Monday, 21 October 2019

[GIFTED] Wicked In The West End - Show's 13th Birthday Celebration

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Elphaba rose up into the auditorium, the audience on the edge of their seat, not a pin drop could be heard from them. The final note of the famous ‘Defying Gravity’ was executed with perfection and the audience roared. I wipe away the tears away from my eyes. I made it. I’m here. 


Earlier that day, I travelled on the train for the first time to London by myself. This was a huge deal for me ,who previously had major train anxiety, but I was confident after many trial runs that I could meet Pippa at the end. Pippa is one of my close friends and someone who I inspire to be like, so taking on this adventure together was truly exciting! We are both ambulatory wheelchair users, so navigating to and around London together was going to be challenging, but also something we were prepared for. Once we were reunited at the train station (which involved hugs, a nice portion of Leon’s food and a quick catch-up) we made plans to travel to the hotel for a rest.

Our hotel was about a 40 minute drive away and since the tube not an option (if you are a wheelchair user, you’ll be with me on this…) we opted for an accessible Uber. Uber gives their drivers bonuses to pick up disabled passengers on top of a flat rate for the time taken to go to an access job. This fantastic initiative means that more vehicles are available for wheelchair users, as before the drivers would be likely to choose smaller jobs over driving further to pick up a disabled passenger. 

We stayed at the Hilton Metrapole and I certainly would stay there again. The hotel itself is huge, yet we both received the most personal welcome and were shown to our room by a receptionist. The room was spacious enough for both of our power chairs and had my much needed bath (which took me a whole 2 minutes before I was in!) to help with my pain. They also had a cosy coffee bar which we met our friend Shona, a Starbucks and catered very well for our combined allergies at breakfast the next day. 

Now, the big event. We filmed a theatre themed GRWM for youtube whilst getting ready (which you can find here) and got so into it that we had a little bit of a mad rush to book a taxi in the end. After deciding to get a black cab (note: we managed to fit power chairs in one cab - result!) we arrived in the West End and both took a moment to take everything in.

To say I’m a Wicked fan is an understatement. This was the 4th time I'd seen Wicked, but the first time seeing Wicked in the West End. Even with a few minor bumps with accessibility regarding a lift breakage (which can't be helped!) the whole team managed to come up with a plan b; even reserving my own toilet for me in the ladies nearby as I couldn't get up to the disabled one on the other floor. 

The West End version was certainly the best; with a a larger production and atmosphere it felt even more magical. As a dancer, apart from singing along in my head to all the lyrics of every song, I really enjoy watching the staging and choreography. Wayne Client is in charge of musical staging and you can see why he is a seven time Tony nominee. Wicked uses a lot of flowing contemporary movements in their choreography as well as plenty of props from ribbons to scooters. Personally, I know how difficult it can be working with props but with the musical being so magical, it really enhances this feeling of being in the Emerald City. 

After the performance, there was a fabulous speech about the shows 13th birthday followed by a spectacular balloon drop. I'll be honest, we spent the next half an hour after the show taking pictures and playing with the balloons, which we realised upon getting home meant we missed celebrities like Craig Revel Horwood... But no regrets.

The night wasn't over and we wheeled our way to the afterparty at the Crown Plaza. And what a party. From Wicked themed cocktails, magic mirror selfies, Wicked themed food and fantastic backdrops, we sat there in awe at the guests and paparazzi around us sipping on our drinks. We did make an entrance though, as I picked some fairy lights to put around our power chairs which everyone loved (so much so someone thought they were props - let's not get into that...) so we looked the part. A night I certainly won't forget. 

Pippa and I are two women who planned their career to be on stage. Both struck down by chronic illness, we’ve now had to find different ways to not only enjoy theatre, but also now campaign for better facilities and inclusion in the industry. We may not be on the stage, but I had to take a moment to just realise how lucky I am to have the opportunities I have right now. Passion for dance & musical theatre never goes, even when being struck with a limiting condition, so moments like this are extremely special. And, I hope that I’ll find a way to share this in the community very soon.


Thank you again to Official London Theatre and Wicked for letting us celebrate the show's 13th birthday! And of course, Pippa for letting me come along with her! [GIFTED]

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