Wicked is one of the most popular musicals ever made and it has seen enormous success oversees on Broadway since its opening in 2003. Wicked continued its beloved legacy when it journeyed to the West End in London in 2006. We are going to reveal our favourite West End Witches from over the years.
Wicked: The Early Years.
Wicked tells the untold story of the witches of Oz. It flew onto the stage of the Gershwin Theatre on October 30th 2003 and just in time for Halloween. For 17 years Wicked has attracted fans from all over the globe to the wonderful world of Oz and the show has secured its spot as the second highest grossing production on the Great White Way.
Broadway legends Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth originated the roles of Elphaba and Glinda respectively. They sure set the bar high for those set to follow in their footsteps in the years to come; Menzel even went on to win the Tony Award for ‘Best Actress’ and originated the role of Elphaba on the West End in 2006. Following their careers in Wicked, both leading ladies have continued on in their successful careers in showbiz. Both ladies have landed Disney roles and guest starring in the musical comedy series, Glee!
We are going to have a look at some our favourite actresses to have played the West End Witches from Oz over the years.
The West End’s Queens of Green.
It takes a woman with talents of superhuman proportions to do justice to the role of the Wicked Witch. This role is arguably one of the most vocally challenging roles around. Laura Pick is the most recent actress to don the green paint and defy gravity in the much loved musical. She has followed some pretty breathtaking performances whilst delivering them herself 6 days a week at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
Previously to Pick, Alice Fearn played the green witch for two years on the West End. This was after she was promoted to main cast after a year as the Elphaba standby. Fearn is famous amongst Wicked fans for her incredible riffs, unrivalled by no Elphaba I’ve seen before. Since leaving Wicked, Fearn has followed in fellow Wicked alum Rachel Tucker’s footsteps in joining the cast of Come from Away as Captain Beverly Bass.
Willemijn Verkaik is the only actress in Wicked history to have played the role in three different languages! Verkaik has belted out ‘Defying Gravity’ in English, German and Dutch having stormed the stage as the green witch over 2000 times. In addition she set a record by performing in four different countries with the show. She unfortunately had to cut her final run short due to injury.
Of course, we are going to mention the original Queen of Green, Idina Menzel. Having completed her Tony Award Winning two year run of the show in New York, Menzel came to the West End to introduce Wicked to us. She played Elphaba in London for three months. Menzel’s rendition of ‘Defying Gravity’ has been streamed over 46 million times on Spotify, which is no surprise because it’s so incredible. Menzel is undoubtedly a Broadway legend and I for sure cannot wait for her to return the stage.
The West End’s Bubble Girls.
I had the pleasure of seeing Sophie Evans as Glinda the Good back in November 2019, alongside Alice Fearn. She found theatre fame after placing as runner-up in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Over the Rainbow’ TV competition back in 2010. She proceeded to play Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Her run in the alternative story of our favourite Oz characters was utterly spellbinding and hysterically funny to boot.
Emily Tierney played Glinda in the first national tour of the show and previously played in the West End ensemble. She was the first Glinda I saw. I was astounded by Tierney’s vocal talent, and her hilarious portrayal of the blonde witch made me fall in love with Glinda and Wicked for the first time. Tierney was originally to be considered for Elphaba due to her being slightly taller than usual for the Good Witch. Despite this, after seeing her audition, producers made special adjustments and Tierney was cast- ‘Thank Goodness”!
Helen Woolf is the latest in a long line of ladies to climb into the bubble for the show. She has previously played in the UK and Ireland National tour, and was an understudy on the West End. Joe and I were due to see the show back in March and would have had the opportunity to see Woolf in action but unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this was cancelled. Having seen Woolf perform on TV in shows such as Blue Peter, I am very much looking forward to seeing her Glinda once the lights of the West End have finally been switched back on.
There’s a Special Mention to Include…
Louise Dearman is the only actress in the world to have played both leading roles for Wicked! Dearman began her Wicked career with a run playing Glinda for just under two years. She returned to the cast a year later to play the green witch, Elphaba. Most fans may pick a favourite of Dearman’s portrayals. I love them both equally, though. In my opinion, Dearman is one of the most impressive voices from the West End, so we will most definitely jump at the chance to see her in a show in the future.
Who are our favourite West End Witches of all time?
Over the years, there have been some incredible women to tell the ‘Untold Story of the Witches of Oz’. Each of them have brought something fresh, new and exciting to the show. With this is mind, it is extremely difficult to pick just two actresses as favourites yet there are two ladies that are stand out for Ad Infinitum as the best West End Witches to date.
Alice Fearn and Sophie Evans were the perfect duo in every way. The pair raised the roof back in November 2019 when I had the privilege to watch them perform together. Alice Fearn performed perhaps the most powerful ‘Defying Gravity’ I have ever seen and her riffs were out of this world. Sophie Evans was delightfully fantastic as Glinda with her crystal clear soprano and perfect comedic timing. The Welsh actress’ English accent was brilliantly over the top and only made Glinda quirkier and more fabulous.