Harrington: Persistence is secret to Lucie’s magic spell

Star of show audtioned eleven times before becoming Elphaba

Friday, 18th March

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Lucie Jones stars in Wicked [Matt Crockett]

WHEN you see the people falling over themselves each evening simply to take a photo of the outside the theatre, it’s easy to be a little snobby about the big shows that feel like they have been running for ever.

Certainly, among the anniversary treats and gal friend catch-ups, it did feel like many of those around me were in some form of trance when I revisited Wicked at the Apollo in Victoria for the Saturday matinée.

I’ll get the grump out of the way first: why have cinema tubs of popcorn become a fixture now in the stalls here as well? The fairground aroma and constant crackle and munch takes away from the experience, rather than adds to it.

This is theatre, darlings, not a theme park.

But it is a minor gripe when you let this astonishing show wash over you.

The spectacle of the stage is as dazzling as I remembered it from its opening weeks back in 2006. Younger viewers were left agog as the Emerald City folded one way and then the other; the flying monkeys are wonderfully menacing, the callbacks to the original Wizard of Oz still raise knowing smiles.

There is a new cast who apparently huddle up before each show and remind themselves how lucky they are to be employed in a job where you can be pulled to the forum’s rafters while waving a broomstick.

And being painted green.

Among the new team – and the reason I write this despatch – is Lucie Jones in spectacular form. You may have seen her Waitress but the way she has spoken in recent weeks suggests she had been desperate to play the misunderstood Elphaba – the Wicked Witch Of The West – all along.

“I’ve auditioned for Wicked 11 times since 2010, I think,” the former X Factor contestant told The Stage, although there will surely come a time when we won’t have to mention her turn on the talent show any more. We’ll talk about this.

“Persistence is key, my friend,” she added. “I don’t think I was ready when I auditioned before, but I think I’ve matured a lot over the last few years.”

By the curtain, we were all glad she had persisted. A magic performance, indeed.

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