NOEL Sullivan bowls over expectations like skittles.

Most performers are reluctant to speak of the worst times in their careers, but when the former pop star with Hear'Say talks about his former life, he scores continuous strikes for absolute honesty.

Right now, the Welsh singer is starring in Rock of Ages at the King's Theatre, and he's loving every moment of playing Drew, the hopeful rock star.

But it's when he rewinds on his showbiz life so far, his meteoric rise up the charts with hit song Pure and Simple in 2001 - and the crashing back to earth 18 months later - you realise he is prepared to tell it like it was.

"For me, the backslide of Hear'Say was horrendous," he recalls.

"We (Myleene Klass, Danny Foster, Suzanne Shaw and Kym Marsh) were thrown on the scrapheap and told that was it.

"I was at an age (19) when I should have been finding my feet, but instead I had the feet knocked out from under me.

"Nowadays, people who go through this are looked after; if you go into Big Brother they help you with psychologists. But we weren't given any protection.

"I was lucky though. I found my solace in theatre."

But he didn't walk straight into theatre. After Hear'Say he headed back to Wales, and his mum.

"My mum is a nurse, and nurses are natural carers so when I went back to Cardiff a little bit broken she let me wallow in it for a little while, and then told me to shift my backside."

Noel shifted his backside all the way to the States. But he didn't land major work in Las Vegas.

"I did the sort of jobs I probably should have done after college, instead of going into Hear'Say," he says of working as the host of Simply Ballroom and joining the 12 Irish Tenors in Branson, Missouri, in which he had to pretend he was a tenor - and from Ireland.

"It was just what I needed," he says of the experience. "It was the first time I got to be judged for my talent. I could go to auditions and not be the guy from the pop band.

"The whole experience also made me more focused. When I came back in 2007 it took me five months to get back on the radar. It was tough, my house was rented out and I had to go and stay with friends.

"But I hung on to the thought it would one day get better - and it did."

His voice registers a high note. "I got Flashdance, and I haven't stopped since.

"Then I went into the West End with We Will Rock You and I got to meet the likes of Brian May and Robert De Niro.

"And last year I played a drag queen in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

"It's been an incredible turn around."

Then he adds: "But I take nothing for granted. Of all the auditions I go up for I may get one job in five.

"In fact, I've recently spent hundreds of pounds on train fares going up and down the country for a job, but I just learned today I didn't get it. Ten minutes later I'm talking to you and I can deal with the rejection.

"It's about attitude. You have to keep it all in perspective."

Would Hear'Say ever reunite? "I can't think why we would," he says.

"I'm in Rock of Ages with 2000 people screaming at me every night, so as long as this continues, I'm happy."

Rock of Ages is a "fantastic show'".

"I know the music from the eighties movies growing up," he says of the likes of Don't Stop Believing and Here I Go Again.

"I got the songs from Gremlins and Back to the Future.

"What I didn't realise at the time is they are quality pop songs and the guys have amazing voices."

Rock of Ages is an LA love story "lavished with over 25 classic rock anthems".

It tells of Sherrie, a sweet Kansas gal who arrives in Hollywood with movie stardom in her eyes but ends up dancing round a pole in the sleazy Venus Club.

ALONG the way she falls for Drew (Noel) who dreams of becoming a musician while sweeping floors in a Sunset Strip rock joint.

But Sherrie is blinded by the light of superstar Jaxx, an amoral, narcissistic rock god.

Noel loves the role and the acknowledgement of becoming a musical theatre star. But he is not a fame seeker.

"Part of the problem with our culture is that it puts out the idea that fame is something you should aspire to, via the likes of TOWIE and Popstars.

"But I don't think that's the right message to put out there.

"Fame is really something that should result from a lot of hard effort, not because you look cool.

"I like to go into work, put on the mask and leave it behind at the stage door."

He adds, smiling: "I'm playing the roles I've always wanted to play, so I feel I'm in exactly the right place."