Maria Coyne isn't yet fully rehearsed so Samantha Thomas will be making her Glinda debut tonight (and will be on for the rest of the week). If you want to catch a Glinda debut, get your tickets while you still have time.
Alice has changed a hell of a lot since her standby days. Her portrayal is much softer and she plays the character with a lot more warmth, the cold hard cynicism seems to have gone and replaced with a bit more vulnerability. I did think that dry deadpan Elphaba set her apart from lots of her predecessors but actually as an 8 show a week portrayal, her new version works much better. I was very happy to see that she hasn't fallen into the Emma Hatton trap of turning her performance into a caricature from doing it too many times, if anything she has more nuances than she did before. She was clearly a little bit under the weather (she missed both shows on Saturday), but she delivered beautiful renditions of all three songs, No Good Deed being the stand out of the three as it always was previously - for me. Of all the Elphabas I've seen, Alice has the best No Good Deed, she gets the ferocity (but not the out and out shouting of her early days) whilst still completely nailing the score. She didn't riff the "Fiyero" note but elongated the middle section and belted it so powerfully that in my eyes it eclipsed the iconic version that Rachel is known for. If you put aside personal preferences, realistically the two most popular London Elphabas have been Kerry and Rachel, and nobody has quite reached that level of popularity since. I think there is a definite possibility that 3 years from now we'll be talking about Kerry, Rachel and Alice as the three greats of Wicked London.
Samantha gave a good Glinda debut. I don't think it's fair to rip someone apart for a first performance, but there's definitely lots for her to work on over the next week. Her voice is absolutely beautiful, she has such a strong operatic quality and she sustained every note for its full length effortlessly. Her No One Mourns the Wicked was probably the slowest I've ever heard, she really got the most from it and her speaking voice matched with her acting choices very much remind me of the Glinda from the Wizard of Oz movie. Being Welsh the accent did occasionally falter, there were a few moments where she veered from French into South African into American but these were few and far between. She is a very elegant Glinda and visually looks about as Glinda-like as a person could. She played the naivety up a lot, which worked really well as it gave Alice the chance to take on a more paternal role, Popular was very much the story of "the mature girl appeasing the ditsy girl for a few minutes". The comedic timing isn't quite there yet, but it was a good audience filled with fans and her friends and family so she got a good reception to all of the jokes.
Bradley is great fun, I really do want to either forcibly take a bottle of Pantene to his hair or chop it all off, but other than the grease machine on top of his head, I really enjoyed his performance. He is a lot less belty than he was when I saw him in Bradford, and sadly equally large portions of the script are underplayed due to him shouting them at Elphaba / Glinda. He's not by any means my favourite but considering what came before Oliver Savile, I'm glad we have him and not anyone else.
Katy Hanna was a great Madame Morrible, she has that real Julie Walters quirky cheeky vibe to her. She reminded me a bit of Hyacinth from Keeping Up Appearances in that she clearly found the presence of all of the other cast members disgusting. Really enjoyed her performance.
Rosa, Jack, Andy and Martin were all great too, although I don't really have a huge amount to say about them at this point.
It was a strong show on the whole last night, a couple of microphones that didn't turn on when they were meant to but the cast were for the most part on form. Alice was definitely operating at 80% but I felt that was more due to illness than laziness. She did a lovely thing at curtain call, when her and Samantha ran out to take their bow, she left Samantha to bow on her own and instead just pointed at and highlighted her as well as applauding, which I've never seen happen before at Wicked. I thought it was really kind, I've seen a lot of first/last shows but people usually always want their moment in the limelight so for her to selflessly step back is a testament to what a lovely person she is. She also didn't wave at the end as the curtain came down, instead choosing to draw attention to Samantha again.
I managed to get the full gossip on Carina and now I understand why she's seemingly not done any work for several months (she was in yesterday, to my surprise). She said that due to the tight costumes, especially the bubble dress, and apparently the difficulty of being sensitively hooked into the bubble, they don't usually let Glindas get very far along in their pregnancy before insisting they stop (unlike Elphabas who can be more or less ready to drop), so after Sarah left due to her back problems, they let her switch from covering Glinda to being an additional Nessa cover instead. She says she's 6 months along at the moment and hopes to stay until a couple of weeks before having the baby, so if Rosa and Aimee are out, or Rosa's on for Glinda and/or Aimee for Elphaba and the other one's out, we'll see Carina go on for Nessa.
She did a lovely thing at curtain call, when her and Samantha ran out to take their bow, she left Samantha to bow on her own and instead just pointed at and highlighted her as well as applauding, which I've never seen happen before at Wicked. I thought it was really kind, I've seen a lot of first/last shows but people usually always want their moment in the limelight so for her to selflessly step back is a testament to what a lovely person she is.
If I remember correctly (it was 9 years ago) Dianne Pilkington let Cassidy Janson take a solo bow the last time she was on for Elphaba.