My second London adventure in two weeks – I’m a very lucky girl! This trip would include five shows in three days, starting with a Wicked matinee. I’d not seen the show for over a year and was really curious to see Louise Dearman – the first woman to play both leading ladies in the show, Glinda and Elphaba. That alone is impressive – the characters are so different with such different songs to sing it’s mind-blowing to think that one woman could perform both roles (not at the same time obviously.) After almost missing my train to London (which was a teeny bit tense) I was feeling very flustered. Once in London I had half an hour to check in, find my room and get to the theatre. It was going to be close. After quite literally throwing my suitcase into my room I headed underground to get to Victoria. I arrived at the theatre at 2:20pm, a mere 10 minutes before the show was due to start. I had a very good view for what I had paid – just under £20 for row B of the stalls, off to the side. There was a spiral staircase blocking my view of the back of the stage, but the majority of the action would be at the front anyway. I hoped.
As the first song started, which included a very impressive entrance by Glinda (Gina Beck) via a giant mechanical bubble, I settled in for a good show. Gina has an amazing range and her first song blew me away. Then on came Louise as Elphaba, in all her emerald green glory. My first impression? She’s tiny! But her voice most certainly isn’t. The last Elphaba I saw was Rachel Tucker, a hard act to follow, but Louise was spectacular. Her comic timing, her rapport with Gina, everything about her was incredible. As the musical progressed Fiyero, the “playboy prince” played by Ben Freeman, was introduced. He would be my third Fiyero, after Lee Mead and Matt Willis. He wasn’t the best. Somehow I got the feeling that the arrogant, look at me aren’t I wonderful act that he put on wasn’t that much of an act, and his voice was very weak. I don’t know if it’s the character of Fiyero I don’t like or I’ve just been unfortunate with the actors, but I was, once again, distinctly underwhelmed by Fiyero’s “Dancing Through Life” solo. The rest of the cast, however, were amazing. Sam Lupton, who plays Boq the munchkin, was adorable. He was a little ball of energy who played his part really well, and it was a shame he didn’t get more stage time. As the first act came to a close it was time for Defying Gravity, by far the most well-known song of the show. I was eager to hear Louise really let loose with her voice and I was not disappointed. She belted out note after note, each one bigger and more impressive than the last. At the end of the song I had goose bumps and couldn’t wait for the second act, where I knew she had another big song coming.
As the curtain rose for the second act, I waited for Louise’s next big song, “No Good Deed.” First of all, however, it was the duet between Ben and Louise, “As Long as you’re Mine,” (If you want to see it done properly I suggest you watch Kerry Ellis and Oliver Tompsett on youtube.) Louise was, of course, incredible, and completely drowned out Ben’s feeble voice. Then, horror of horrors, Fiyero is captured by the guards. Louise lets out an almost primal scream of “FIYEROOOOOO!” and then launches into “No Good Deed.” Wow. She is spectacular. She can’t have been much taller than me ( 5 ft 2) but the notes she belted out were huge. As the show came to an end and the curtain came down the cast received a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd. I really wanted to get to the stage door to meet Louise but I didn’t have time, as I had to get to the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square for my second show of the day.
Lucy had been raving about Tailor Made Man since it first opened six weeks ago, so we decided to go and see it whilst I was in London. I met a few of her friends; Mandy (such a lovely woman we hit it off right away), Rachel (who reminded me so much of my Mum she was christened my “Southern Mum” by the end of the night), Eleanor, who I would be sitting next to in the theatre, and Lucy, who was totally in love with Bradley Clarkson. It’s set in the 20s and is about William “Billy” Haines and his love story with Jimmy Shields. Billy was an actor turned interior designer whose producer at MGM studios insisted that he keep his “lifestyle” under wraps. Dylan Turner, who played Billy, was Joey Primo in Rock of Ages before the cast change, so I was curious to see him in a completely different role. Bradley Clarkson who played Jimmy was a finalist in Grease is the Word on ITV, and their lifelong friend Marion Davies was played by Faye Tozer from Steps, so it was quite a diverse cast.
The play starts with an older Jimmy, played by Clive Ward, being interviewed by a journalist about his life with Billy. The scene then changed back to the 20s, where “young” Billy was introduced. Right from the off, Dylan was spectacular. He was confident, handsome, loveable and worked beautifully with Bradley as Jimmy. They made a gorgeous couple and you couldn’t help but fall in love with them. The duet between them, “We got time” damn near reduced me to tears. The emotion both actors put into their performance was just breathtaking to watch. The next song, “Another Party” featured absolutely amazing choreography and the costumes were stunning. It was mesmerising to watch. Faye Tozer’s big song, “Don’t Trust Love” showed how versatile she is. I won’t lie, I didn’t recognise her from her Steps days, but I think that’s a good thing. She was spectacular! Her accent was spot on, her dancing was flawless and she was just so confident you couldn’t help but love her. A far cry from 5,6,7,8!
The second act was as good as, if not better than, the first. As the love between Billy and Jimmy evolved they moved away together, however they were beaten up pretty badly by some men on the beach. When they came back onstage, the make-up actually made me gasp. Dylan had a cracking black eye! They decided to move back to Hollywood, where Billy and Jimmy decided to open an interior design store, as Billy had an eye for design and Jimmy loved antiques. The chemistry between Faye, Dylan and Bradley was incredible and you really felt like they were life-long friends. Then, out of the blue, “Old Jimmy” was back with the journalist. The room was completely silent. The journalist almost whispered, “It was lung cancer, wasn’t it?” and the look of raw emotion on Clive’s face reduced me to tears. The journalist left, the stage went dark, and “Old Jimmy” walked off the set. The radio that had been on the table in Jimmy’s living room was highlighted by a single spotlight and there was an announcement. “A body was found on the beach after a suspected sleeping pill overdose. The death is not being treated as suspicious as there was a note found with the deceased that read it’s not the same without you Billy.” Cue uncontrollable sobbing. Eleanor reached over to give me a hug – I needed it!
As the cast came back on for their curtain call the entire theatre was on its feet and even though I was still crying I was smiling and clapping for the cast. Afterwards we hung around in the bar for a while and I had the pleasure of talking to Dylan, who is such a lovely person I fell in love straight away. The only downside was the show would be closing at the end of the week, but it did make my night very special.