They called Idina Ms Menzel......
“I just wish the Americans would go home and leave me here with my Aussie mates!” giggled Idina Menzel, the green-faced star of Wicked. For those of you who aren’t rabid show queens, Wicked. is a musical about the witches of Oz. It was a hit on Broadway (with Idina creating her Tony Award-winning performance) and the first production on London’s West End opens September 27.
The show began previewing last Thursday. According to Ian Phipps, the first preview was like a rock concert. The crowd roared at the entrance of every major character (the cast includes Nigel Planer and Miriam Margolyes). After the show, a group of fans gathered in the street outside the stage door and stayed there for over an hour. Five hundred of them! They screamed and thrust autograph books at anyone who might have been in the show. They all cheered at the top of their voices when a petite, smiling blonde girl waved at them from her fifth-storey window. From up there, they must have looked like Munchkins, but that’s appropriate because the girl was Glinda, the Good Witch. And who was she? Sydney’s own sexy soubrette Helen Dallimore.
You may know Helen as the blonde mother whose baby grabs the remote and bangs the garage door on the hood of their car. I saw Wicked on Friday, and Helen was fantastic. She sang the bejesus out of the difficult vocal part, and played Glinda as an ever-so-posh Sloane Square slag. It was as if Princess Di had been to Barbara Windsor’s hairdresser for a platinum rinse. Hysterical! Ms Menzel was mesmerising as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West… and that’s comparing her to the best: Cleo Coupe at the Imperial.
Eye candy was provided by Adam Garcia, another Australian. Adam, pictured here, first made an impact in London channelling John Travolta in the stage version of Saturday Night Fever. I worked with him when he was a 16-year-old tapper, and he’s even hotter now than he was then. (Also, I love any straight man who knows who Tom of Finland is!).
The four of us had dinner at Helen’s last week. She and I fondly remember the night we got pissed over dinner with Simon Burke at RQ and cleared the room by putting the word “cunt” into movie titles. Loudly. Then we were refused entrance to the Shift for being legless. We’re older and wiser now. (Not.)
Helen Dallimore is going to take London by storm, but she’s not our only export. Over at the Adelphi, Philip Quast is giving a typically strong turn as Peron in the new production of Evita. I loved the grungy look of the show, and new exciting Latin orchestrations bring it alive. Bongos and sleazy trumpets! Arriba! The girl(s) playing Evita make Madonna look like she’s lip-synching. I’m no huge Andrew Lloyd Webber fan, but Evita was written when he still had more than one musical idea at a time.
In Philip’s dressing room I met Broadway show writer/composer Jason Robert Brown. Such a nice Jewish boy. He had flown over to see The Last Five Years, which is on at a theatre made out of a chocolate factory. This is a much smaller piece, a two-hander about a couple who split up. (There was a local production at the Stables not long ago.) The big noise in the London production is the boy, Damian Humbly. He’s cute, cheeky, energetic, lovable, an amazing singer and guess what else? Yep. One of ours. (One of WAAPA’s, in fact.) He did a few things in Melbourne, such as MTC’s Urinetown, then wandered over here and straight into major roles.
How do we do it? Are we better than the English? Well, maybe we’re better at being Americans than they are. Whatever that says about us – and I’m not sure it’s a compliment – there’s no question that when it comes to shows, this is our town, baby.