Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review: Willemijn Verkaik In Concert at the Ambassadors Theatre

Willemijn Verkaik In Concert
Ambassadors Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 25th August 2015

Willemijn Verkaik is one of the most talented women on the planet. Earlier this week the Dutch musical superstar returned to the West End, having most recently appeared in Women on the Verge, for one-night-only with her solo concert. 

Verkaik sings with such precision and devotion; every note is perfectly calculated and on the mark. The set list was spot on, with each song showing off Verkaik's stellar vocal talents - she knows how to pace herself and when to fully let rip.

Promotional image for Women on the Verge

Opening with 'A Piece of Sky' from Yentl, Verkaik set her own bar extremely high from the word go. I adored the arrangements of 'Corner of the Sky' from Pippin and 'The Winner Takes It All' from Mamma Mia! during the first half, with other highlights including Jason Robert Brown's 'Stars and Moon' and Adele's 'Turning Tables'. Before the interval, Verkaik performed an epic multi-language version of Frozen's 'Let It Go', singing in English, Dutch and German (Verkaik was the voice of Elsa in the Dutch and German language versions of Disney's animated film). 

The West End Frame Award-winner (Best West End Debut 2014/Wicked) appeared a little nervous during act one, but there was no need to be as she is naturally funny and likeable on stage. Verkaik told a handful of nice stories between a few songs, allowing the evening to flow smoothly. She quite literally let her hair down during the interval and stormed the stage during the second half. Verkaik seemed more comfortable, owning each song and raising the roof of the Ambassadors Theatre even higher than she had done during act one. 

Verkaik in We Will Rock You
My highlight of the evening was a Dutch song called 'Vlieg Met Me Mee' during which Verkaik seemed to have a ball; I would have been more than happy for the set list to feature a few more songs in her native language.

It was an utter joy to witness Verkaik unleashing her inner Killer Queen (a role she previously played in Germany) as she belted out a seriously sassy rendition of 'Another One Bites The Dust' from Queen's musical We Will Rock You

It was a great idea to include a Q&A during which fans were able to ask any burning questions. Hosted by Ben Hewis, the tone was perfect; Verkaik discussed possible album plans, memories of playing Elphaba and a hysterical onstage mishap which occurred in Wicked when her dress got caught to her shoe after 'No Good Deed', resulting in an awkward crawl/shuffle off stage.

The evening also included two fantastic duets. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt - who needs a solo show of her own - joined Verkaik to give a powerful rendition of 'Don't Forget Me' from Smash whilst the charming James Fox teamed up with Verkaik to perform Queen's 'Who Wants To Live Forever'. Later the trio united onstage, singing 'A Step Too Far' from Aida. 

As the evening drew to a close, Verkaik said her thank yous and concluded with a suitably wild rendition of 'Life of the Party'. After taking her bows she returned for more, much to the audience’s delight. Of course all evening everyone had been waiting for a bit of Wicked and Verkaik, who has played Elphaba in Germany, Holland, New York and London, didn't disappoint.

Verkaik in Wicked with Savannah Stevenson

Verkaik performed the Wicked medley of all Wicked medleys. Kicking off with a bit of 'The Wizard and I', it was truly special to see flashes of Verkaik's iconic portrayal which she developed whilst playing the role on and off for seven years. The medley also included a fierce section from 'No Good Deed' before Verkaik ended with the big conclusion of 'Defying Gravity'. Although she was at the end of a gruelling set list, Verkaik gave her all and showcased some outstanding vocal gymnastics. The audience leapt to their feet and Verkaik seemed moved and touched by the overwhelming reaction. 

A huge shout out must go to Tom Deering and the band who were on fire all evening. During the Q&A Verkaik expressed her desire to create a new role. Somebody needs to write Willemijn Verkaik a musical and stage it in the West End ASAP. People will be queueing around the block.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Photo Credit 1: Robin Kamphuis
Photo Credit 2 Jay Brooks
Photo Credit 4: Matt Crockett

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