Drawing: Willemijn Verkaik as Elphaba in Wicked

Dutch songstress Willemijn Verkaik has played the central role of Elphaba in the Musical WICKED over 2,000 times in London, Europe and Broadway, which is more than anyone else and is the only person to have played the role in three different languages – English, Dutch and German. She made her West End debut at the Apollo Victoria in 2013, but for health reasons left the show eight months later, only to return in January this year as part of the show’s 10th Anniversary celebrations. Her final performance was on the 22nd of July. In an online poll of 16,000 voters she was chosen as the ‘Wicked Personality of the Year’. It took me a while, missing Willemijn on a few occasions at various venues,  but I finally got my sketch signed prior to her departure at the Apollo.

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Harriet Thorpe in Les Miserables and Wicked

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British actress Harriet Thorpe has played two of  the West End’s most memorable, musical, Madames –  Madame Thenardier in LES MISERABLES at the Palace Theatre in 1996 and Madame Morrible in WICKED at the Apollo Victoria in 2008, 2010 and again in 2013. She was recently performing ‘Sir’s’ long-suffering wife in THE DRESSER at the Duke of York’s where she signed my ‘Madames’ drawing.

Drawing: Rachel Tucker in Wicked

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Northern Irish singer Rachel Tucker has returned to the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London to play Elphaba in WICKED-a role she knows well, having played it longer than anyone else in the production’s history. Rachel replaced Alexia Khadine in March 2010 and in June 2012 she succeeded Kerry Ellis as the longest running performer to play the green witch. She left the show in October of that year for maternity leave after over 900 performances. In September 2015 Rachel reprised the role on Broadway, replacing Caroline Bowman at the Gershwin Theatre until 30 July this year. In early September she returned to the London production in time for its 10th Anniversary, replacing Emma Hatton where she signed my sketch.

Sketch: Emma Hatton, Natalie Andreou and Savannah Stevenson in Wicked

Emma Hatton Savannah Stevenson Wicked

Wicked, the musical phenomenon has been seen by more than 44 million people in 13 countries. It premiered in the West End  at London’s Apollo Victoria on 27 September 2006 and has been running there ever since. It was the first full production outside the US.

My wife and I received prime stall tickets to review the show from Official Theatre and Seat Plan, which coincided with Emma Hatton’s elevation to the lead Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. She joined the cast from We Will Rock You in late 2013 as the standby Elphaba, but due to a back injury sustained by lead Willemijn Verkaik, Emma performed the role more frequently. She temporarily became the lead in July 2014, performing her 100th show at the Apollo on 3 September and this month her lead role was made permanent. It’s fair to say she was familiar with the part.

The other lead, Glinda The Good was played by the sensational Savannah Stevenson who’s been living in ‘the bubble’ since July 2013, replacing lead Gina Beck in November that year. As it turned out Emma wasn’t Elphaba the night we saw it. Having drawn her, I did think she looked a bit different, but to misquote a famous muppet amphibian, “it’s not easy recognising people when they’re green.” Which witch was which?

Natalie Andreou, the standby Elphaba, also joined the show this month from the the jukebox musical Rock of Ages. It was a memorable performance, Defying Gravity especially, the big number to end the first half, was impressive, but when she belted out No Good Deed in the second, the audience responded with thunderous applause.

We waited at the stage door and Savannah came out armed with her own sharpie. In the show she’s blonde, in real life she’s not, so waiting fans had to ask who she was. “I get that all the time,” she said. She happily signed my sketch and I said, “It must take Emma a lot longer to remove the green make up”. She concurred and then told me it was Natalie doing the part. I didn’t have a sketch of Natalie. So I left the sketch of Emma and Savannah at the theatre, went home and did one of Natalie as Sherrie in Rock, and her most recent role as Snow White at the Opera House in Mancherster over the festive season and posted it. Both came back signed…. so here they are…. I got to see Wicked for free and witches three!

Natalie Anderson

Drawing: Jenny DiNoia in Wicked

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Jennifer DiNoia has been playing the role of Elphaba the misunderstood, green, Wicked Witch of the West in the hit musical Wicked for the past eight years around the world.

She made her West End and UK debut late last month, starting a 14 week run at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre.

Jenny has now performed Elphaba in four countries and six companies, including New York on Broadway, Chicago, Seoul and Sydney.

Wicked is now the tenth longest running show in the West End, with booking recently extended to 7 November 2015, its ninth year. In July this year the musical welcomed its 6 millionth patron.

Drawing: Kerry Ellis in Wicked

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In July 2006 Kerry Ellis joined the original London cast of the musical Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, playing the role of Elphaba the misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West. She was temporary understudy to Idina Menzel for three months, replacing her and winning the 2008 WhatsOnStage Theatregoers Choice Award. She continues the role until June 2008, before transferring to the Broadway production of Wicked, where her five month run won her the 2009 Broadway Audience Award for Favourite Female Breakthrough Performance. Kerry returned to the London show for a further five months until May 2009.

In 2013 she was named the favourite West End ‘Elphaba’ in the WhatsOnStage.com poll. Not yet done with the role, Kerry has just completed a limited 12 week engagement replacing an injured Willemijn Verkaik the London’s Apollo Victoria where she kindly signed my sketch before her final performance.