Last night, I was very fortunate to be able to re-visit the Apollo Victoria theatre to see Wicked, for what must be close to my tenth time now!
I first fell in love with the show back when I was living in Manchester, and was awed by the musical’s awesome soundtrack and book (based on the original novel by Gregory Maguire – which, incidentally, is also WELL worth a read). I first saw the show on 3rd January 2007, and it’s been a continual favourite ever since!
My first cast was Kerry Ellis (Elphaba), Helen Dallimore (Glinda), Adam Garcia (Fiyero), Susie Blake (Madam Morrible), Nigel Planer (The Wizard), James Gillan (Boq), Kate Rowley Jones (Nessarose), and I think I’ve seen pretty much every major cast change that there’s been 🙂
With the above in mind, I have to say that the cast that I saw last night was absolutely awesome, and equalled, if not bettered, my first live experience of this show all those years ago. We were treated to the Elphaba of Nikki Davis-Jones (understudy for an absent Rachel Tucker) and I have to say, she absolutely smashed it out of the park! She’s perhaps shot right in there as my favourite Elphaba… absolutely perfect, and a voice that gave me goosebumps in all the right places! Louise Dearman is, without doubt, also my favourite Glinda – she brought such sparkle to the role, and added a dimension to the character that I’ve never seen on stage before. Both are an absolute asset to this production. Similarly, Mark H Evans as Fiyero came very close to equalling Oliver Thompsett’s Fiyero, and plays the role very well.
Full credit has to go to Clive Carter, who takes on the role of The Wizard. Traditionally, this is a role that I absolutely loathe; indeed both Karl and I groaned (along with several other ‘regulars’) when it came time for the Wizard to put in an appearance, HOWEVER , Clive Carter has managed the impossible – his performance of The Wizard wasn’t actually all that bad! That is to say, that I actually found the character rather watchable and it didn’t jar with the rest of the production whatsoever – which is a HUGE accomplishment – and when I say ‘not that bad’, I do of course mean ‘phenomenal’ as he’s managed to convert a jaded theatre buff into liking the character somewhat more!
Madame Morrible has been taken on by Julie Legrand, and whilst I did like her portrayal of the character, I found the stage presence of the character to be somewhat missing at times – perhaps it’s an appearance thing, as compared to previous Morrible’s, Legrand cuts a slighter figure on stage, and so visually loses a little of that imposing stage presence I felt. All that said, she superbly cuts perhaps the meanest and snidest Morrible that I’ve seen on the stage at the Apollo Vic, and her character genuinely is a nasty piece of work – something which other actors have perhaps shied away from in the past.
The ensemble was largely strong, though during ‘No One Mourns The Wicked’ I thought I detected a few sound issues (either that, or the group shied away from the big notes?), and there was one chap whose voice was a little overpowering and out of harmony with the others. By the second song, ‘Dear Old Shiz’ however, the ensemble were back and tight as ever, and remained marvellous throughout the rest of the production.
One of the things that I love most about Wicked are it’s superb production values. I love the use of lighting, and the clever set, complete with all the whirring cogs and whatnot. It’s very easy to get swept away into Gregory Maguire’s Oz and this really helps you to empathise with the characters much more in my opinion, as the set manages to be so beautiful that it compliments what is happening on stage perfectly!
Returning, if I may, back to our two leading ladies, Nikki Davis-Jones, and Louise Dearman, I thought that they made an awesome duo. It’s no secret amongst those of us sat in the back third of the stalls that I was in floods come the song ‘For Good’ – despite me knowing the storyline inside out! hehe. That I still get upset at that bit is testament to how well acted and what a beautiful song this is in my opinion. Vocally both were a delight to listen to, and in terms of their acting abilities, they both excelled.
As always, it was great to hear a live band hammering out Stephen Schwartz’s incredible soundtrack, and I have the utmost adoration for the musician smacking the heck out of the glockenspiel during Defying Gravity hehe!
For most people, the very first show you go to see in the West End, seems to be Wicked – and time after time, this show proves why this is. For me, this was my very first West End show all those years ago, and I know for many people who I speak to online, this is the one that they most want to see when they ask me ‘what show should I go see?’. I know that a few people criticise the show as it doesn’t get as much of the book across as they’d like, however I think this would be impossible and think that it’s wrong to compare the genre of fiction and musical theatre in a way that perhaps does neither justice/gives full credit to the finished products.
That it remains so aspirational for theatre-goers to see is testament to the hard work that’s gone into this show, both on stage, and via the excellent creative team behind the show. It’s been voted the Whatsonstage.com Best Musical Show two years running now (2010 and 2011) as well as winning the Olivier in 2010 for Most Popular Musical (are you humming ‘Popular’ now too? hehe :)).
If you’re looking for a Wicked night out, and fancy wandering around London shouting TOSS TOSS! at random tourists, as I will no doubt be doing for WEEKS – then this is without doubt the show for you! Don your sparkliest slippers and click those heels to get yourself a seat at the Apollo Vic* to see this musical masterpiece!
* debit card MAY be required! 😉
PS: I discovered this random Japanese comic sketch to do with Wicked today – LOVE it hehe!