BWW Review: WILLEMIJN VERKAIK IN CONCERT, Cambridge Theatre
It's almost er... wicked for a theatre to stand dark on a Monday evening while a show's cast and other staff take a well earned break, but every so often, a performer or company will work around a set and in-house branding (Matilda in this case) and put something up. That's what long-running Wicked West End, Broadway and European Tour Elphaba, Willemijn Verkaik, did - with a little help from her friends.
We don't get the greenface (though, for those of us lucky to be close enough, we do get the green eyes), but we get the singing, in full belt and head voice styles, deployed for a wide range of material, opening with (of course) "Let It Go" - in English, Dutch and German, as seen here. There are forays into country, blues, a selection of George Michael's greatest hits and, as a finale, the crowdpleasing signature song Defying Gravity.
The music, by an impressive eight piece band, is louder than musical theatre but not quite peak Motörhead, reflecting the hybrid nature of the event. We're sitting in stalls, though some would clearly like to dance and singalong with their favourites and Willemijn's chat between the songs was a little laboured - c'mon, we wanted a little backstage gossip! It's not musical theatre, it's not cabaret and it's not a gig - it's a traditional concert, and no less worthy for that.
Her guests, as you might imagine, were West End royalty, Glindas, Suzie Mathers and Savannah Stevenson joining La Verkaik for a scintillating acapella session and a Les Mis duet with Celinde Schoenmaker knocking Susan Boyle out of the park. Tyrone Huntley was in his usual immaculate form on a night off too and the kids (from Stagebox) fought some tech issues and the significant challenge of delivering a Sondheim medley, to win over the audience with charm and delight.
If the one-off nature of the event was shown in that handful of tech problems and the slightly clumsy links, these events are always worth catching to see big stars off the leash and enjoying themselves. You don't quite know what you're going to get - but that's half the fun and, to be honest, with voices like these, if all they did was to read out the telephone directory, it'd still be worth listening!