Saturday April 22, 2017 7:30PM @ Apollo Victoria Theatre, London
Starring: Alice Fearn (standby), Suzie Mathers, Oliver Savile, Sue Kelvin, Mark Curry
So how does one review a show on their 43rd visit of said show? By being stagey as hell that’s how! Just note, this isn’t a review of the show in general per se, more of a musing of a crazy fan’s 43rd experience, because anyone who knows me knows how special the show is to me and how much I love it so I don’t need to waffle on about that! So if you want to know about the show’s story, etc. you might be better off reading another review, but then come back to this one (please!)
This past weekend I had off from work so decided to revisit my old friend the Day Seating queue and wait in line early in the morning for front row seats, which I hadn’t done since June last year (not that I haven’t seen the show billions of time since then, I’ve just pre-booked). I did this because of two words, ALICE FEARN. But we’ll get to that! I’d almost forgotten how incredible the show is from the front row. You’re completely immersed, being so close there is nothing you miss – from a small facial expression to an orchestral moment i.e. a guitar riff, to random things like bubble water draining from Glinda’s bubble or the ensemble’s amazing comic acting during “What Is This Feeling?” and the first Classroom scene – things that would go unnoticed sitting at the back of the theatre.
So naturally as a diehard Wicked fan I was in my element, a great seat and a row of other fans so the excitement was in the room! And what a show it was. I’ve not experienced a show quite like this in a long time. The energy on-stage was electric, something about a Saturday night at this show just gets the cast pumped up, probably because they get a day off Sunday, but also it’s a night to just go for it. And go for it they did.
Our current cast is incredible; leading lady Suzie Mathers is one of the strongest Glinda’s I’ve seen. She packs an emotional punch where necessary and is hysterical. I’ve seen her a few times since she started last year and am never bored of her performance because it’s never the same. And that voice is incredible! The rest of the cast were on fine form too. One of the best performances I’ve seen from Oliver Savile as Fiyero and Sue Kelvin since she’s been back as Madame Morrible. Mark Curry impressed me a lot as The Wizard this time, the best performance I’ve seen from him I think – he’s a great actor, it’s just that his voice is not always there, but it’s not the end of the world in terms of the overall show. Up until now I was indifferent about Sarah McNicholas as our new Nessarose, who last night gave an emotionally charged performance – she was awesome! The ensemble were also on fire, dancing-wise and vocally, they all killed it. It’s rare (unless it’s a cast change) that I and other people give a standing ovation for the first ensemble bows, but I just had to last night, they deserved it, and do every night!
And then we come to the main reason I was there, the remarkable Alice Fearn. Alice is our current Standby for the role and last night was my second time seeing her. When they announced her casting last year I was beside myself. Being a fan of hers already (seriously, listen to her album now!) I had wanted her to play the role since seeing her as Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical. After this performance, the producers would be clinically insane not to give her the lead role in July’s cast change. Last night marked her 50th performance in the role and she went for it! I have never experienced an Elphaba performance quite like it – and I’ve seen a few last performances! First of all, Alice is a phenomenal actress, she is hilarious, but also brings a depth and grace I’ve never seen before, reacting to every line said on-stage and fully immersing herself in the character. Personal highlights included her ‘toss toss’ in “Popular” and straight after, her reaction to Fiyero seeing her trying it again, the beautiful Ballroom dance between her and Suzie (Glinda), and the genuine emotion during the last lines of “For Good”. Most of the time, as I’ve seen the show a lot, I’m always a bit aware of who the actress is as well as them being Elphaba, but this time I forgot I was watching Alice, it felt as though I was watching Elphaba’s story for the very first time. No one has impressed me to that length since Jennifer DiNoia.
And don’t get me starting on that voice. Ok, let’s. The sheer note-perfect power this woman has is unreal. And the riffs – trust me, us Wicked fans love a good riff – were original and suited the character, while simultaneously showcasing Alice’s natural ability for world class performing. Her belt rang throughout the theatre, her vibrato was well placed and sounded amazing, and the vocal growling she did, partially during the powerful “No Good Deed”, made me die. I was so impressed (and very much in love).
So in conclusion, if you have already seen the show, go back and see it again because it is in such good shape at the moment; when a show has been running for over 10 years you might expect certain things to be lacking, but it’s definitely not the case with our flawless London production. And try and catch Alice Fearn if you can, because she is the best Elphaba we have ever had, and I’d be very shocked if her Wicked journey was up this summer – because this woman deserves all of the acclaim she has been getting and then some!!
Wicked continues at the Apollo Victoria. Alice Fearn’s album ‘Where I’ve Been…Where I’m Going’ is available now.