Rachel Tucker, a well-known West-End performer who came from Belfast in Ireland to study at the Royal Academy of Music and eventually got high praise making it to the semi-finals of BBC 1’s Program “I’d Do Anything” as one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s fine Nancys for Oliver, and being the longest running green girl in “Wicked” in London. Just this time last year she was packing bags, along with her family for a new journey in Sting’s new musical “The Last Ship”; it previewed in Chicago at the Bank of America Theater and then onto the Neil Simon Theater in New York City.
Rewind a bit to how I came to know about this fine woman.
When I came to London in Oct 2013 for the very first time, I had my first taste of the West End and watched the brilliant Louise Dearman play the green girl in “Wicked”. Coming back home to Vancouver, of course I had to listen and watch clips of things she’s done and I eventually came across Rachel Tucker who performed alongside Louise in “Wicked”. Now the show’s iconic song “Defying Gravity” is one of my favourite contemporary musical showtunes. I’ve heard different versions of it and seen many clips of different Elphabas on YouTube sing it amazingly, but for some reason Rachel’s take on the role & her version of the song stuck out the most. I don’t know what it is but I say she’s my favourite Elphie, even though I never saw her perform in “Wicked”… every time someone tells me they saw Tucker in the show, I automatically am well jealous ha! It was through Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman that made me realize what I have been missing and what I am truly quite passionate about: musical theatre. Both women have inspired me dearly and play a huge part in my decision to move to London.
Now fast forward to Sat 4th Oct 2014. My FIRST trip to New York City. As I was making plans to fly back across the pond to London, I decided to take advantage of my travel perks at work to make my last holiday worth-while by taking a 5 day trip to the Big Apple. Time had been played real well last year, as I met extended family over the Summer who came over from Brooklyn for a wedding in Vancouver. I was able to stay with them in Brooklyn during my stay. What could be better?! Perks from work to fly to NYC and free accommodation in Brooklyn? I was able to see a few things I’ve been wanting to see for the longest time, visiting familiar sights I’d seen on TV and in films, and catching a few shows on Broadway! It’s been on my bucket list to visit New York and it was a real dream come true to watch some theatre on Broadway. Even better, I went with my best friend, and met up with a good friend from London who was also visiting! Now, I must point out, my friend Rebecca Felgate, who I just got acquainted with last Feb 2014 & met in London during my 2nd visit in May 2014, was someone who I found on YouTube interviewing Rachel Tucker at the St. James’ theatre in London. What a world social media is when certain people bring you together and you create real, good friendships. It was so wonderful to meet up with Becca in New York and catch Rachel Tucker in “The Last Ship” together.
This was my first time EVER to see Rachel perform, and I was quite excited to see someone who’s been such an inspiration. After seeing her perform as Meg in “The Last Ship”, it was a real treat to finally meet Rachel after a year of knowing about her & supporting her from afar with a few tweets now & then. It warms my heart to know that she knows she’s made a difference in my life. A couple days later, I just had to see “The Last Ship” for the second time before heading home. This happened exactly two weeks before I made my big move to London.
6 months later, and here I was walking into the St. James’ theatre in London to see Rachel Tucker perform solo (twice I might add) on Sunday 19th April 2015. “The Last Ship” sadly came to an end at the end of January and Rachel and her family had to come back. To celebrate her return, she organized and planned an incredible two-gig day at the St. James’ theatre which I just had to book as soon as it was announced! I’d never seen Rachel perform solo, in her own zone, and from what I hear, her cabarets are sensational. I was completely floored! Only seeing her in “The Last Ship”, sitting in the second row for these solo shows, I definitely was brought back to that moment when I first saw her walk out on stage on Broadway. To be so close in this intimate venue and for her to put on such concerts was just a wonderful experience. I cannot even begin to explain or process how incredible of a performer she really is. Those vocals and the way she interacts with the audience let’s people get to know who she really is and her personality shines superbly. It was a real pleasure to see this woman unveil stories from home in her past, belting out a cheesy 80s tune, singing oldies of Frank Sinatra, Doris Day & Barbra Streisand, some contemporary songs, sharing some specials from “The Last Ship”, duet-ing with a few special guests (Giles Terera – matinee, George Maguire – evening) including her sister, and ending on a high with an incredible “Wicked” medley, with an encore of “New York, New York.”
[ photo by Rukaya Cesar ]
The Broadway-theme was quite apparent. Her set list included an opening medley of “On Broadway” (George Benson), “New York State of Mind” (Billy Joel), and “Empire State of Mind” (Alicia Keys). A few tunes that stood out to me the most and that stirred my emotions was “Anyway” (Kerrigan-Lowdermilk), a medley of “Astonishing” (from “Little Women”) and “Home” (from “The Wiz”), “August Winds” (from “The Last Ship”), “Gone Too Soon” (dedicating to her dear mum who passed away 2 years ago), “Anything Worth Holding Onto” (Scott Alan), and the “Wicked” medley which started with “Defying Gravity” and transitioning with a “Fiyero riff” into “No Good Deed”!
“Anyway” was absolutely touching, you can tell in Rachel’s eyes because by the end of it, her eyes were in tears and I was sobbing 3/4 of the way. “Astonishing” and “Home” have been one of my favourite theatre songs and both hold such a special meaning to me. “August Winds” brought me back to that exact moment she walked on stage in “The Last Ship” when I first saw her on Broadway, and it was so beautiful to re-live that. “Anything Worth Holding Onto” is another favourite Scott Alan song of mine and plays such a role in my life as well. NEVER in my life I thought I’d be able to see Rachel Tucker perform something from “Wicked” as she left the production a few years ago… to be able to hear her belt out “Defying Gravity” and riff into “No Good Deed”… I was just.. my jaw hit the floor! It just mind-boggles me how Rachel can sing the way she does. And that was JUST the matinee, and she barely had enough recovery time between the matinee and the evening show! It was a fabulous day of great music put on by a wonderful performer, such a beautiful person inside & out.