Belle's Domain

WICKED - First Preview, 7th September 2006

Foyer, looking towards box office

stairs to circle bar

First off, my beautiful Apollo Victoria is looking amazing... SO shiny. Live Nation are doing a real one-upmanship contest with Cameron Machintosh theatres - We can restore better than you, so nerr! Not only are they making it up nicely, they've restored the original undersea murals, the original emerald green and silver theme, scalloped green and grey carpets throughout the foyer... It's still a work in progress, the box office looks rushed and there's still a lot of maroon on the exterior which really does NOT match! And they've gone back to the designer's original plans - he wanted to install green neon strips along the horizontal bands of the side of the theatre, which was simply not feasable in the 1930s. But now, in the 21st century it is easy! The Gantries are currently sitting on the sides of the building, presumably this neon will be installed any day now.

Mural on stairs to foyer bar

Mermaids' Cavern Auditorium

The Set (shhhh...)

Inside the auditorium is absolutely GORGEOUS - the Dragon Clock seems to fit perfectly, although there is a strange wooden gantry in front that seems remarkably utilitarian compated to the beautiful decoration around it.

Now, tonight was the first preview, the point of the previews being to learn from the mistakes and correct them before opening night. One MAJOR mistake they've made so far is to install a merchendise booth on the left-hand side of the box office. This means that the queue from the box office windows and ticket collection actually crosses the queue from the merchendise kiosk, causing complete and utter gridlock. Then sticking a boy selling brochures RIGHT in the middle of this bedlam did not help! And then JUST inside the foyer doors is an ice cream stand, with proper scooped ice cream, and another brochure seller, plus the queue of people waiting for the stalls to be opened. It took us about 20 minutes just to get into the foyer proper, which had plenty of space! They REALLY need to ajust the positions of the merchendise in the foyer and move them CLEAR from the doors.

ANYWAY. We got in and sat down just before 7.30. 10 minutes later people were still navigating to their seats, but the house lights went down, raptuous applause... Overture started, raptuous applause... "Good News! She's Dead!" No whickeddy witch is wonk, all good... "Look! It's Glinda!" We looked, and bubbles floated down, heralding the approach of.... that means she follows them.... hello? Glinda? Erm.... the bubble burst. Raptuous laughter from audience, and applause. Curtain down, house lights up. sigh. Applause. many attempts at starting a stomping clap spreading throughout, didn't work. Five minutes later, they ran it from the top. Glinda's line "It's good to see me, isn't it?" had an ironic resonance met with raptuous laughter. Beautiful Glinda, lovely voice, slightly nervous but that's forgivable! Bubble not moving is bound to interrupt the flow.

Glinda does have an English accent - at times she reminded me of Queen Elizabeth from Blackadder! It felt slightly forced, but I'm sure a few weeks of performing the lines will soften and relax the accent. It sounded unfamiliar, that's all. The strange thing is that Mazz has been singing Glinda in a clipped pony-club accent for a couple of years now, yet Glinda onstage was doing it differently. Well, but just not quite natural yet. I don't think it worked tonight, but it will do in time. I still prefer a forced pony club accent to a forced valley girl one! She was being well-spoken, not a rich bitch. She needed to pronounce "Oh" as "Eaugh".

What next? Ensemble costumes - I just don't get on with them. I think I figured out why - they're too distorted and exaggerated to pass as streetwear anywhere. They're meant to be townspeople going about their daily business, or witch hunting in the middle of winter, or whatever else, and their clothing is so impossible. I LOVE fantasy costumes, but they need to be on fantasy beings, skating trains, cats, vampires, that idea. Townsfolk need to be dressed in designs that are at heart vernacular, everyday. The Emerald City costumes less so, but to an extent they still need to be practical. I LOVE the leads' costumes tho, tho Fiyero's first costume was strongly reminiscent of Gaston... and he came across SO camp at first!

There have been a few slight anglicisations of the script - difficult one, as the majority of the british audience will get the american terms from familiarity with films, etc. But Glinda "Went to Uni" not "school", a couple of lines in Popular have been altered, "Unflattering features" instead of "Unpreposessing features" seemed an unnecessary change, but it was just a slip-up.

Elphaba. The more-loved-than-virgin-mary star - Idina Menzel. Yes, she's very, very good! Great acting arc, the way Elphaba develops throughout the show. However the fact she is so idolised annoys me, we couldn't hear any of "Dear Old Shiz" as the applause drowned it out, and all she'd done was run onstage! Massed adulation for the end of her songs, sure, go for it! But actually LISTEN to the show. You can't hear her amazing belt if you're screaming through the end of the song! I'm looking forward to seeing this show one night when there aren't any Idina fans in, so I can actually appreciate her performance without it being drowned out. Ditto for Adam Garcia. I really like "Dancing Through Life", I'd like to hear more of it!

Miriam Margolyes is exactly as I'd hoped... except she doesn't seem 100% at ease with speaking her lines to rhythm rather than singing. It's a difficult technique but it can sound great, with enough self-assurance. But then this was the first preview, in a week she'll be so used to it it'll be so smooth! No sign of Neil the Hippy in Nigel Planer's wizard, but quite a bit of Amos Hart from Chicago! Very Fosse and sharp. A very persuasive actor, and for once I didn't want to skip over "Wonderful" and "Sentimental Man"! Totally believed his Wizard, persuading Elphaba he's good really...

James Gillan's Boq is so sweet! hopeless, desperate, foolish...

She Flies! The Broomstick flies! The Monkeys fly! I rather want to make a monkey suit too, tho the latex masks are putting me off.

Lots of expensive shiny things on sale, pretty jewellery, loads of t-shirts, posters cost 7!!! For a printed bit of card! The programme was awful!!! 6 quid for something thrown together in an afternoon by the work experience kid... the resolution of the cast photos is atrocious, particularly Idina's which has been very clumsily photoshopped! No-one proof-read the resumes or articles, there's dozens of basic mistakes in the italicising, the grammar in the article about the theatre is dreadful... the production photographs and information are great tho.

They brought the house lights up very abruptly at the end, the cast took two bows then we were all packed off. The audience were clamouring for another bow, but we didn't get it. There's a lot of places where they now need to learn from the audience reactions and tweak things appropriately.