I’d been planning this day for ages. My friend Lauren was turning 18 at the end of May and, after being subjected to the Rock of Ages soundtrack every day on the drive to/from college, she had grown curious about the show. I texted her Mum, Christine and we quickly devised a plan – I’d pay for the Rock of Ages ticket, Christine would pay for the train ticket and Lauren would know nothing about it. And it almost worked, except Lauren figured out the whole thing. Ah well. I would be picking Lauren up from her house and half past ten, and then we’d get the tram to Manchester and the train to London. As I pulled up outside her house, Christine was stood in the doorway. “She’s still in bed,” she said as I walked up the path. “WHAT?!” I said. “I told her half past ten, we’ve got a train to catch, how can she still be in bed?!” I followed Christine into the living room where Lauren was stood, up, dressed and ready to go. “I told you she’d go mad,” she said smugly. Not funny!
We caught the train in plenty of time and the journey was uneventful. I quickly checked in to the Travelodge across from Euston (I was putting Lauren on a train back to Manchester after the show and staying overnight to see Katie Paine as Killer Queen in We Will Rock You the following day.) We then caught the underground from Euston to Tottenham Court Road where I quickly pointed out the Dominion Theatre where We Will Rock You is, and we walked to the Garrick from there. It was still quite early so we went for a walk (it was a lovely hot day) and ended up somewhere near Big Ben, we then re-traced our steps (more or less) and got to the Garrick at 2:45pm ready for the 3pm matinee.
As always I checked the cast list when we went into the theatre and there was only one change – Nathan Amzi wasn’t on. “Oh ****” was my not-so-ladylike reaction, but this was Lauren’s day so I didn’t let it bother me too much. Originally we were sat in seats A9 and A10, but it was a lovely sunny Friday afternoon so the theatre wasn’t that full. Knowing the show as well as I do I knew that, although they were good seats, if we moved backwards I could have some fun, so I ran to the box office and changed our seats to B13 and B14 – one row back and right on the end. I made Lauren wear a big badge that said “It’s my birthday!” because I knew the cast would be able to see it from the stage and would play up to her a bit. As the music started, Simon Lipkin appeared at the top of the stairs “what’s going down London town!” and Lauren’s jaw hit the floor. I’d shown her pictures but that’s nothing compared to seeing him in person – nom. I don’t think she took her eyes off him for the whole first act.
In the interval I turned to her to see what she thought. “It’s sooo good!” Thank God for that! I also had two vouchers for a free drink so we got ourselves a bottle of Smirnoff Ice each. When we got back to our seats one of the staff who sells beer at the interval pulled one of the thongs off the chandelier next to us (they’re everywhere) and gave it to Lauren as a birthday present. Her face was a picture. As she got up to buy a programme I sent a sneaky tweet to Dan Fletcher who plays Dennis Dupree in the show. “I’m with my best friend for her birthday, we’re in B13 and 14 – please make a fuss :)” I knew that if Dan got the tweet in time he’d do his best, he’s lovely that way.
As the second half of the show came to a close, Dan came forward with his confetti gun and fired it over the crowd. Being close to the front we got covered, but then Dan came off the stage and dropped a handful of confetti on Lauren’s head. “Happy birthday!” he said and walked off, while I nearly died laughing. “Thank you!” I shouted. As the show finished we ran round to the stage door – they’re always quick in-between shows. Everyone who came out gave Lauren a hug and said happy birthday – she was made up! I got a quick picture with Ross Hunter who plays Drew, the lead male, and Simon. Lauren got her picture taken with “all the fit ones” in her words – Ian McIntosh, Ross, Tim Driesen and, of course, Simon. “Are we going back to the station now?” she asked, but I had one more trick up my sleeve. “Come on,” I said, and dragged her back to the Dominion, straight to the stage door. “What are we doing here?” she said, just as Oliver Tompsett came walking down the street. (Perfect timing or what?!) Lauren’s jaw dropped, again, as he came up and gave me a big hug before spotting Lauren’s badge and giving her one too. She went a cracking shade of red. “NOW we’re going back to the station,” I said, but because of my little de-tour we only just made it back in time.
After safely putting Lauren on the train I got on the Victoria line to make my way to the Apollo Victoria theatre where Wicked was playing. Well, I was in London on my own for the night – what else was I supposed to do?!
After nearly missing the train and running all the way to the theatre to catch the evening show, I needed a drink, and I must have looked as bad as I felt because the lovely barman put an extra shot of Bacardi in my coke for free. Bless him. The only problem was, a double Bacardi and coke on top of a Smirnoff Ice and only an apple for breakfast meant it went straight to my head. The set of Wicked is strange enough without being a tad tipsy too. I wobbled into my seat (Row O seat 6 in the dress circle – a bloody good view for £25) and settled down to watch the show. Just a tip – never watch Wicked when you’re anything other than stone cold sober. It does funny things to your head.
As always the lovely Louise Dearman absolutely blew me away as Elphaba and her chemistry with Gina Beck as Glinda was perfect. Ben Freeman (ick) was on holiday so his understudy Oliver Watton was on instead – thank God for that! Hands down the best Fiyero I’ve ever seen. He was the only one I could actually hear during “As Long as You’re Mine,” the big duet between Elphaba and Fiyero. As usual I burst into tears when Keith Bartlett who plays the Wizard came onto the stage – he bears an uncanny resemblance to my Grandad who I lost two and a half years ago. It really is spooky. After the show I ran round to the stage door (more running, ick) and waited for Gina and Louise. Gina was out first with a huge suitcase in tow – she was going on holiday the next day. I got a picture with her which has a bit of a green tinge thanks to the lights outside the theatre. When Keith came out I damn near burst into tears again – even offstage the likeness to my Grandad was absolutely uncanny. He did sign my ticket but I didn’t want a picture with him – it was too weird. I told him he reminded me of my Grandad and showed him a picture and even he agreed that there was a certain likeness. He suggested I show the programme to my Grandad and see what he thinks – erm. I said that might be a bit difficult and he seemed to understand me because he patted me on the shoulder with that sympathetic “I’m sorry” look people have. Louise was out last which isn’t surprising really considering all the makeup she has to take off. She looked a bit tired – I’m not surprised after that performance, but she still stopped to sign tickets and pose for photos. After that, I was ready for bed. At least I was walking straight now!