WILLEMIJN VERKAIK IN CONCERT – Ambassadors Theatre, London.
I’m a sucker for a belter. And after hearing such sensational things about Willemijn Verkaik’s record-breaking turn as Elphaba in Wicked (and watching a couple of sneaky bootlegs on YouTube) I was intrigued to see if the Dutch Musical Theatre star, currently starring in a production of Disney’s Tarzan in Germany, could deliver the goods minus the green face paint and broomstick. But deliver she did, almost blowing the roof of The Ambassadors Theatre in her first London solo concert on Tuesday night.
This was a set list that knew how to please it’s sold-out audience, with a fantastically compiled mixture of showtunes and light pop, all delivered with style and prowess by the luminous Verkaik. The show began tentatively with a glamorous Verkaik singing the Barbra Streisand classic ‘Piece of Sky’ from Yentl. To open your solo show with a Streisand number is a risk, and it didn’t quite pay off. But it wasn’t long before the star found her feet and her voice, and in Act 2, when Ms Verkaik returned in a more casual jumpsuit, she had truly found her groove and the evening took off with barn-storming renditions of ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, ‘Life of the Party’ and culminating with a long-awaited Wicked medley. Combining Elphaba’s three solo numbers into one sequence exhibited the sheer power and force it takes to perform one of musical theatre’s most iconic roles, and it is no surprise that the Dutch actress is the only person to have played the role to great acclaim in three different languages all over the world.
As English is not her first language there was understandably a slight awkwardness with the between song patter. But with Verkaik’s naturally warm, yet commanding, presence this barely registers as an issue, and a cleverly placed Q&A in Act 2 allowed Verkaik to interact with her fans on a personal and touching level. Her vocals were faultless in a thrilling show that showed this Dutch stage star is not merely a mindless belter, but a powerful actress and an utterly stunning concert performer.
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By Rory Maxwell
Ambassador Theatre, London, WC2H 9ND.