Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wicked (The SOB Revisit) - London

Wicked (The SOB Revisit) - Apollo Victoria Theatre, London, United Kingdom

**1/2 (out of ****)

Paging Joe Mantello.

London calling. Something bad is happening in Oz.

Look, it's Glinda (Helen Dallimore, pictured). She's phoning it in.

Or worse, Wicked's West End spell has been miscast...terribly I might add, in terms of Dallimore's ability to capture the effervescent and ditzy glee of Glinda. You could say that she's single-wandedly threatening your global franchise.

Now, I've always been one of Wicked's most ardent fans. I've fiercely defended your show against its critics and their reviews. In addition to the initial Broadway run with Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, I've seen the Chicago sitdown production as well as the tour. Overall, I've seen your brilliantly staged musical more times than I care to admit. The one thing that has always impressed me has been the ability of each Glinda and Elphaba pairing to punctuate each ironic and iconic line all while blending their voices in a swirl of mesmerizing harmonies.

But not in London. While Kerry Ellis (a perfect doppelgänger for Jane Krakowski) provided a terrific and forceful green witch, Dallimore was flat, not only in delivering lines rife with possibility and humor, but also in her lackluster singing. I'm not sure if she was simply having an off night, but in the performance I saw, she could not hold any of the high notes or my interest.

Remarkably, the rest of the show across the pond holds up pretty well. I liked the minor changes to the projection design (enhanced from the States) as well as to the orchestrations. I even thought the most noticeable change in the book worked by altering the first encounter between Elphaba and Fiero, played with panache by Adam Garcia -- perhaps the sexiest love interest for the two witches yet.

Of course, the audience still mustered a standing "O." However, I couldn't help but think they would have enjoyed the show so much more had Glinda the Good actually lived up to her moniker.

Joe Mantello, are you listening?

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for Wicked London tickets.
Related Stories:
Theatre For A New Age (April 8, 2007)
Wicked World (March 19, 2007)
Were London Critics Mourning West End Wicked? (September 28, 2006)
West End Wicked Opens Tonight (September 27, 2006)
Wicked Witch of the West End Takes Flight Tonight (September 7, 2006)
Five Times More Wicked (July 17, 2006)
Wicked's West End Witches Update (May 17, 2006)
Worldwide Wicked Casting News (May 5, 2006)
Encore: Spotlight Week Ending April 30, 2006 (April 30, 2006)

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At 18 April, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As is so often the case what looks good in an audition doesn't always play well after getting the job....that's too bad....
Hope you are having a good trip....I suppose we will see a review of "Equus" next.......?

At 18 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Gene - No Equus for me. My trip to London was fast, furious and fun. But alas, it is already over (I returned on Monday); that's why I had no posting on Friday.

You can expect to see reviews of Evita and The Lady From Dubuque very soon.

At 26 July, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,
I live in England and am a major fan of the Wicked musical, althogh i disagree with you about helen dallimore's performance, on the night i saw her she was hilarious and had got the ditsy blonde charectar down to a t, her voice was strong and powerful and was able to reach all the high notes. What i'm more interested to know is what the changes between the american version (which i have not seen) and the british version are. Please fill me in

At 26 July, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Hello Anonymous. Thanks for your comments - I do appreciate them.

As I said in my review, "I'm not sure if she was simply having an off night..." Even my two friends who saw the show with me commented on how she wasn't up to the task for our performance. Your disagreement suggests that maybe it was an off-night after all.

As someone who has seen Wicked at least a dozen times now, I found the London version pretty faithful to that which Americans are seeing. There were subtle changes to the orchestrations, set and projection designs that I bet most would not pick up on.

One of the more noticeable changes were found in the first meeting of Elphaba and Fiero. In the U.S. versions, they meet much later - in London, they literally bump into each other upon Fiero's first entrance. Personally, I thought it was a change for the better.

The other noticeable change was simply in the staging of the final climactic scene where Dorothy's shadow is seen throwing water at Elphaba; while there was no net result difference, the placements seemed a bit off from the original -- but that's quibbling.

Thank you once again for checking in and letting me know that Helen Dallimore is back on her game.

At 24 August, 2009, Anonymous DavidW said...

Hi. I was reading your article and I just simply wanted to say that it's a shame you didn't like Helen. I will not deny that did appear to be somewhat out of tune, but I've always found that added to her appeal. What I found with her, is that she got the perfect balance between the ditsy comic character and the deeply troubled person who loses everything at the end of the show. I've seen 3 different London Glinda's and none of them have managed to move me as much as she did. I came out of Helen's performance thinking "screw Elphaba, I feel sorry for Glinda!" However, after leaving Dianne Pilkington's performance I couldn't help but feel that Glinda deserved everything she got!!!
She also had a very difficult job in completely recreating the role for it to be done in an English accent. It wasn't just a case of the accent itself, she completely changed the core of the character by playing her as the upper class, finishing school girl who's Daddy always got her what she wanted - so to speak. She had to dispell everyone's expectations of Kristin's cheerleader and it's certainly a shock when she descends and squeaks her first like in a pitch barely audible for humans (but any guide dogs prick up their ears!).
She's also extremely versatile. I've recently seen her perform as Mary Hemingway (wife of writer Ernest Hemingway) in the West-End flop Too Close To The Sun. She was completely different in that and her voice really shone through! She does have a wonderful, if a little unique, voice which does sound much better once she loses the high-pitched Glinda voice.
Not to mention the fact she's in an Australian comedy series currently where I believe she does an impression of one of Britney's songs (from what I could gather from the advert).
I respect your opinion, but being a huge fan of hers I felt like for my own piece of mind I had to get it off my chest! Thanks for listening!

At 24 August, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


Thanks for adding your two cents as well as for the admission that she isn't always on key. It is possible that she was particularly off during my performance, but being in a show that is so vocally demanding requires an extraordinary singer, and to date, she's the only Glinda whom I've seen who hasn't completely measured up.


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