People often ask me why I have seen the musical Wicked so many times. One of the reasons is that the people they cast in the leading roles are among the best musical theatre performers in the world. They often go on to achieve huge success and command a large and devoted fan base, writes Nicky Sweetland.
One such performer is Rachel Tucker, who runs the Bridge House Theatre in Penge along with her husband Guy Retallack. Rachel has recently completed another critically acclaimed run as the green witch, Elphaba in the West End production of Wicked after taking Broadway by storm in the role last year and is giving her legions of fans the chance to get up close with a UK solo tour.
Her first engagements were at Live at Zedel in Piccadilly this week and I was excited to be able to attend one of the sold out shows.
Right from the very beginning, Rachel Tucker showed her mettle and blustered into the club in high spirits regaling the gathered throng with an audacious rendition of Bette Midler’s “Miss Otis Regrets”. Filled with cheek and frivolity as she maneuvered around the room, Tucker immediately captured the audience with her infectious personality and after a fun version of “The Candy Man” from the beloved children’s film Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory, brought the mood down and enriched the experience with some well told anecdotes and more poignant songs including “Through the Window” from the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hanson.
The versatile star even managed to overcome some technical difficulties at the start of the show and quipped by saying, “Who needs lights? Aren’t I bright enough?” I would have to agree with the singer’s jest, as this is one star, who exudes a jubilant light from her every pore.
The ability to take an audience on an emotional roller coaster, when you are not in character and performing on you own is a skill few perfect, but Tucker had the audience in the palm of her hand throughout and you could have heard a pin drop during her touching version of “When Somebody loved Me” from Toy Story 2.
Wicked fans enjoyed a real treat in the second act, when Tucker was joined on stage by her former costars Louise Dearman and Katie Rowley Jones for a stunning pair of songs from the Broadway musical Waitress, which had been beautifully arranged into a trio. Dearman returned to stage again later in the show to perform a fabulous duet with Tucker, which featured “Kiss Today Goodbye” from A Chorus Line cleverly infused with Barbara Streisand’s “The Way We Were”. The mix of the pair’s vocal was absolutely stunning.
Other highlights included a dark version of “No Good Dead” from Wicked and a spirited rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on a Hill”
Rachel Tucker will take off on tour around the UK in May, before heading over to New York to play the coveted 54 Below. I’m hoping she pops an extra date in and plays at her home venue, the Bridge House Theatre in Penge, but as yet, that’s not on the cards.