! I then went in to take my seat. The ticket had only cost me £17 – a bloody bargain – because the view was “moderately restricted.” And it was, unless you leaned forward. I also had a great view of the orchestra pit, which was a bonus. As the show started and Sophie (Charlotte Wakefield) started singing “I Have a Dream” I felt myself relax. Musical theatre is the best form of therapy.
This cast was amazing. I absolutely loved Joanna Monro as Rosie; she was just hilarious, and worked really well with Kim Ismay who played Tanya. I’ve noticed that in every single Mamma Mia show I see, Bill is always my favourite, no matter who he is played by. This show was no different. James Gaddas was PERFECT. He had a Geordie (Newcastle) accent which made everything he said about ten times funnier. By the interval my bad mood had well and truly gone, and I asked my twitter followers where the stage door was. I had to meet James. The rest of the show went very smoothly, but the highlight was definitely Take a Chance on Me. It was duet between Joanna and James, where they basically chase eachother around the church in which Sophie is about to get married in, and end up in a very compromising position at the altar as the wedding party arrives. My cheeks were aching I was laughing so much. All too soon the show was over and it was time for the stage door run. Turns out I was the only one there. As each cast member left I grew more and more anxious, but finally James and Joanna came out of the door together. I told Joanna I was a massive fan of hers and James that I was Northern too (his response – “Manchester isn’t North it’s the Midlands!” Pfft.) He asked when I was coming down again and I truthfully said that I hoped to be there again soon. As they both signed my programme I said thank you and headed back to the dreaded Covent Garden.
Luckily, Lucy chose that exact moment to tell me that she had been let off work early, so I walked back to Leicester Square (sod those lifts) and we decided to go for a drink in the pub where she works. This meant walking past the Garrick, where Rock of Ages is currently performing, so we kept our eye out for cast members at the stage door. We weren’t disappointed. As we walked around the corner we spotted Nathan Amzi and Simon Lipkin stood (bizarrely) holding three televisions between them. Now, Nathan knows me, and he knows Lucy, but I think the fact that we were there, together, as a couple, was a bit too much for him to process. He hardly said two words, bless him! Simon, on the other hand, was unusually chatty. “Helloooooo ladies!” was my personal favourite. After he’d noticed my programme he quoted a line from the show, “you’ve been to see Mamma Mia?!” and had me in stitches. We asked about the televisions – they’re making a media room apparently – and then said goodnight. We were both still laughing at Nathan coming over all shy, I think the only thing he said was “so, did they let you off work early?” to Lucy, and we were both amazed by how chatty Simon was. He’s usually so reserved! Let’s hope Nathan’s recovered by the time we go and see Rock of Ages together tomorrow night!