Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Broadway Review: Rachel Tucker stars in Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre

Gershwin Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 25th March 2016

It's hard to believe Wicked is currently playing its twelfth year on Broadway. The production is in tip top shape - I can't remember the last time I saw Joe Mantello's production looking so slick. Nothing quite beats seeing Wicked in New York, the audience were buzzing before the show had even begun.

Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel of the same name, Wicked tells the untold story of the Witches of Oz. After seeing Wicked you will never be able to watch The Wizard of Oz in the same way ever again. During the first act we learn how the two witches - The Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda The Good - came to meet during their time at university, whilst in the second half we discover what happened behind the scenes when Dorothy was following the yellow brick road to the Emerald City.

The musical may feature a grand design, dazzling costumes and an epic score, but at its heart Wicked is a show about the unique friendship formed between two women. Wicked stands apart from other shows because of the way it speaks to people; everyone can relate to a character in some way. Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's show is an absolute masterpiece.

Wicked is surprisingly different on Broadway; the design is bigger and feels more grand. There are lots of subtle differences, for example monkeys fly over the audience, there's a cool Wizard of Oz hot air balloon reference during 'One Short Day' and there's a trap door at the front of the stage which Glinda and Elphaba use to run out of at the start of the 'Defying Gravity' scene. The references to The Wizard of Oz get a much bigger reaction in New York whilst Glinda is played more as an excitable U.S. cheerleader rather than a posh, spoilt British brat. 

Having played Elphaba for almost three years in the West End, Rachel Tucker is currently reprising her performance as everybody's favourite green girl on Broadway. It was surreal to see Tucker play the role again after all these years and fascinating to see how her performance has grown - her take on the role has developed a lot since 2012. 

Rachel Tucker performing 'Defying Gravity' on Broadway 

At the start of the show Tucker's Elphaba is angry with the world; she allows the character's passion to shine through, performing with a twinkle in her eye. Tucker's portrayal is truthful throughout - you can't help but fall in love with her Elphaba. She effortlessly grows with the role and makes it all look so easy.

Tucker is a vocal goddess. She mixed things up, and almost knocked me off my chair with her rendition of 'The Wizard and I'. I've never witnessed such a powerful performance of the song. Her 'I'm Not That Girl' is so simple and raw. At the end of the first act Tucker casts a spell with 'Defying Gravity' - she certainly didn't hold back, her vocals raised the roof as the belted out the song's huge climax. 

In the second half Tucker somehow managed to raise her own bar even higher with a hauntingly spectacular rendition of 'No Good Deed', she allowed herself to go through all sorts of painful, heartfelt emotions whilst giving an absolute masterclass. I sat in my seat with my mouth wide open. Rachel Tucker is the most insanely amazing Elphaba there is or was. She is slaying Broadway and I hope New York know how lucky they are to have her!

Carrie St. Louis is phenomenal as Glinda. I need to find out what she has for breakfast - I've never seen such an energetic performance! I love the American Glindas; impressively St. Louis has found lots of new things within the text and has the audience in hysterics throughout. Her soprano range is stunning, but it's also great to see a Glinda belting out some of the score, her rendition of 'Thank Goodness' was unusually spectacular and worked a treat. 

Dawn Cantwell makes a wonderful Nessarose, Zachary Noah Piser is endearing as Boq whilst Judy Kaye makes a terrifying Madame Morrible. Elsewhere Jonah Platt has some nice moments as Fiyero. I couldn't take my eyes off the ensemble who were sublime, performing with such precision and charm. 

Whilst it's thrilling to see Rachel Tucker flying high on Broadway, let's hope she makes a return to the London stage soon. With Wicked's tenth West End anniversary approaching, wouldn't it be a treat to see Tucker go green at the Apollo Victoria once again? Nevertheless, it was truly inspiring to see such an electrifying performance of Wicked. It's remarkable that after all this time audiences in New York still cannot get enough of this show. 

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Wicked plays at the Gershwin Theatre (222 West 51st Street).
Please visit for further information and tickets.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus 

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