2017 is the year that I plan to do my best to bring understudies to the forefront of theatre. If I can get to see a show when an understudy is performing, then I intend to write about it because it can be a thankless task, for a performer to take on a leading role in a theatre show, only for it to pass by unnoticed by press and media outlets (unless there is a newsworthy story like when the press flocked to see Natasha J Barnes understudy the role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl when Sheridan Smith took an unexpected break from the role).
This week I saw online that Oliver Savile would not be performing as Fyiero in Wicked for a few days and so I decided to pop along and check out James Darch’s portrayal of the role. To my delight, I got a double whammy of understudies and Helen Woolf was also performing the role of Glinda at that performance too (neither of which I had seen before).
If you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen this spellbinding stage show, it is the back story to the classic Wizard of Oz. We find out who the Witches really were growing up and how they came to be the people we see in the film. We find out who the cowardly lion, tin man and scarecrow really were and find out there is more to the story than we originally thought. Throw in a love triangle, some great songs and some of the most colourful costumes you will see on stage and that pretty much sums it up.
James Darch takes on the role of Fiyero with ease. His vocals are top notch he sounded amazing in his rendition of Dancing Through Life. His voice also blended well with Willemijn Verkaik (Elphaba) in As Long As Your’e Mine. Overall James gives a great performance as love interest Fiyero and looks at home in the role.
Helen Woolf first joined the Wicked company on it’s first UK & Ireland tour back in 2013 and is now understudying the role of Glinda in the West End production. Helen portrays the role not as a spoilt little rich girl but as someone who may not have grown up so fortunate and has come in to money later on in life but is doing her best to cover it up. Helen is brilliantly funny with a wonderful voice and it is hard to believe that she doesn’t play this role every day. She seems so comfortable in the part.
Wicked is a wonderful show that really does seem to get better every time. No matter who is performing, understudy or main performer, they are all equally capable of doing the job in hand.