We spoke to Wicked UK’s Standby Elphaba, Laura Pick to see what life as a standby is really like…

Laura PickTTH: For people that don’t know the difference between an understudy/standby, can you explain?

Laura: An understudy normally has a role within the ensemble. But a standby, especially in this instance is there purely to cover one role and doesn’t have an ensemble track.

TTH: Can you remember your first show as Elphaba? Were you really nervous or buzzing with adrenaline?

Laura: I remember it well, as it was the night before I was supposed to make my debut. I was nervous, especially in the beginning, but as soon as I settled in to it I was just concentrating on what I was doing.

TTH: What do you do pre-show to warm up/get ready?

Laura: I like to get in a bit early and do a proper thorough warm up myself before getting green and heading for company warm up. I always like to have a nice warm herbal tea, and a good steam with my Dr Nelsons inhaler.

TTH: Is it harder to stay motivated when you’re not in the show every day? Personally I don’t think so, I try to keep busy, and I keep the show ticking over all the time in case I’m on unexpectedly. I just really love my job, so motivation isn’t really an issue.

TTH: What was the standby audition process like?

Laura: Very similar to most audition processes. Intense at time, but pretty standard. Song of your own choice for the first round and from that point on you get material from the show, the further you get the more material you are given to perform.

TTH: You’ve recently just completed your first 8 show week at Wicked, how did you find it?

Laura: Since I’m not used to doing it all the time I cleared my calendar and tried to get as much rest as possible in preparation (I’m so glad I did, because I needed it) but that allowed to me to enjoy every second in the evening. I loved getting to perform all week. I mean, who wouldn’t love being Elphaba every day?

TTH: Do you have a favourite moment/song from the show?

Oooh, I don’t think I do you know. Or there are too many to name…

TTH: Do you feel the pressure when you’re on with different people that you may not have previously had time to rehearse with? or do you like the challenge?

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Laura Pick with current Glinda Sophie Evans

Laura: I don’t feel the pressure no, it’s refreshing going on with new people, because it keeps you on your toes.

TTH: Do you have any advice for somebody wanting to enter the same industry as you?

Laura: Don’t give up, work hard, and if you really want it, keep at it. I almost threw the towel in a few times, but you have to persevere. If you would have told me this time last year you that I would be Standby Elphaba in Wicked I would have laughed.

You can catch Laura in Wicked by checking out the holiday dates here: https://www.wickedthemusical.co.uk/london/about/cast-creative

Reviewed by Sophie Ross
31st July 2017
Reviewer Rating: ★★★★

Last night, Dutch singer/actress Willemijn Verkaik took to the Cambridge Theatre stage for her highly anticipated one night only show. Normally the home of West End show Matilda, the room filled with avid theatre goers as well as dedicated fans who had travelled far and wide to see this leading lady in action. Most commonly known for her time playing the role of Elphaba (in three different languages, on the dutch/german tour and on both Broadway/West End), we were intrigued to see her stand as herself and perform both songs that she loves.

The evening started with a frozen mash-up sung by the “StageBox” children. Although the group were extremely talented and oozed with charisma, it was a rather strange way to open up the concert. Nevertheless, it was a fun way to get the energy up for the rest of the evening because if you don’t know “Let It Go” by now, where have you been hiding?

Photo Credit: Troy David Johnston

The setlist featured a mix of songs from Musical Theatre classics to country hits with even a George Michael medley thrown in there. It was great to see Willemijn sing songs that you wouldn’t expect her to sing and by having that variety, there was something that could appeal to everyone.

What we love best about attending one night only concerts, is seeing the performer as themselves and getting a feel of their personality. Willemijn’s quirkiness and somewhat awkward manor added with humour and a few sound mis-haps made you warm to her instantly. Her goofy/fun stage manor allowed the audience to laugh with her and feel engaged throughout. It’s no question that she is an incredible singer but it’s not until you are in an intimate setting like the Cambridge, where you can hear just how powerful her vocals are. She’s an absolute powerhouse of a performer and sang riff after riff so naturally. You can see why she’s known as one of the best Elphaba’s because with a vocal like that, it’s like being taken on a masterclass just by listening to her sing.

No concert would be a concert if it didn’t feature a few special guests and oh were there some fabulous ones. First up, Celinde Schoenmaker performing “I Dreamed a Dream” in which herself and Willemijn changed it up by singing a little in dutch. Their voices blended beautifully together and fun fact: Willemijn has auditioned for the Eponie in the past so this was her moment to absolutely give her all with that song. She was also joined by Tyrone Huntely, who’s vocals are so smooth/dreamy that you could listen to him sing all day long. And finally she was joined by her two Glindas, Savannah Stevenson and Suzie Mathers in which the trio sung a beautifully arranged Wicked medley, completely acapella. What was great about seeing the three of them perform together, was seeing the love that they genuinely have for each other. It’s so empowering to see three strong female’s supporting each other and sharing a true friendship.

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What surprised us the most about the evening was Willemijn’s songwriting skills. Singing a range of her own music, all of which sounded absolutely brilliant, the talent that this woman has is off the scale.

There’s no doubt that Willemijn is an incredible performer and we’re happy we were able to witness the magic of her one night only show. Finishing the evening with No Good Deed smoothly transitioning into Defying Gravity, it made for a perfect ending. We’d love to see her do more in the West End in the future.

Reviewed by Sophie Ross
Reviewer rating: ★★★★★

Recently finishing as Elphaba in as part of Wicked UK’s tenth anniversary cast, Rachel Tucker is back and better than ever. Kicking off this week at Live At Zédel with four shows of pre-tour warm-ups, we were lucky to nab a ticket to catch this leading lady on her sold out run. And trust me when we say, it was one not to be missed.

Performing in front of an ever so intimate crowd at the Crazy Coqs, Rachel brings her cabaret style show to life with a catalogue of different songs both old and new. Starting off with a minor lighting issue in which Tucker said “who needs lights anyway”, she began to mingle amongst audience members raising their spirt’s as she filled the room with a rendition of Bette Midler’s “Miss Otis Regrets”.

It’s great to see this leading lady take centre stage as herself, captivating an audience with her charm, humour and all round warmness. It’s rare to find someone that oozes all of those qualities as well as having the stamina to keep those killer vocals sounding on fine form. Rachel had the audience in the palm of her hand as she transported them on a journey through the variation of songs she had chosen to sing. From Dear Evan Hansen, to Waitress to Wicked, both uptempo and some more emotional, her show appeals to everyone. Every song came with a story that related to a moment in her life and she offered used the joke “when I was on Broadway” which was always received by the laughter of the crowed room.

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Twitter: FaneProductions
For the Wicked fans in the audience, her special guests for the evening were fellow cast members and friends Louise Dearman and Katie Rowley-Jones. The trio sang a medley from the Broadway show Waitress, followed by a Tucker and Dearman duet which was simply beautiful. The chemistry runs so naturally between them and you can tell that the friendship they share is pure and genuine.
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In rehearsals (From left-right Katie Rowley-Jones, Rachel Tucker, Louise Dearman, Kris Rawlinson)
What is so special about seeing Rachel up on stage is seeing how far she’s grown as a performer from the the young ambitious girl we loved on BBC’s “I’d Do Anything”. Her hard work and passion has certainly paid off and you can tell she’s living her dream. It’s a joy to watch her stripped back, be herself and be totally in her element of entertaining people.

With a mid show outfit change, a Roxy hart role play and a near audience marriage proposal, the show was filled with so much variety. It was a real live in the moment show where you can just sit and enjoy the music for what it is. 

Before the show ended, Tucker sang a reworked version of “No Good Deed” arranged by her MD Kris Rawlinson which quite honestly, was incredible. It’s great to see a well known musical track arranged for a more mainstream audience/sound (and it’s our favourite song from the hit show so we couldn’t be happier – excuse the pun). 

Finishing off by singing Ed Sheeran’s “Castle On The Hill”, the evening ended with the crowd up on their feet applauding Tucker on what had been a wonderful evening.

Her tour kicks off in Belfast on May 13th and finishes at 54 below in New York in September.
It’s a show that you’d be crazy to miss. Grab yourself a ticket whilst you can: (http://www.parallelproductions.co.uk/racheltucker)

You can check out our recent interview with Rachel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtyUKXcJeW4&t=617s