Musical Theatre

Wicked

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The prequel to well-known and much-loved classic ‘The Wizard of Oz’ has been a firm resident of London’s West End since September 2006, when it flew across the pond following incredible success on Broadway. Having played to packed audiences night after night at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon – and with a powerful score, dazzling set and magical script, it’s easy to see why.

Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, ‘Wicked’ tells the untold story of the Witches of Oz and the wonderful Wizard himself – before Dorothy, her flying house and ruby red slippers. Making clever reference to old favourites, including the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow, audiences are taken back to the adolescent years of G(a)linda the Good Witch and Elphaba the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’, when they were once the best of friends whilst studying at Shiz University. Coupled with a complicated love triangle, the witches are eventually torn apart by a difference in personal motives. Where one witch craves power and popularity, the other simply wishes to make a difference in a deteriorating Oz – but ‘which witch is which’ will come as a refreshing shock to those who know the classic Ozian tale.

Kerry Ellis’ surprise return to the musical, following Willemijn Verkaik’s untimely departure earlier this year, has been at the centre of West End excitement since it was announced back in July. Ellis is the original British Elphaba and her previous experience in the role and obvious connection with her green counterpart is clearly reflected from the outset in her portrayal of the misunderstood character. Like Elphaba’s strengthening personality throughout the story, she performs the part with a delicacy that gradually cresecendos into some great vocal talent. By ‘No Good Deed’, her vocal range is at its finest, though the build-up to this moment leaves a lot to be desired. Her performance is effortless, but seems to lack passion.

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However, it’s not all about Ellis. Flying in by bubble, Savannah Stevenson is a true diamond (or should one say emerald..) in the role of ‘good’ witch G(a)linda. Stevenson’s compatibility with her character is unrivalled by anyone else performing on stage, delivering witty one-liners and the show’s more comedic elements with comfortable expertise. It is clear from the offset that she loves to perform this role and she thrives as a performer because of it.

Wicked isn’t just a good musical, it’s a great one – like a fine elixir, it’s just getting better and better with age. The show is colourful, energetic and truly entertaining throughout. Whilst little ones will appreciate the magic of it all, adults will relate to the messages behind the story: namely, the importance of friendship and for standing up for what you believe in. Hop down the Yellow Brick Road (otherwise known as the Circle Line) and ‘discoverate’ this show for yourself – make your friends ‘hideoutiously’ green with jealously!

Jess

Find out more about Wicked and buy tickets for the show with Theatre Breaks.  

Photographs under the copyright of ViaJess. Previous Elphaba, Willemijn Verkaik, is featured. 

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

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Based on the classic 1988 film starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ has been revived by director Jerry Mitchell to all it’s former glory and much, much more. Staying true to the original storyline, the audience join Lawrence (Robert Lindsay) and Freddy (Rufus Hound) on their journey to con-artist domination, competing against one another for Miss Christine Colgate’s (Katherine Kingsley) fortune; both in her purse and her pants. Set in the French Riviera for the most part, the musical emits the perfect combination of charm, cheek and side-splitting humour, all undoubtedly owed to the humorous script and genius songbook created by Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbeck respectively; a truly entertaining theatre experience and one that reflects the brilliance of what London’s West End is capable of amidst untimely show closures and disarray elsewhere in the industry.

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Starring Robert Lindsay (Lawrence), Rufus Hound (Freddy), Samantha Bond (Muriel) and Katherine Kingsley (Christine), there is certainly nothing dirty nor rotten about ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ casting. Where Lindsay delivers the charm and charisma notable of a ‘scoundrel’, Hound simply excels in providing the ‘slapstick’ comedy and consistent humour that the show bases itself on; together, the pair are unstoppable. Whilst the duo are comedically exceptional, the star of Act 1 is unarguably Lizzy Connolly in the role of Jolene Oakes (a blonde and boisterous Oklahoman with an inherited fortune). Her performance of ‘Oklahoma?’ catalyses audience hysteria and together with Lindsay and Hound the trio continue to leave viewers roaring with laughter throughout musical number ‘All About Ruprecht’. Connolly’s vocals were only to be matched by Katherine Kingsley (Christine), who steals the show completely with her stunning voice and outstanding performance. The development of Christine’s character in Act 2 is, perhaps, the best moment of the entire production and Kingsley shines in all aspects of her diverse role. Of all the brilliant musical numbers this show has to offer, none project themselves quite as uniquely as ‘Love is my Legs’ (performed by Hound and Kingsley) and even the toughest of audiences would find it a challenge in keeping a straight face from this number on. 

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Refreshingly, the musical is not centered around romance although it does contain some endearing moments. Samantha Bond and John Marquez as Muriel (Lawrence’s latest scam victim) and Andre (his loveable French sidekick) provide the perfect touch of romance and passion amidst the comedy and laughter. Their performance of ‘Like Zis, Like Zat’ is both sweet and funny and only adds to, rather than hinders, the comical backdrop built up by the other characters. Marquez, in particular, is perfect in his depiction of his French counterpart and maintains the accent wonderfully throughout his musical numbers.

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Lavish in both costumery and set design (Peter McKintosh), the show leaves little to the imagination and spares the audience of any subtlety. Choreographically (Mitchell), especially during ensemble numbers such as ‘Great Big Stuff’ and ‘The More We Dance’ routines only match the slick and polished look and feel of this dapper production. Whilst the audience are thoroughly entertained throughout, none are enjoying themselves more than the cast onstage. Lindsay and Hound engage with the audience and play on personal ‘slip-ups’ throughout; only adding to the humour and brilliance of the production. 

With West End ticket prices on the rise, it’s becoming increasingly more important to feel as though you’ve had your ‘money’s worth’ out of a show. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is worth every hard-earned penny paid towards a ticket and, furthermore, will leave you planning a return visit. Get down to the Savoy Theatre and see for yourself! 

Jess x

Photos are copyright of Via Jess.

Gin-ternet, meet #LDNtheatrebloggers

Last night, London theatre bloggers united for a wonderful evening of gin, mingling and theatre talk at Central and Co cocktail bar. Organised by the wonderful Rebecca Felgate and hosted by Official Theatre, the evening encouraged links and friendships to be made amongst the theatre community with the idea that, as a combined force, we can support, share and further expose one another’s work as a collaboration.

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But it wasn’t all blog talk. With Aiden from Martin Miller’s Gin in attendance, we were treated to a gin reception, a tasting masterclass and the opportunity to, in teams, create our own ‘stagey’ cocktail. Gin puns aplenty, cocktails named ‘Ginterval’, ‘The Curious Gincident of the Dog in the Nighttime’ and ‘Let the Right One Gin’ were created in competition with one another for the prize of a whole magnum of Martin Miller’s gin. Whilst most teams opted for the sweet and fruity cocktail concoction, our team – ‘The Book of More-Gin’ – created a strong ‘gentlemans’ drink; a 100% alcoholic chocolate-orange beverage. Unfortunately for us, our judges couldn’t handle the kick! What can I say? We were robbed!

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Cheese, breads and wine swiftly followed our cocktail fun, giving us a further chance to get to know one another whilst discussing all things theatre. Under Rebecca’s prompting, we discussed the problems that some of us have with directing followers and traffic towards our content. In a unanimous vote, the twitter hashtag #LDNtheatrebloggers was born; a way for bloggers to easily access one another’s content as well as RT, share and support the pieces we’ve enjoyed. Inspired and motivated, I left Central and Co with a fresh perspective on our blogging community and itching to read (and share!) everyone’s blogs.

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A massive thankyou to Rebecca for inviting me along to the event and to Official Theatre for a gin-teresting (couldn’t resist..) evening and the opportunity to meet some wonderful people. Thanks to Central and Co for having us and Martin Miller’s Gin for the alcohol-fuelled fun also! 

Here’s to future meet-ups and making new friends! 

Jess 

Follow Official Theatre: @TheatreOfficial 

Follow Rebecca: @rebeccafelgate

Follow Martin Millier’s Gin: @MartinMillerGin

Follow Central & Co: @CentralandCo

Follow my ‘Book of More-Gin’ Team

Sophia: @sotremendous 

Kieran: @goodreviewtweet

Gina: @GinaDennett

Richard: @laughingbuddha

More bloggers to follow:

Michaela: @_mickychaela

Jess: @theatretourist

Katie: @katie_brennan

Martin: @seenituk

Ed: @ed_nights

Helena: @oneinalongline

Kira: @KiraCatherine

Wilma: @westendwilma

Vicki: @_VickiTaylor

Eda: @Enacar91