It's been a while since I was last transported to the emerald green world of Oz. 7 years ago I saw it, fresh in the West End when the leading lady was the original, wickedly talented, one and only Adele Dazeem... sorry, Idina Menzel.
I absolutely intended to return to Oz, but somehow never quite made it. There's always so much else I wanted to see, so little time and the consistently high ticket prices played no small part in it.
Instead, Wicked came to me. At first, I was unsure whether to see it; Tickets remained at the London prices but, thanks to a friend, we got hold of incredibly reduced price tickets at the last minute (without the cost of compromising on view! In fact, it was one of the best views I've had at the WMC.)
Today's touring cast includes Nikki Davis-Jones as Elphaba, Emily Tierney as Glinda and Liam Doyle as Fiyero.
Emily Tierney wasn't performing on this occasion, however (the Olivier's had been the night before, so maybe that's why) instead we saw her understudy Carina Gillespie, who slid as easily into the role as if it was always her own. Taking Carina's place as Nessarose was Natasha Ferguson, who seemed a little shaky to begin with but quickly developed into her stride.
Nikki Davies-Jones I last saw as Maureen in Rent, just about a year ago, and I can't help but draw parallels between her character choices and Idina's. She was fabulous in both roles, bringing completely different traits and emotions to each character, showing versatility as an actor. She also gets to do a little more belting in this than Rent, proving she can sing with the best of them as she tirelessly powers through, never faltering. I'm not sure even Idina managed that....
When I saw Liam Doyle's name, at first I wondered where I'd heard it. On reading the programme, it must have been when he appeared in Swansea's pantomime 'Aladdin'
( “now in 3d” – wasn’t theatre always in 3d?). Unfortunately, he seems too fond of that over-acted, large gestured, thigh slapping acting style. Yes, you could argue there are elements of panto about Wicked - the lavish costume, the fantastical story, the slapstick moments - but there's a much cleverer story here, it's deeper than panto and needs to be acted as such.
If you watch the above YouTube link, you may also notice another name from the Wicked tour cast list - Zoe George, ensemble member and Elphaba/Nessarose understudy - I'm singling her out from the ensemble as she's a local girl who started here on the amdram circuit - most notably, I recall, in the role of Belle with Cockett Amateur Operatic Society. I'm not Swansea's biggest champion, especially when it comes to culture, but I do think we can boast amateur dramatics of excellent quality to rival professional shows and Zoe is a shining example of this.
Anyway, this leads me nicely on to the ensemble as a whole, who were so in sync they could have been part of the clockwork of the Time Dragon itself. There’s such slickness to every scene, every movement clicks easily into place, allowing the next to flow seemingly organically. If you study the movements of each individual, however, it's obvious that such attention has gone into the choreography and direction, to create this seamless impression of an ensemble moving as one entity. It's times like this where I feel such massive respect for the ever so hardworking, often underrated ensemble.
Apart from the cast, not much has changed and I mean this well. Often touring versions are watery, essence-of-original offerings but this was exactly as the London version, bringing the same show to people who aren't able to get to the West End.
An all-round enjoyable production that you really don't want to miss (if you can beg, borrow or steal the cash from somewhere to get there **disclaimer - Entr'acte Jac in no way condones stealing**)
Avoid if:- Green is so totally NOT your colour.
Recommended if:- you enjoy clever storytelling alongside the catchy songs and pretty staging.
Wicked is currently defying gravity at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff until Saturday 26th April, when it'll get swept away to its next destination, The King's Glasgow. For information about future venues or to book tickets please visit their official website www.wickedtour.co.uk
I managed to dig out my old Wicked progamme from 2007, so thought I'd post the picture of the cast page of then and the cast page of now just out of potential intrigue:-
|2014 UK Touring Cast - Nikki Davis-Jones as Elphaba; Emily Tierney as Glinda; Liam Doyle as Fiyero; Marilyn Cutts as Madame Morrible; Dale Rapley as the Wizard AND Dr Dillamond; Carina Gillespie as Nessarose and George Ure as Boq|