Cambridge Theatre, London – until 31 July 2017
Guest reviewer: Soraya Scrivener
Originally from The Netherlands Willemijn Verkaik has just finished playing Elphaba in the West End. She has performed the role in 4 countries and 3 languages, Dutch, German and English and holds the record for the Longest running Elphaba playing the role over 2000 times. Verkaik was also Elsa in Disney’s Dutch and German Frozen. In this concert Verkaik is accompanied by an 8-piece live band, current and past Glinda’s – Suzie Mathers and Savannah Stevenson, Celinde Schoenmaker (Christine, Phantom of the Opera) and Tyrone Huntley (Dream Girls, Jesus Christ Superstar).
The Cambridge Theatre was filled with an audience excited with anticipation of a special night. It was clear from the start that Verkaik has a great fan base from the Netherlands and Germany.
With no introduction or programme the show opened with a number from Stagebox. I did wonder if I was in the correct venue when almost 50 children filled the small space. Whilst a clever auditorium filling tactic this was unexpected and did not work for me. I couldn’t fault their beautiful harmonies and they gave every possible spark of energy they had. But it just made me feel that they were trying to impress an audition panel for a part in Matilda, the very stage they were stood on.
It was a shame their medley from Frozen was not joined by Verkaik but she did follow it with Let It Go. This gave me goose bumps even when only partly in English. It was then I understood why her entrance was welcomed with rapturous applause. Wow, what a magnificent voice!
Throughout the evening Verkaik had a wonderful rapport with the audience. From Sondheim to Schwartz and from Dolly Parton to a foot tapping tribute to her idol George Michael she shone. Verkaik presented some of her own numbers which I particularly enjoyed. She explained the story behind the heartfelt, poignant lyrics such as ‘suitcase of hope, box of matches to lighten up.’ The 8 -piece band were a delight throughout. The arrangements and orchestrations led by Theo Jamieson, also on piano, were stunning.
Schoenmaker and Verkaik charmed us with I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables. Schoenmaker is currrently playing Christine in the Phantom of the Opera until September the 2nd. Mathers and Stevenson joined Verkaik for an a Capella medley from Wicked. The harmonies were so creative, however these numbers are so iconic and enjoyable in their original form that it was too spiced up for me personally. Huntley impressed in his duet with Verkaik. I would have liked to have heard Verkaik’s powerful projection soften a little more here. Huntley is soon to reprise his role of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. With the calibre of guests, it was a little disappointing that they only joined Verkaik for one number each.
After the interval the Stagebox kids entertained with another medley. The evening was finished off by Verkaik highlighting each member of the orchestra and topped by her exhilarating medley of Wicked.
I would highly recommend seeing Verkaik and any of her musical theatre guests whenever you get the chance. Verkaik truly showed her versatility with such a diverse set list. She is certainly a performer who aims to put a smile on people’s faces and does just that.