Last night (Oct 22) at Victoria's Apollo Theatre, I attended the annual Media Night of Wicked, the prequel to Wizard of Oz which tells the entertaining, touching, and at times hilarious, story of the Witches of Oz: it's like a parallel universe to the classic tale, with two polar opposite sorcery students who at first can't stand the sight of one another, and eventually become best buddies.
From the Apollo, Wicked has been running for more than nine years, and has been seen by seven million people in London alone. It's been described as "one of the greatest musicals of our time" (Daily Mail), and "one of the West End's best-loved shows" (OfficalLondonTheatre.com) - and it's easy to see why. The story is beautifully intertwined, and multi-Grammy and Academy Award winning Stephen Schwarz' music and lyrics are right out the top drawer. But it's the cast that makes Wicked the spectacle that it is.
They are ALL great, but let's focus on the two leading ladies, Emma Hatton and Savannah Stevenson (Elphaba and Glinda respectively), because they are mind-blowingly great - and we don't say that lightly. The rapport they have on the stage is incredible.
Savannah is the perfect Glinda: she has a beautiful, classical voice, and also that rare ability to make you belly laugh - her comedy ad-libbing and overall portrayal of the character was a joy to behold, and when she lost her man (Fiyero, played by the excellent Oliver Savile) to the lady in green, her delivery of the reprise of I'm Not That Girl was a real moment. Believable, and heartfelt.
And Emma? I'm not sure there's been a better Elphaba. And bear in mind I've witnessed the great Kerry Ellis don the Apollo stage, and I was also lucky enough to be bedazzled by the now legendary Idina Menzel on Broadway. In my opinion, anyone who can belt Defying Gravity deserves a medal anyway, but this lady is a pint-sized powerhouse! She has grit, she has growl, and her voice has the most amazing dynamics. Then, when she switches to her head voice, she has that ability to send a genuine shiver down your spine. Absolute mustard.
Post-show, the after-party was rammed, and wine was flowing (in a big way). My head might be a little sore, but it was well worth it, because what I witnessed was a flawless, breathtaking display of talent across the board: from the amazing set, the meticulously crafted costumes, the hard working stage hands, and the brilliant cast. How these guys and girls manage to churn out performances of this quality day after day, night after night, baffles me... I really should go to more West End shows.