What a Wicked Weekend

I have a passion for theatre. This blog is intended to be an occasional review of the shows I’ve seen. My views, like those of all critics, are subjective. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me—at least not all the time. But discussing some of these shows could make for some interesting conversation.

This weekend I went to see Wicked at London’s Apollo Victoria theatre.

I know there are die-hard fans of this show but I can’t count myself one of them. I wonder if our tolerance for some types of amusement is lessened when we reach a certain age? Do we lose our taste for froth at the same time as our waistlines start to thicken and our hair grows thin? The sort of enthusiasm one might have for, say, boy bands, is slowly eroded by a need for something of more substance. Life is too short of mental candyfloss.

That said, Wicked’s themes of acceptance, tolerance and not judging people by appearance are valuable lessons for all of us. But I wonder how carefully those lessons are being learned by some of the more rabid members of the audience.

A cursory glance at the Wicked facebook site reveals a degree of venom and antipathy that would embarrass most ten year olds. And the subject of their spleen? The choices made by some of the actors following the recent cast change. The show is too serious, they wail. Why couldn’t it have stayed the way it was?

Well, because it’s theatre, not a film. And it’s a musical, not a pantomime. If you want endless repetition, then don’t go to the theatre, because theatre is all about evolution. A bit like life, really.

A recent poster on the What’s On Stage forum asked why one of the new Wicked cast took the part if he was going to change the character. I can only assume the questioner is either very young or has no idea what acting is meant to be about. Would Hamlet continue to be performed if the cast were forced to play it exactly the same way every time?

Not that Wicked is in any danger of that sort of longevity. It’s a fun show, the music is generally pleasing, if a bit repetitive, and the performances range from good to excellent.

Rachel Tucker plays Elphaba, the green witch who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. She plays the part as a wounded child and her interpretation of the role has a great deal of resonance. Of all the new cast in the Apollo Victoria, she seems to be one of the few to receive unqualified approval. With a deep understanding of the part, a strong acting ability, and a stunning voice, she’s likely to be around for a very long time.

I didn’t get to see Louise Dearman’s Glinda this weekend but her understudy, Sarah Earnshaw, did an excellent job as the petulant, spoiled ‘Good’ witch. She played the part mostly for laughs—which she got—but there was a lack of substance that slightly diminished the strength of the part. Glinda should be capable of gendering some sympathy but for me at least, that wasn’t there.

Lee Mead as Fiyero may have had the most difficult job of all: giving a shallow man substance and making him believable as a love interest for both of the leading ladies. The part isn’t particularly well written and it would be easy to play Fiyero as something of a cartoon character. This seems to have been the easy choice of many of Mead’s predecessors. However, in Mead’s hands, the character is vulnerable, engaging, and sexy as hell. Though I grant you a pair of well-fitted white trousers may have enhanced the latter of these impressions…

Mead’s voice has developed considerably since he was a contestant on Any Dream Will Do. It’s unfortunate that his one solo, Dancing Through Life, is a rather dull piece of fluff. He fares rather better with his duet with Rachel and it’s to his credit that his voice is as powerful as hers. Believe me, that’s saying something!

Despite the negativity on Facebook, Twitter, and other forums, the audience on Saturday seemed delighted with the show and the current cast.

Would I go back? Well, I found the story to be a bit banal and some of the music tedious, but when it does work, it works spectacularly. So yes, I would. In fact, I already have my ticket.

I’m still young enough to attribute the draw to a pair of white trousers…

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About Geri Schear

Geri Schear is an award-winning novelist, author of three Sherlock Holmes and Lady Beatrice books published by MX Publishing. Her short stories have appeared in a number of journals. For further information, see her page at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Geri-Schear/e/B00ORWA3EU
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16 Responses to What a Wicked Weekend

  1. Trish1363 says:

    Thanks for the blog. Not had the pleasure of seeing this show yet, hopefully will in the near future. I am a Lee Mead fan and as such am a member of several Lee forums and by all accounts the show as a whole is fantastic. Lees performance is amazing by all accounts taking on the role in his own way, this is not hearalded by lots of ‘wicked’ fans but with Lee you dont get the usual as he makes each role his own and long may it continue.

    Like

    • Tizzler says:

      How refreshing to read this. I couldn’t agree more with the comments about Lee’s take on the role of Fiyero ( or his breeches , to be fair!) Why he has generated such animosity is beyond me. He is as generous off stage as he is when he’s on it, and in my opinion always gives an outstanding performance, with a voice ( and face) to die for.

      Like

  2. Cath says:

    Thank you! At last, a review I totally agree with-well almost! I kind of get what you mean about the songs but they are growers and most of them now I adore. I like your subtle nod to the idiocy that is the ‘diehard’ Wicked fans. I call myself a fan but certain pages on certain sights are far from welcoming! I’d rather not be part of that!

    I think it’s clear from Lee’s performance that he did his research and he puts his own slant on the character. Fiyero is very lightweight to start with but he soon changes when he clocks Elphaba! I feel their duet is very believable! I am totally blown away by Rachel every time, love Sarah in the role of Glinda and I am seeing Louise for the first time in a fortnight. We shall see!

    Thanks for giving me this opportunity to waffle on about Wicked with someone ‘mature’ hehe

    Like

  3. Asa says:

    Thank you for this excellent and intelligent review.

    I went to see Wicked with my husband recently. Not liking Wizard of Oz, it was not a show I was particularly keen to see, but I enjoyed it immensely.

    I agree completely with you about the performances – Rachel was just stunning, Louise very funny, and I’ve completely fallen in love with Lee’s Fiyero. (Nothing to do with those trousers. OK may be a bit.)

    I disagree slightly about the music; I love the whole score. Well most of it. But I think it helped that hubby bought the sound-track and played it constantly in the few weeks up to seeing the show, so I was familiar with all the songs.

    Hubby has insisted that we see the show again. Oh the hardship! Not!

    Like

  4. addy says:

    LOL!!!

    Like

  5. Biscuit says:

    This is not a review of Wicked. It’s just an excuse to worship Lee Mead.

    Like

  6. richeliu says:

    ””………….. I like your subtle nod to the idiocy that is the ‘diehard’ Wicked fans. I call myself a fan but certain pages on certain sights are far from welcoming!……””

    Not subtle at all!!!!! These Lee Mead fans are very nasty indeed. They won’t let anyone say anything about him. They criticise whoever they like but god forbid anyone says anything about him. They think they own him.

    Like

  7. Soliloquy says:

    Fantastic review and very interesting insights. I agree with all your interpretations of Rachel and Lee.

    Like

  8. incognito says:

    Read your statement …

    That said, Wicked’s themes of acceptance, tolerance and not judging people by appearance are valuable lessons for all of us. But I wonder how carefully those lessons are being learned by some of the more rabid members of the audience. …

    You haven’t learned the lessons. What a hypocite!

    Like

  9. Lindy lou says:

    “”Not subtle at all!!!!! These Lee Mead fans are very nasty indeed. They won’t let anyone say anything about him. They criticise whoever they like but god forbid anyone says anything about him. They think they own him.””

    That kind of statement is EXACTLY the point this blog was getting at and anyone who reads The Wicked Sites regularly can plainly see what was going on but for those who do not I would like to explain how things REALLY were/are.
    When it was first announced that Lee was to take over the role of Fiyero there was a very small minority of posters on some Wicked Sites who took it upon themselves to challenge every single post that was looking forward to Lee being cast and later on posts praising LM and his portrayal of Fiyero. When the moderators felt that these posts were going beyond simple difference opinion and were getting personal and vindictive they were removed, whole chunks of comments where needing to be removed on a daily basis, very obvious fake FB accounts were being set up just so it could continued without The Moderators,Wicked Cast and Crew rumbling who the perpetrators were. The actor in question even had his Wiki page hijacked and the hijacker who is a very prominent poster and Wicked Fan boasted about it on Twitter. It made for very uncomfortable reading for the cast and crew as the venom was being aimed at a friend and colleague by named people who were regulars at stage door and claim to love the show but were clearly unable to except the cast change. To them I say, This is theatre my friend and the nature of the beast, actors come and go, some you like some you don’t but if you want people to read and respect you opinions, read and respect the opinions of others too. Otherwise you may just find the very people you claim to love not being as forth coming at SD next time you go.

    Like

  10. americano says:

    A ‘blog’ written by a Lee Mead fan, for Lee Mead fans and praised by Lee Mead fans!!!

    You said you already have your ticket for another show. Do remember to post another ‘blog’ to tell us how marvellous Mr Mead is despite you I finding ‘the story to be a bit banal and some of the music tedious’. Somehow I don’t think you or the other fans of your ‘blog’ will go to see Wicked when he leaves the show.

    Like

  11. mr pringle says:

    Lindy Lou

    Lee Mead’s Wikipedia entry is preposterous. Every bloody finite detail of his tedious unimportant life is there and is it so embellished. FFS he has a longer listing than the Queen.

    Like

  12. Jane E says:

    Well, I’m most certainly a Lee M fan. And I don’t see why there is anything wrong with that. He’s a talented, charismatic and attractive singer and actor, in my opinion, and he also happens to be a charming gentleman (I’ve been lucky enough to me him on a couple of occaisons.)

    I definatly wouldn’t have gone to see Wick’d if it wasn’t for Lee being in it, and I think he’s superb as F.

    Having said that, I was blown away by the whole show – in particular Rachel. I never cared for her in the search for Nancy – but as E she is utterly stunning! And I haven’t a bad word to say about the rest of the cast either.

    I’m planing to see the show three more times between now and Feb

    Will I be going to see the show again after Lee leaves? Yes, I think I will.

    Will I be keeping an eye on Rachel and seeing whatever she appears in next? Oh yes!

    In response to Mr Pringle’s comment – while I respect your right to express your personal opinion (which sound’s remarkably like something my husband would say – that isn’t you, is it darling?), I really do suggest checking your infomation before making a statement of fact. A two minute check on wikki shows that you are entirely wrong about Lee’s wikki entry.

    Like

  13. Mr Pringle says:

    Jane E
    I fear you have spent far too much of a sheltered life my dear. Gateshead, Lowood and Thornfield Hall have clearly inhibited your worldly development. Perhaps I should have added a wink to my comment to ensure that you understood it fully.

    Who do you think will be next to post – Catherine Earnshaw, Estella Havisham or even little Scout Finch?

    Like

  14. Soliloquy says:

    I’m a huge fan of Wicked and will definitely be going to see it again after Lee leaves, like I did many times before he was in the show. Just because people praise Lee doesn’t automatically make them a ‘Lee Mead Fan.’

    Like

  15. Cameron Moftit says:

    Wicked is great. But Lee Mead sucks.

    Like

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