I don’t know about you, but cast changes are an event I always look forward to. Every actor approaches a role from their own unique perspective, so a show and its characters can be given a whole new dynamic by the arrival of a new set of cast members. Les Miserables had a major shake-up in June with the change-over of most of its principal cast, which saw the likes of Tam Mutu, Danielle Hope and Geronimo Rauch joining the company, and later, Sierra Boggess. Cast change day is also on its way for The Phantom of the Opera in early September, which will see the departure of some of its long-term cast members. Currently, there has been no official announcement concerning those who are on their way out and those who are on their way in though. There has however, been news released from the Wicked camp in regards to their cast change on 29th October 2012.
It was previously announced that former Glinda, Louise Dearman, would be going green as she rejoins the show to take on the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba. It is the first time someone has played both leading roles in the musical and it’s going to be interesting to see how Dearman, who was critically acclaimed in her portrayal of the self-absorbed Glinda ‘the Good’, will tackle playing such a different character in a show she’s so familiar with.
Following this surprising but exciting news yesterday was the details of the remaining cast change-overs. Whilst Gina Beck, Keith Bartlett and Christopher Howell are to continue in their respective roles of Glinda, The Wizard and Doctor Dillamond, the other principal roles will be taken over by a bunch of new faces. Perhaps most anticipated is the return of another former Wicked cast member: Katie Rowley Jones. Jones is back reprising the role of Nessarose, which she originated when the show opened in the West End in 2006. Her other theatre credits include Beauty and the Beast, Grease, The Rocky Horror Show and Whistle Down the Wind, as well as originating the role of Sister Mary Roberts in Sister Act. She will be joined on stage by former Emmerdale star Ben Freeman (Scott Windsor), who will be taking over from Matt Willis as Fiyero. Freeman’s previous theatre credits include roles in West End shows Legally Blonde and Dreamboats and Petticoats.
Also joining the Wicked company at the Apollo Victoria are Louise Plowright and Sam Lupton as Madame Morrible and Boq respectively. Plowright created the role of Tanya in the original London production of Mamma Mia and later played the lead role of Donna, as well as appearing in other musicals such as Oklahoma! and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Lupton makes his West End debut with Wicked, coming there from the UK tour of Avenue Q where he played Princeton/Rod; his other credits include A Streetcar Named Desire, Single Sex and The Hired Man.
Other announcements include Hayley Gallivan as Standby Elphaba and Lucy Van Gasse as Standby Glinda. Gallivan has previously appeared in the West End in Grease, Spring Awakening and The 25th Putnam County Spelling Bee and can currently be seen at the Open Air Theatre Regent’s Park in Ragtime and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Van Gasse made her West End debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies as cover to the lead role of Christine Daae and was most recently seen in the national tour of Wonderful Town. The ensemble in October will now feature Florence Andrews, Gemma Atkins, William Bozier, Oliver Brenin, Lauren Brooke, Philip Catchpole, Aisling Duffy, Chlöe Hart, Jacqueline Hughes, Robert Jones, Sophie Linder Lee, Tania Mathurin, Marc McBride, Stacey McGuire, Tom Muggeridge, Sean Parkins, Michelle Pentecost, Stuart Ramsay, Lindsay Taylor, Paulo Teixeira, Justin Thomas, Hannah Toy, Matt Turner, Oliver Watton and Jason Winter.
Wicked is currently in its fifth year in the West End and still going stronger than ever. The smash-hit show, which is based on the Gregory Maguire novel and features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, has been seen by over 4.5 million people since it arrived here and has won an array of awards,, including ‘Best West End Show’ twice in the Whatsonstage.com Awards. The ‘untold story’ of the Witches of Oz puts the events and characters of The Wizard of Oz into a whole new light and has given birth to a number of songs which have already become classics in the world of musical theatre, perhaps most notably with ‘Defying Gravity’. I saw the current company shortly after they all first arrived and enjoyed their collective performance immensely, so while I’ll be anticipating checking out the new cast members in October, there is sure to be a moment of sadness at the loss of the old. I’m sure they have more adventures waiting from them just around the corner of that yellow brick road though.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 9th August 2012