When it was announced that Lucie Jones would be joining the West End cast of Wicked, I couldn’t have been happier. I’d booked tickets to the show as a Christmas present for my partner and fellow TES contributor Lewis months ago, and she was starting in the role just a week or two before I was due to go!
On 6th February 2022, we took our seats for the matinee performance. I’m a Wicked veteran – this was my fourth visit to the show, and I saw it for the first time back in 2009. Lewis had never seen the show before, and knew of a few songs only through road-trip singalongs. I’m also a huge Stephen Schwartz fan, and I’ve been singing the songs for…almost half my life now.
Did it still hold up on my fourth viewing, and how was Lucie in the lead role?
The reviews are in!
I’m delighted to say that it was just as wonderful this time around.
Elphaba is undoubtedly a challenging role to play. Not only do you have to have an incredible set of lungs on you to belt out a multitude of high notes (some of which get very little build up!), but the range of experiences and emotions that the role requires is vast. Act one begins with her angry, awkward and dejected, then gaining in confidence and coming into power, only to have that taken again from her as the second act begins. Lucie’s act one felt uncomfortably cringeworthy – in the best way. A teenager with no support trying to find her place and purpose in a world that has ostracised her since birth. She ends act one with a triumphant, righteous and desperate, Defying Gravity, before act two has her making a tentative hopscotch between love, fear, grief and loneliness.
Lucie’s Elphaba is equal parts powerful and vulnerable, and can give you a stunning Defying Gravity, though that wasn’t her stand-out moment. Two scenes stand out to me in particular – and I’ll try to give minimal details to avoid spoiling the plot points for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. The first was the dance sequence in Dancing Through Life. It was the first time I’ve ever seen that scene and actively cringed – and I mean that in the best way possible. The second was her performance of No Good Deed in the second act (admittedly my favourite song from the show), which had so much sadness and anger and despair, but still succeeded in sounding incredibly beautiful at the same time. I got shivers.
The rest of the cast
Sure, I love/worship Lucie Jones as much as the next oft-despondent UK Eurovision fan, but Wicked is by far from a one-woman show, and the rest of the cast also gave some fantastic performances.
An absolute stand-out was Carina Gillespie, who played the two extremes of Nessarose entirely convincingly. From the naive, lonely, dependent young woman in act one, to the hardened, ruthless, grieving governess in act two, her joy and resentment were equally palpable, and her performance of The Wicked Witch of the East was immensely powerful.
Sophie-Louise Dann was a delight as Madame Morrible, treading the fine line between pantomime villainess and genuinely terrifying manipulator successfully throughout the show. Understudy Michael Colbourne took centre stage as the genuinely self-absorbed and deeply shallow Prince Fiyero, and brought a lovely tenderness to the role, particularly during the second act. Gary Wilmot also brought my favourite portrayal of The Wizard, with a huge bravado hiding a great deal of insecurity and vulnerability beneath.
Of course, Elphaba cannot be complete without her G(a)linda, and Helen Woolf was an equally strong part of the lead duo. Her stunning soprano voice was clear and bright throughout, and her rendition of Thank Goodness brought the audience from joy to heartbreak masterfully. The two complemented each other very well, and their rendition of For Good in closing the show brought tears to my eyes. And I don’t cry at art very easily.
It will be popular!
Wicked has held a place in theatre districts across the world for almost 20 years, and with good reason. It’s a spectacle – no doubt about that – but not without heart. The story is engaging, the dialogue funny, the emotions heavy – but not without a brain. The music is clever, and bold, and challenging, and it’s not without a huge need for courage. .
Ultimately, for many theatre fans, including myself, Wicked is a show that invites us to experience a whole range of emotions in a place that feels safe – in a place that feels like home.
If you’ve already seen it, see it again. It’s just as fun the second, or third, or fourth time round anyway.
Have you had the chance to see Lucie in Wicked yet? Would you like to? As always, please let us know what you think by commenting below or on our social media. Be sure to follow ‘That Eurovision Site’ on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
News source: That Eurovision Site
Photo source: Rosie