My thoughts on the NEW Les Miserables Cast – Class of 2014/15

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Since I first visited the show in January 2012, Les Miserables has become one of my must-see shows whenever I visit the West End. I have been lucky enough to be witness to some phenomenal performances by some amazing talentsRamin Karimloo, Hadley Fraser, Craig Mather, Danielle Hope, Chris Jacobsen, Geronimo Rauch and Tam Mutu, to name but a few – during my numerous visits to the show.
One of the most emotionally charged times in a Les Mis fans calendar each year is early June, and the arrival of the annual Cast Change. Now, anyone that knows me knows how much of an attachment I had to the Cast of 2013/14 – certain members in particular! (And if you don’t know – take a read of So the imminent arrival of a number of new cast members filled me with much trepidation!
Now normally, my first visit to see a new Les Mis cast after a Cast Change occurs in August as, due to my day job as a teacher and the fact I live 150+ miles away from London, I have to wait till my Summer break to fit it in. However, after a close friend sent me the link to a YouTube video of new Valjean Peter Lockyer singing “Bring Him Home“, and being totally mesmerised by the beauty of what I was hearing, I knew that this year – my first visit needed to be sooner rather than later.
Luckily, due to a work commitment, I ended up being in London – with an evening to spare – just over a week and a half after Cast Change, so after meeting up with one of my wonderful friends, I headed to the Queen’s Theatre to see what the newbies had to offer! Now I would be lying if I said my mind hadn’t had mixed feelings about going. When you have seen certain performers in a specific role so many times – as was the case with me and several members of the previous cast – the temptation to compare the new performers with their predecessors was extremely strong! However, as I took my seat, I tried my best to keep an open mind!
When I came out of that theatre, nearly 3 hours later – I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I haven’t been this impressed by a new cast as a whole unit since the cast lead by Geronimo Rauch and Tam Mutu arrived on the Barricades!
**The following may contain minor spoilers, so if you would rather not know about new elements of the show, please stop reading now!**
If an impressive new cast from top to bottom wasn’t mind-blowing enough, to see minor changes to the shows plot, staging and some costumes was even more surprising but SO REFRESHING!
Now there is no need to panic – this isn’t the takeover by the new Broadway production that has divided so many Les Mis fans. In fact, if you hadn’t seen the show before – you wouldn’t know there was any difference whatsoever. Now for me – this being my 19th visit to the Barricades and also the fact that I was in the centre of the 2nd Row – there were several things that stood out to me: –
Valjean no longer wears a wig in the opening sequence. The new look of a shaved head, covered in cuts and bruises is a dramatic change but in my opinion is so much more effective than the wig.
The sequence between the Bishop and convict Valjean is so much more heart wrenching, purely by some minor changes to standing positions.
Fantine has a new dress/work outfit – a distinctive flowery pattern that has faded, we assume through work, could represent how her bright, effervescent personality has worn away due to her emotionally traumatic experiences.
At the start of “The Bargain” – post “Master of the House”, the Thenardiers are not the only ones still at the Inn when Valjean arrives with little Cosette (I won’t say anymore about this, other than Adam Linstead – you legend!)
When Javert first arrives in “Paris” after Thenardier’s gang attacks Valjean, Javert immediately helps fallen Valjean stand up without realising who he is.
Eponine is involved in the slow motion running to open Act Two – which totally makes sense based on her involvement at the start of the Act into “On My Own.” When she delivers Marius’ letter to Valjean, he actually removes her hat after calling her a “boy”, resulting in her long hair falling free and a shocked look from them both.
These were just some of the changes that stood out to me – there were many, many more! But as I am sure you can all see, the original show and story still remains as strong as it ever was, but has been re-energised by even the smallest of changes.
This re-energising continues with a number of fantastic new cast members. Before I go on, I should mention my earlier comment about resisting the temptation to compare this cast with their predecessors. I can honestly say there is no way this cast can, or should be, compared to the outgoing cast. They perform with such energy, vibrance and confidence – but are so different (in a good way) to anything or anyone I have seen at Queen’s before in my two and a half years of visiting the show.
Peter Lockyer (Valjean) is a revelation and is so different to the all of the previous Valjeans I have seen perform. Being so close to the stage and seeing him perform live for the first time ever, you could see by looking his eyes how much belief he had in everything he was saying, singing and doing – and I have no doubt that would have transferred to all parts of the Theatre. He brings such power and confidence to the role and his vocals are just utterly divine. For me, a phenomenal Valjean has to break your heart with “Bring Him Home” – well, let’s just say Peter totally obliterated my heart with his version!
His partnership with David Thaxton as Javertanother key element of the show for me – is just absolutely brilliant to watch! From their opening introductions, to one of the most powerful and physical Confrontations I have ever seen, to their final showdown, the chemistry between them is absolutely electric! They work so well together and I have no doubt their pairing has the potential to go down as one of the best ever.
I must also say about David – I had never actually heard him sing live before this visit to Queens (except at the first ever Off Duty Thursday – which was his own material). As a result of this, I can honestly say he was one of the most impressive elements of the whole evening. A very unique portrayal of Javert, bringing out much of the anger and frustration of the character is not something I have seen in the show before – but I liked it! His version of “Stars” – my favourite song from the whole show and the one moment that any Javert has to stand out to me –  was on point and delivered with amazing precision and such fire. And his facial expression when Gavroche caught him out on the Barricades was sheer brilliance! I really look forward to future visits to see how David develops this character even further.
Special mentions must also go to the fantastic Celinde Schoenmaker, returning to the role of Fantine which she originally played for a shorter spell in early 2013, who has grown in power and passion to deliver a faultless performance; and also to new Thenardier Tom Edden who brings a weasel-esque quality to the love him or hate him Inn Keeper, but who nevertheless is one of the funniest elements of the show – and his on stage relationship with QUEEN Wendy Ferguson (Madame Thenardier) is rather awesome! Michael Colbourne (Enjolras) also makes an impressive debut as the Revolutionary leader, particularly excelling in his on-the-Barricade role in Act 2. He is definitely another talent I look forward to seeing develop as the year goes on. The Ensemble – which includes the beautiful Emma Kingston (In the Heights), stunning Jo Loxton (Phantom/Dear World) and legendary Adam Pearce (Light Princess/Sweeney Todd/Love Never Dies) – is also one of the best I have ever seen on the Queen’s stage.
It is also so wonderful to see all of these “newbiesbacked up so brilliantly by so many familiar facesCarrie Fletcher, Wendy Ferguson, Rob Houchen Simon Shorten, Adam Linstead and Melanie Bright to name a few – who continue to be absolutely astounding in so many ways!
All I can end by saying is this – as much as I shall miss the previous cast, and certain members of said cast in particular, it is onwards and upwards for them! And as a Les Mis fan – I am so pleased that this wonderful show has been left in such safe hands.
Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . Les Miserables’ Peter Lockyer

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I am over the moon to announce that my next interviewee is the newest Jean Valjean to tread the boards at the Queen’s Theatre – Peter Lockyer.
After making his Broadway debut in the Dutch production of Cyrano the Musical – Peter has gone on to star in some of the most popular musicals ever, including Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, South Pacific and also as Marius in Les Miserables – which he performed on Broadway and in the China Premiere, alongside the legendary Colm Wilkinson.
After taking on the role of Valjean for over a year and a half on the 25th Anniversary US Tour, Peter is now reprising his role here in London – and I was truly blessed to be able to chat to him about a whole host of things, including NHL, “Rhinestone Cowboy”, Bill Nighy, being an honourary Londoner and why everyone seems to LOVE his new co-star . . .
Tell us a little known fact about yourself – something we wouldn’t know by looking at you


Um…I wanted to be an NHL hockey player when I grew up.

Who or what inspired you to get into the Theatre Industry?

I think I just really enjoyed the camaraderie, the sense of family and collaboration. When I graduated high school, I figured I’d just give it a try and if it didn’t work out in a couple of years I’d move on.

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far? And what has been the biggest obstacle you have faced?

Wow, these are challenging questions! Highlights are temporary because there’s always a new moment, right? Every job I get is a highlight because I feel fortunate enough to continue working in theatre. Perhaps, the biggest highlight, though, would have to be meeting Melanie, the woman I would marry, while working on “Miss Saigon“. We fell in loveonstage and off, sappy, huh?!!

The biggest obstacle might be working or dealing with people that work from their egos first, and not for the piece at hand. It’s a small percentagein the business, as in any business I’m sure, and I’m fortunate to have barely encountered it, but it’s a buzz-kill to work with such people.

If you had to choose any 3 songs from any genre as the soundtrack to your life so far, what would they be and why?

Rhinestone Cowboy” – it’s the first song I just LOVED, funny.

Blue Bells of Scotland” – I saw tears on someones face for the first time when this song played and saw the power of music.

Grow Old Along With Me” – my wife sang this to me at our wedding and I can barely type this without welling up with joy from the memory.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Take your work seriously, but never yourself.

If you could play any role, be it play or musical, past or present, what would be your dream role to play and why?

Truly, playing Valjean IS a dream role.

I always wanted to play Tony in West Side Story but that time has gone by. It might be fun to play Tommy Devito in Jersey Boys for a bit? Or, to return to Phantom in the role?

I’ve always hoped one day to play Cervantes/Quixote in Man of La Mancha, it’s such a beautiful show.

You’ve seen a number of West End shows since you’ve been in London – if you had to pick – which was your favourite?

Oh, wow! Listen, I’m such a huge fan of seeing theatre. I’m so moved by seeing an actor at the top of their game. I love to see direction that inspires, writing that asks me to think differently, lightingthat paints a world, set design that evokes a place, an orchestra and conductor in concert with their cast, stage management that is on top of cues, sound design (YES! Sound design Tony Committee!) that extends the world aurally. To spend time in a space with other human beings watching and feeling a piece of theatre is such a special gift.


So a favourite? Oy!! It goes without saying that Les Mis is a singular experience, whether it’s the first time or not. So, without choosing Les Mis…
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Things I won’t forget: Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer; the simple but so very effective writing by Stephen Mallatratt and direction by Robin Herford in “The Woman in Black“; John Tiffany’s inventive direction for “Let the Right One In“; Gavin Creel livin’ it in Mormon; Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid acting onstage together and last but MY GOD IS HE AMAZINGBill Nighy in “Skylight“, what a lesson it was to watch him work.
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You have recently opened as Jean Valjean in the iconic musical “Les Miserables” at the Queens Theatre. But this isn’t the first time you’ve played the role – having lead the cast of the recent US Tour. How much did you enjoy taking this legendary show to so many different cities?

What I love about having performed Les Mis all over the world now, is that it resonates with everyone the same…deeply. There is something so honest and complete about this show that touches us all. I often say, it doesn’t matter if you’ve performed the show, wrote it, directed it, or seen it, we all feel an ownership of Les Miserables and that is just awesome to be a part of.

Now that you’ve opened in London – what are you most looking forward to about the year ahead?

I’m really excited to get to play with this great company. I didn’t know what to expect coming in to a company that is so comfortable, but it truly feels like a new show at the theatre and I can’t wait to deepen our performances together.

I also feel so blessed to be allowed to work and experience this amazing, historical city. I love being a tourist here and now, making believe like I’m a Londoner. I look forward to getting out into the countrysideto see this beautiful land and up into Scotland, Ireland and Wales if I can as well.
New London Javert – and Peter’s co star – David Thaxton
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And how are you getting on with your fellow new cast members, especially your new Javert – David Thaxton?

Why am I getting the feeling people LOVE this Thaxton guy?? Haha! I love him too. We’re having a great time together. And, I can honestly say the rest of the company is fantastic. The existing members were so incredibly welcoming and the newbies are all committedand excited to do great work onstage.

Do you have a favourite moment in the show? Or maybe a particular song that you love to perform?

Though the obvious choices for me would be “Soliloquy” or “Bring Him Home“, oddly, it’s a song that isn’t Valjean’s but the company’s that strikes me most, “Drink With Me” is such a powerful, poignant moment in the show. I think it resonates the human condition perfectly, where it’s placed, the melody, the dramatic weight, it just works.

In 10 words or less, why should people come and see you, along with all the new cast members at Les Miserables?

Les Misérables – noun. a perfect theatre experience.
I have to say a special thank you to Peter for taking time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer my questions! It was an absolute honour and privilege – and I apologise again about the difficult questions, ha ha!
You can see Peter and all the new cast of Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre, London – check out or all good ticket retailers. I can say – having been lucky enough to witness this cast, including Peter, in action just a few days ago that you will not regret buying a ticket! Be prepared to be blown away!
Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


LES MISERABLES Cast Change Day – Saturday 14th June 2014

When I got on a train bound for London on the morning of Saturday 14th June 2014, I expected just another 2 show Theatre day.
Yes – the purpose of the visit was to say goodbye to the current cast of Les Miserables – and certain cast members in particular, if I’m honest. But I’d seen this show so many times – what could possibly be different?
Over 48 hours since my visit ended, I still can’t really take in the atmosphere and energythat I experienced in that theatre over those two shows!
I had never been to a Cast Change Day before. I mean, I had been to final shows of particular productions – Phantom of the Opera UK Tour, Beverley Knight’s final Bodyguard performance and Geronimo Rauch’s final Les Mis to name just a few – but never had I done a double show day, especially with such an emotionally draining show!
What this also meant though was I had never been witness to a Muck-Up Matinee! Believe me, I had always heard stories about different Muck-Ups but had never witnessed one in person – until Saturday! And as I was sitting Front Rowfor said Muck Up – I had a prime seat for all the action!
One thing I learnt very quickly was that a “Muck Up” is not an obviously out and out silly performance. It is much more subtle – to the point that unless you had seen the show before, you wouldn’t know there were changes. But for me, this added to the excitement as I had to pay extra attention to everything that was going on!
Now I don’t want to ruin the Muck Up magic – as there were some elements that if you weren’t there, they might not be as funny! But – to give you a taste of what happened, at least what I spotted, all I shall say is the following . . .
Blind Customer
Explaining the Menu
Baby Dropping
Fygxvbbbvvvbb cough cough
Long Pause
2 Ghostly Eponines
Grantaire bow!
What I will say is that if you were there, these should all make sense! 🙂 I laughed so much – and it was probably a good job considering how emotional the evening performance was set to be.
From the moment that I took my seat in the Dress Circle overlooking the stage about 5 minutes before the evening show was about to start, I knew I was about to witness something truly special. But never could I have imagined how completely overwhelmed I would be by the time the final curtain fell.
I think what got to me the most was how much these characters and this story meant to those on stage. Every breath, every note, every moment was delivered so much power, passion and pride – something I have never seen in such great volume before.
The cheers from the cast backstage which raised the roof before the show even started; NaYoung Jeon mouthing “thank you” to the audience after she delivered her final, heartbreaking rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream“; one of the most emotional, spine chilling renditions of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” and most uplifting versions of “Do You Hear the People Sing” I have ever heard; Cameron Blakely and Wendy Ferguson tearing the house down with their final “Beggars at the Feast“; Tam Mutu oozing charisma, class and power in his final stunningly brilliant (and maybe best ever!) rendition of “Stars“; one of the most passionate Confrontations that Queens Theatre may have ever seen – I could go on!!!
Whether it was from those leaving the show – or those who will continue their Barricade journey, the class of 2013/14 left it all on that stage and left everyone in that theatre (myself included) with memories that we will never ever forget!
So I guess all I can say is: –
Dan, Tam, Cameron, Samantha, NaYoung, Anton, George, Dayle, Rhidian, Carl, Nicky, Josie, Jenny, Rosanna, Koko, Helen, Oliver, Chris and Leo . . .
It has been an absolute honour and privilege to support such a phenomenal group of performers as you! You will never be forgotten, but for now – it’s not goodbye, it’s see you soon! Onwards and upwards – I can’t wait to see what you all do next!
And to the Class of 2014/15, lead by Peter Lockyer and David Thaxtonwelcome to the Barricades! You have some pretty big shoes (or in some cases – HATS!) to fill 🙂
Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

PLAYING OUR PART – 18th May 2014

As much as I love going to the theatre as often as I possibly can, especially in the West End, I do have one rule that I always stick to.

No London trips on Sundays.

For those who don’t know – I’m a school teacher by day, meaning that London day trips on a Sunday are pretty much impossible unless I want to be completely exhausted the next day. So, in order to keep to this rule, I have begrudgingly, had to miss some truly wonderful events
This rule was standing strong – that was until Nadim Naaman told me about a concert he was organising in aid of Target Ovarian Cancer.

Playing Our Part aimed to raise awareness of one of the less well known cancer types – a cause close to Nadim’s heart. Staged in the stunning Cadogan Hall – the concert brought together some of the finest talent from across the West End to perform an array of enchanting and uplifting songs, accompanied by maestro Alex Parker and a fantastic 23 piece orchestra.

And what a set-list it was! There truly was something for everybody. From Jason Robert Brown to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Coldplayto Disney – each one of the beautiful performances was almost like the pieces of a rather phenomenal jigsaw all fitting together at once. I can honestly say, and I’m sure the audience would agree with me, that the concert was just sheer perfection.

As a result of this, I would find it practically impossible to tell you which were the stand out performers of the evening. Every single performance – whether it was Killian’s chilling version of “Fix You”, Wendy Ferguson’s powerhouse soprano in “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, or Laura Pitt Pulford’s storming rendition of “Before the Parade Passes By” – was astoundingly brilliant. However, there are a couple of individuals that I must mention.
If you are a fan of the London production of “Phantom of the Opera” like I am, then Jeremy Secombis a name you will more than likely recognise. His role as Piangiremains one of the shows highlights for me, so when I heard he would be involved in Playing Our Part, I was totally intrigued! I was so used to hearing sing as Piangi, I questioned what he would actually sound like just singing as himself! (I know that sounds odd – but it’s true!!)

I can honestly say – hand on heart – that I was totally blown awayby his performance. I mean, I knew he would be good but he blew away any expectations I had! In his two performances – singing “The Prayer” with stunning Phantom co-star Olivia Brereton, and in a solo rendition of Jason Robert Brown’sSomeone to Fall Back On“, he completely captivated the entire audience, transporting each and every single one of them on the most enchanting rollercoaster ride. It was a performance of a truly phenomenal talent – and it just makes me even more jealous of anyone who has been lucky enough to see him as “The Phantom” over at Her Majesty’s Theatre – what an absolute tour de forcethat must be to see live and in person.


I must also give a special mention to a number of performers in particular. One of the things I just adored about Playing Our Part was the opportunity it presented me to see so much talent that I had never actually been witness to before. Christopher Howell, formerly of “Stephen Ward” and “Wicked”, brought the house down with his charismatic rendition of “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me” from Aladdin, while Tim Morgan(currently on stage at “Phantom of the Opera”) moved many audience members to tears with his emotional performance of “Lily’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden, alongside Nadim Naaman. I was also blown away by the immense talents of Shona White and Gillian Budd, particularly in their beautiful version of “For Good” from Wicked.

But out of all of these phenomenal talents, I must single out the divine Siubhan Harrison. I had only previously heard Siubhan sing through her contribution to Nadim’s solo album, and also knew of her involvement in From Here to Eternity. However, when she stepped up to the microphone to perform “No One But You” from We Will Rock You, I was absolutely speechless. Never have I heard that legendary song performed with such beauty and grace as I did that evening – and believe me, I have seen We Will Rock You on more than one occasion! Siubhan is a phenomenal talent and I can only pray that it isn’t long before we see this amazing lady back on the West End stage where she so rightfully belongs.

Playing Our Part” was truly the most awe-inspiring evening that I was very privileged to witness in person.  Believe me, it takes something truly special to get me to London on a Sunday evening knowing I am at work early the next day – but I was so thrilled that I broke this rule! Never have I been so humbled by such a brilliant evening.

Finally though, I must pay a special tribute to concert organiser and show producer Nadim Naaman. I consider itself an absolute honour that I have been able to support Nadim – through interviews, reviews and features – since I have run this Blog and I can say from meeting him now on numerous occasions that he truly is one of the most kind hearted people I have ever met. However, “Playing Our Part” just took my level of respect and admiration for him to a whole new level – a truly inspirational man whose love, care and support for others knows no bounds. It was a true honour to support him in the lead up to this concert – and I can only hope that I am blessed enough to support Nadim – and his new adventures – in future.

Thanks to the awesome Virtuoso Imaging for all of the fantastic pictures too!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

ROCK OF AGES UK Tour – New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, 15th-17th May 2014

“This must be just like living in Paradise – and I don’t wanna go home!”

As the phenomenal cast of ROCK OF AGES belt out their opening rock classic on stage at the New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, I can’t help but smile like a Cheshire Cat. From the legendary 80s L.A Strip setting, to the bright, bold and in your face costumes worn by the array of characters that bring this show to life, this show with a true heart of gold has never failed to not make me smile, ever since I first saw it back at the Shaftesbury Theatre in February 2012.
Through its’ rollercoaster journey through the West End, including a move to the Garrick Theatre, a massive change of cast, visits from rock legends such as Alice Cooper and its’ final closure in November 2013, ROCK OF AGES has always been such a feel good show, no matter whether you are 8, 28 or 88!
When it was announced that the show would be resurrected for a 2014 UK Tour, I was one of the first in line for tickets at my local theatre – and as it happens, and thanks to some close friends, I ended up with tickets for 3 consecutive nights! Hey – if this was potentially going to be my last visit to the Sunset Strip, I wanted to make the most of it!
And boy did I! J
Over those wonderful evenings, shared with both family and friends, I laughed, cried, sang, screamed and had my face totally melted by the superb cast, who more than match and live up to the extremely high standard set by their West End predecessors.
The story is centred around wannabe rock star Drew (Noel Sullivan), who while working at the legendary Dupree’s Bourbon Room – run by Dennis Dupree (Daniel Fletcher) and “Sound God” Lonny (Stephen Rahman Hughes) – falls in love with LA newcomer Sherrie (Cordelia Farnworth). But all is not plain sailing for the new lovebirds, who face challenges in the contrasting forms of Arsenal lead singer Stacee Jaxx (Ben Richards), and the feisty Justice (Rachel Macfarlane) among many others.
What I always adored about this show – and what took me back to see it 5 times in London – was the sheer energy and vibrancy of this show. Just watching the joy on the faces of every single cast member – from leading names right down to ensemble – made you want to get up on that stage and join in the fun. It always made me giggle when theatregoers criticised the plot of the show for being too weak – hey, it’s just like Lonny says, ROCK OF AGEScertainly isn’t “Andrew Lloyd Sondheim” and it’s not trying to be! What the show is is one of the funniest, most uplifting nights out that you can ever have!
Credit must also go to the fantastic cast – a mix of the former West End cast and new stars ready to shine. One element of the casting that I admired greatly was letting Cordelia Farnworth (Sherrie) and Cameron Sharp (Franz), who had both understudied their respective roles in the West End production, have now stepped up to the lead roles and do so with style and classCameron in particular has to be one of the funniest people I have ever seen on stage, as he takes the character of FRANZ to a whole new level of awesomeness. Likewise, Ben Richards (Stacee Jaxx) also exudes confidence and charisma as he commanded the stage at every turn, his rendition of “WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE” being a personal highlight.
Ben Richards as Stacee Jaxx
I must also give a massive salute and shout out to Stephen Rahman Hughes. Despite injuring himself ahead of the shows Manchester residency the previous week and missing a number of performances, he was in sensational form over my 3 visits in Birmingham. Despite being limited to his involvementin some parts of the show, Stephen was able to guide the raucous audiences, in his role as “dramatic conjurer LONNY though the story in a phenomenally brilliant fashion, particularly through his on stage relationship with Dennis (the awesome Daniel Fletcher). I really hope I get to see the show again when he is back to full strength – if he’s brilliant now, there may be no stopping himwhen he is at 100%!
I could go on and on about the sheer brilliance of this show, the phenomenal cast and how people shouldn’t listen to critics and go and give the show a chance. But I guess I can sum this all up in one way thanks to LONNY – “Sometimes the dreams you come in with may not be the dreams you leave with – but hey, they still rock!”

ROCK OF AGES is touring the UK throughout 2014 – check further details.

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx