Saturday, September 22, 2012

'The Wizard of Oz' - colourful and sparkly

This show was not at the top of my list of things to see but I did want to see it and hurriedly booked my ticket when I found out the production was closing.

The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium
Performance: Sunday 29th July 2012 at 15:00
Seat: Front stalls, right
Cast included: Des O'Connor (the Wizard), Sophie Evans (Dorothy), Paul Keating (Scarecrow), Terel Nugent (Tin Man, u/s), Martin Callaghan (Cowardly Lion), Emily Tierney (Glinda), Marianne Benedict (Wicked Witch of the West)

The story is, for those unfamiliar with this new stage production, the same as in the original musical film from 1939 and the music from that film has been retained also. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice have teamed up to add some new music. I fell in love with one of these new tracks, Already Home, from the end of the show. It is a very simple track but there was something profoundly sweet about Glinda singing it and Dorothy and the rest of the company joining in.
I must say Sophie did an excellent job as Dorothy. I did love the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion too: it was funny watching the actors play these parts. Sometimes when you see people play characters that are not supposed to move in exactly the same way as humans do, you aren't perhaps quite convinced as moving like an animal (or as if you didn't have a brain or something) is not necessarily the easiest thing to do. However, Paul, Terel and Martin definitely managed to convince me with their portrayals.
One of the stars of the show was, of course, Dorothy's dog Toto, who was played by a real Westie; a very well-behaved one too.

Danielle Hope as Dorothy (Source)
I absolutely loved Emily and Marianne as the Good and the Wicked Witches respectively with their gorgeous voices. They would float above the stage with the Wicked Witch even coming down from a trap door in the ceiling of the auditorium once (this seriously scared me but surely that's understandable: it's not like you have a live green witch hanging above your head on a broomstick every day). The Wicked Witch's broom spat out fire on a few occasions and where I was sitting you could actually feel the wave of heat caused by it. Things like that look magnificent live on stage. The show was visually attractive with lots of colour and these... can you call them 'special effects'? A honorary mention goes to Glinda's dress. I should have thought that the cast would have become blind after looking at it under the stage lights for a few months, eight shows a week. I can honestly say I have never seen a more sparkly dress. 

Emily Tierney as Glinda. An idea of the dress, doesn't look as sparkly in the photo though. (Source)

What amuses me about The Wizard of Oz in general is that the Wizard is one of the main characters and is always credited as such as he is vital to the plot but the amount of time he is actually on stage is next to nothing compared to many of the other characters. So when people asked me afterwards: "How was Des O'Connor as the Wizard", I felt I had to reply that he was good but that I didn't feel I could really review him as such because he wasn't really in it.
And speaking of funny/peculiar things to do with The Wizard of Oz, do read this blog entry if you haven't already: 5 Reasons The Greatest Movie Villain Ever is a 'Good' Witch . Sharply written and actually very accurate when you think about it, how Glinda is actually the bad one in the film.

Anyway, I did enjoy the show. It was much better and more impressive than I had expected it to be. I would not have taken very young children to see it though because there are scary bits and bits that make you jump. It is still a family show though and I cannot imagine teenagers and adults going to see the show over and over   so maybe in that respect it isn't surprising it only ran for a year and a half. 

This is the track I mentioned earlier, Already Home:

Also Red Shoes Blues sung by the Wicked Witch is well worth a listen. Sung by the incredible Hannah Waddingham:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

An update on ME! Yay!

I thought that it might be nice if I actually started blogging about myself every now and then. Because, well, surprisingly people do seem interested in me as a person. Very flattering. Or maybe they just want to read about the everyday life of other people. Hoping for schadenfreude moments perhaps. Reading about someone whose life sounds significantly worse than your own makes you feel like you're doing good. That's kind of depressing but true.

Now, another reason why I thought it might be nice to write updates about myself once in a while on here is that the blog has, as you must have noticed, very much drifted into a musical theatre direction and I will be studying musical theatre from 24th September.
It will be a one-year full-time foundation course and I am hoping that that will help me get onto a BA course and this then into doing musical theatre professionally and fulfill a couple of things on my life list in the passing. Performing in a West End show of course would be one of the most amazing things ever. I would also like to perform solo in a lovely, intimate musical theatre cabaret; be a part of an international touring production and perform at an open air theatre in Finland (because open air theatre is a part of a traditional Finnish summer so it would be a honour to be involved in creating it).

As I will be a student again, there is no way I will be able to afford to go and see as many shows as I have over the past year unfortunately but I am hoping I'll still manage to keep this blog remotely interesting.
Would people be interested in reading a short update on what I have learned every week on my course for example? All ideas welcome. Also, any improvements that you feel could be made on the blog, please let me know - those would be greatly appreciated! :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

'Wicked' with Charlotte Scott in the bubble

I think after one has seen a show three or more times, writing a box standard review becomes rather difficult and because you obviously enjoy the show immensely and are able to connect with it. hence the more diary-style entry and -photos. 

Wicked at Apollo Victoria Theatre, London
Performance: Wednesday 25th July 2012 at 14:30
Seat: A23 (day ticket), £27.50
Cast included: Rachel Tucker (Elphaba), Charlotte Scott (Glinda, u/s), Matt Willis (Fiyero), Christopher Howell (The Wizard, u/s), Julie Legrand (Madame Morrible), Lillie Flynn (Nessarose), Adam Pettigrew (Boq), Kieran Brown (Dr Dillamond, u/s)

We had been planning this trip to say-seat Wicked for a month. Therefore, coincidences do happen. Some people call it luck. Whatever the name is, I got very excited (even that is an understatement) when I found out the performance we were going to see would be Charlotte's first show as Glinda. To quote an old blog post of mine which I wrote after hearing the lady perform in a cabaret for the first time: "What an amazing voice! And the acting and comic timing were spot on. I am now determined to try and catch a performance of Wicked with her as Glinda."

It was my first time queuing up for day-seats as well. Once Charlotte had announced she was going on as Glinda, we knew we had to get there even earlier than we had originally planned in order to secure great seats: we expected hardcore fans would be planning last-minute trips to the show following the exciting news. I was the second person in the line so my seat was nicely in the middle.

Stage-doorers enjoying the 30 degrees: Becki, Sam, Carla and Amanda
General information for people who are thinking about day-seats for Wicked (a couple of my lovely Finnish followers have asked me about this), it is not necessary for you to get there by 6am. Apparently 7.30-8.00 is okay in general. Most tourists would turn up closer to 9.00 (box office opens at 10.00). The earlier you turn up the better but it is very much down to chance as to how many people there will be queuing on any given day. Sometimes you can get a brilliant seat by coming at 9.30 (some of the front row seats on the sides are restricted view so you don't want to end up with those). It literally depends on how many people have come up with the thought "Hey, let's get day-seats for Wicked on that same date!" .

Charlotte seemed remarkably calm when she stopped for a brief chat with us on her way into the theatre. I suppose she had had time to prepare for this mentally as she had known for a while she would take on one of the leads for this performance. Normally she is in the ensemble but she is the understudy for both Nessarose and Glinda. She has been on as Nessa in the past but as first cover Glinda (i.e. she will go on only if the principal actress as well as the standby are unavailable), this was going to be her first time playing that part. She was excited (well, who wouldn't be in her position: about to play one of the most sought-after female roles in musical theatre on West End stage). She had some new costume and all. We were all thrilled for her. I knew she would be brilliant but how brilliant I could never have imagined.

Us at the theatre: Rukaya, Becki, Sam, Carla and Nic 
The front row seats were great and the sound quality was perfect. Enter Glinda in her bubble. The blonde wig did suit Charlotte! She came and delivered. It was a privilege listening to her effortlessly hitting the high notes (already in No One Mourns the Wicked but particularly at the end of Thank Goodness). She captured the character of Glinda very convincingly and she had the perfect innocent blonde face. She had come up with her own little leg flick thing for Glinda: We got a "Toss, toss *flick*" in Popular for instance. Elphaba of course then has to copy whatever Glinda does so we got an entertaining attempt of this "toss, toss, *flick*" from Rachel.
And I don't know whether it was intentional or whether Charlotte just miscalculated the momentum at which she would land on the bed when it came to the 'planking' but I don't think I have ever heard as massive a thump as the one with which Charlotte landed.

Rachel was incredible as per usual: her Wizard and I and Defying Gravity are mind-blowing every time (she has been on as Elphaba every time I have seen Wicked in London) not to mention No Good Deed which I think I enjoy listening to her sing the most. That song did not particularly appeal to me until I heard Rachel sing it. She and Charlotte worked brilliantly together and I thought their voices blended exceptionally well. 

Me and Charlotte before the show
No, you could not tell this was Charlotte's first show as Glinda. Only those who had seen the show multiple times may have noticed some slight fiddling with the pink flower when trying to attach it to Elphaba's hair and that doing the clasp of Elphaba's cloak took a beat or two longer than usual but little things like that hardly count. Charlotte's Glinda is now definitely one of my favourites. I just hope she gets to play the part at least once more before she leaves the company at October's cast change. 

I think someone has uploaded some audio of this particular show on YouTube so go and have a search around there if you fancy a listen. 

Since this post seems to be about the greatness of the understudy, I must mention Christopher and Kieran too. They both were great! I like the Wizard to have a good singing voice as well as being able to act the part and be funny and Christopher definitely fills these criteria.  

A big thanks for the company to those lovely people who came to see the show with me! I had a great time :)