Friday, 16 April 2010
Wicked Review by Daibhid
Daibhid has been a long term Rachel fan -- Rachel's Wikipedia page is almost entirely thanks to him.
Unfortunately he wasn't able to see her in WWRY, but he wisely went to Wicked and here is his review, complete with personalised banner graphic!
Something Wicked This Way Comes -
The witchcraft is as fresh as it has ever been in London’s West End, thanks to the two splendiferous leads, Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman, who in highlighting the youthful impetuousness of the roles of Elphaba and Galinda in Wicked, take the Olivier Award-winning musical to new heights of dramatic and vocal splendour.
Evil, as the musical suggests, may be a function of who's labelling it. But talent is less equivocal. Some people got it, and some people don't. And Tucker, the powerhouse vocalist Elphaba, and Dearman, the comically scintillating Galinda, have it in spades. These actresses don't depart from the glorious prototypes established by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth on Broadway, but they bring a quality of innocence and sprightly enthusiasm that allows them to make the parts seem completely in sync with their own true selves.
Tucker simply shines in her opening number ‘The Wizard and I’, acting every lyric without compromising on her commanding vocal presence, something I haven’t seen done quite so proficiently since Eden Espinosa in the original L.A. production. The comedy usually reserved for Galinda’s role is reclaimed by the Belfast actress, who effortlessly allows her natural wit and personality to glaze lines like “alright, why not! I’ll reply” and “when people see me they will scream!” before delivering a parting shot with a sensational new riff on the titular closing lines.
Dearman’s ‘Popular’ is as good as I’ve seen from any of the British actresses to inhabit the role, and in a similar way to Tucker, owes something to the L.A. production that saw the effervescent Megan Hilty take the character to a new zenith of comedic charm. Dearman, who employs operatic vocal flourishes with hilarious panache, is, like Hilty, a natural comic. She makes the small things count — the back and forth flips of her hair, the spin she gives an offhand remark, the wink she slyly offers the audience, who can't help but light up whenever she's onstage, delivering an intelligent and charming interpretation of the song, cemented with a flawless vocal.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the first act is Stephen Schwartz’s now anthemic ‘Defying Gravity’, a song which has become the definitive moment for any would-be Elphaba, compounded by endless Youtube debate surrounding who measures up to the lofty precedent set by Menzel, and who falls short of the mark. If Tucker was feeling the pressure, it didn’t show. Delivering vocal brilliance on par with Menzel and Espinosa, and, in my opinion, outshining her London predecessors Kerry Ellis and Alexia Khadime, the former We Will Rock You star breathes new life into the lyrics, delighting the audience with innovative vocal riffs on the “bring me down” roars without overegging it. There's not a trace of vulgar showmanship here. Even when she's triumphantly belting, you sense the sensitivity of her long-ostracized character and the hurt lying underneath the transitory joy.
Dearman opens the second act with an exquisite ‘Thank Goodness’, and the incredible control of her “there are bridges you cross you didn’t know you crossed until you’ve crossed” line stays with you for quite some time after the number has ended. Tucker unites some of the strongest vocals of the performance with her intuitive dramatic flair during ‘No Good Deed’, and a song which often comes as an afterthought to the ‘Defying Gravity’ showstopper suddenly becomes just as momentous. The final highlight for me was the poignant elegance of ‘For Good’, which saw both leading ladies transform from the youthful exuberance of ‘What Is This Feeling’ to a mature and considered vocal, which is both exhilarating and touching in equal measure. Perfect performers in perfect unison.
Having seen a number of Wicked alumni over the years, I can honestly say that as an ensemble, the new cast have struck all the right chords. If there is a lame sheep in the flock at all, it comes in the form of Lewis Bradley, currently understudying the role of Fiyero until the arrival of his Any Dream Will Do co-contestant and eventual victor, Lee Mead in May. While there’s nothing essentially wrong with his performance, he seems out of his depth alongside the startling talents of Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman, and one can only hope that the addition of Mead’s West End leading man experience to the cast will further enhance the already stellar performances of the leading ladies. Team Tucker, this is Rachel’s finest hour, and I suggest you see this show by any means necessary.