It has been a good 6 years since I last saw Wicked and I have fond memories of both Idina Menzel and Kerry Ellis who played the role of Elphaba on my previous visits. Revisiting the Apollo Victoria Theatre, I am not surprised that Wicked has won so many prestigious awards over the years since I first saw it. The costumes and set design are unrivalled in their uniqueness and the show as a whole provides entertainment for every audience member, from all ages and backgrounds. Wicked truly is escapism at its best.
As soon as the orchestra started, I realised I had forgotten how much of an impact the opening few bars of Schwartz’s score have, and as soon as the ensemble arrives you cannot not fail to be taken aback. The collective sound from the cast is incredible. Tight harmonies and clever dynamics complement the action on stage perfectly. The choreography is slick, powerful and very impressive, leading to my point, which is that the ensemble are to be applauded for their part in Wicked. Together they help to create the incredible spectacle that is this memorable, award winning show.
Currently in contention to be shortlisted for ‘Best Take Over In A Role’ at the What’s On Stage Awards is Gina Beck, who plays spoilt princess, Glinda. Beck is extremely talented with a fantastic voice and excellent characterisation. What she can do with her light, crystal clear tones, most of us only aspire to. As Glinda she is witty, quirky and ditzy, yet still manages to win the audience over with a genuinely good heart. Playing against her as the unfortunate Elphaba is Louise Dearman, who is the only actress to have ever played the roles of both Glinda and Elphaba. This may lead some to think that she might not be suitable for the latter character, however this is far from reality. After appearing to take a couple of scenes to warm-up into the performance, Dearman wowed the audience with powerful vocals, especially in the stand-out numbers ‘Defying Gravity’ and my personal favourite: ‘No Good Deed’. The conflict and heartbreak Dearman portrays is touching to watch and you can see Elphaba’s struggle through her eyes. As a pair Beck and Dearman have a great rapport on stage and you truly believe both their fraught and tender moments. They both bring excellent comic elements to their characters, and their performance of ‘Popular’ is wonderfully uninhibited.
The slightly weak link in the current cast of Wicked for me is Ben Freeman who plays the charismatic Fiyero. While he made a good initial impression with his carefree attitude, as the show went on he seemed to lose the charisma that should be synonymous with the role and vocally was a little weak at times. Despite this, he definitely has potential to be the charming and suave Fiyero if he builds upon what he is already doing, and being a relatively new addition to the cast of Wicked, I am sure that he will settle into the role with time.
Nothing can distract the audience from the overall standard of the show however. Wicked is a fantastic, entertaining night out that can be enjoyed time and time again. The creatives behind the show have produced a spectacular piece of theatre that should, and will, be around for many years to come.
Principal Cast: Glinda – Gina Beck, Elphaba – Louise Dearman, Fiyero – Ben Freeman
Wicked Review by Natasha Wynn who you can follow on Twitter @natasha_wynn
23rd November 2012