During the months of July and August I was fortunate enough to travel to London for the 2012 Olympic Games. As if attending several Olympic events wasn’t enough, I was able to see two shows in London’s famed West End district. For a Broadway junkie like me, this was the icing on my European-adventure cake.
On Saturday, July 28th I attended the evening performance of Singin’ In The Rain at the Palace Theatre. Growing up, Singin’ In The Rain was one of my favorite movies. My Mum supplied my brothers and I with a neverending arsenal of wholesome musicals, and Singin’ In The Rain was a film we all loved. I swung by the theater a few hours before showtime and purchased tickets (at a steep $102.00 a ticket) and then grabbed dinner on the patio of a restaurant a few blocks away.
Singin’ In The Rain is a feel good show that stayed true to the film. The dancing is notably spectacular, though I expected it to be since it is choreographed by Andrew Wright who was nominated for an Oliver Award for his work with the show. Comedic timing is absolutely crucial for this production, and the West End cast of Singin’ In The Rain has it in spades. Leading lady Scarlett Strallen not only captures the audience’s hearts as Kathy Selden, but further impresses with her showstopping vocals.
Lead Adam Cooper’s performance as Don Lockwood is underwhelming and somewhat disappointing. Gene Kelly’s shoes are awfully hard to fill, but Cooper’s performance lacks the charisma and playful charm that makes you root for Kelly’s Don Lockwood. As ridiculous as it may seem to note, I was stunned when not a single running wall back-tuck occurred during “Make ‘Em Laugh.” If Joseph Gordon-Levitt could do two live on Saturday Night Live back in 2009, surely they could have found an actor to do it daily for the London stage production. The musical number feels incomplete without the trademark flips!
The highlight of the show is the downpour of rain at the end of each act. Cooper dances and splashes his way through the titular “Singin’ In The Rain” at the end of Act I, soaking the audience while doing so. The entire ensemble dons their yellow rain jackets and umbrellas for an audience sing-along at the conclusion of Act II, showcasing the special water draining stage and set.
On Monday, July 30th I took my place in line outside of London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre just before 10 a.m. in hopes of purchasing rush tickets. Luck was on my side as I was one of the first patrons to purchase a £27 ticket–and my ticket was in the front row!
Truth be told, this was my third time seeing Wicked. I was fortunate enough to catch a touring production in Cleveland, Ohio during the winter of 2009. I also spent a magical night watching the show from the second row with my younger sister and stepmother at New York’s Gershwin Theater last fall. While London’s production of Wicked couldn’t top the Broadway production I saw a year prior, the cast still did the show justice and I left the theater feeling like I might be able to defy gravity myself.
The West End production of Wicked is unique in that the actor playing male lead Fiyero has a full sleeve of tattoos that is proudly displayed throughout the performance. British rock star Matt Willis is currently cast as Fiyero in the production, where he brings a welcome dangerous edge to the character and performance. Rachel Tucker delivers a strong vocal performance that is essential to delivering the lead role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. Tucker’s voice soars as she flies off with the best performance of the night, “Defying Gravity.”
Gina Beck plays Elphaba’s enemy turned friend Galinda in the London production. Perhaps it’s because Tucker’s performance is so very strong, Beck seems to pale in comparison. Her Galinda lacks the bubbly spark and stubborn determination that warms you to the flawed character. While Beck’s performance is a bit dim, Adam Pettigrew as Boq absolutely shines. I’ll admit that I’m bit partial since Boq is my favorite character in the show, but Pettigrew found the perfect balance between a pathetic doormat and an endearing lovesick teenager. Not to go unmentioned, the costumes for the production are incredibly impressive and beautifully detailed.
Though West End can’t hold a candle to Broadway’s production quality, I still enjoyed every moment of my West End adventures. For show times and tickets, please visit the official sites for Singin’ In The Rain and Wicked.