Willemijn Verkaik in Concert was presented at the Ambassadors Theatre, London.
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Willemijn Verkaik’s debut West End concert brought a sold-out audience of doting theatregoers to the Ambassadors Theatre to share an evening of music and chat. There was a polite undercurrent of excited buzz – and the sense that this debut was something many fans had been waiting for.
Drawing from her catalogue ranging between popular mega-hits like Wicked, Frozen (Dutch and German recordings) and more esoteric choices (a Jason Robert Brown trunk song, the entr’acte of Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party), Verkaik showed stamina as a riff-tastic beltress in more songs than not, but didn’t falter in rendering her other side, as a charming, tender actor. Her approach to emceeing might have been minimalist, but nobody seemed to complain about the extra time given to her singing.
Verkaik invited special guests along in the form of Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and James Fox, spinning off some great duets and a group performance of ‘A Step Too Far’ from Aida. Ben Hewis from WhatsOnStage also joined the performer onstage, posing questions from Twitter and the audience for a Q&A in Act II, which allowed the singer to talk more about herself. It was a nice feature that augmented Verkaik’s anecdotal segues and gave us the chance to hear more about her life and career.
Opening the Act II, Verkaik powered through with a soulful ‘And I Will Follow’ (Jason Robert Brown). Other stand-out moments (in a concert without many dull ones!) included her delivery of ‘Let It Go’, with lyrics in all three of her languages. She also wowed the crowd with ‘Watch Me Soar’ by Scott Alan and earlier on with ‘The Winner Takes It All’, accompanied delicately by acoustic guitar – sung by Donna in Mamma Mia!, another role she is known for.
The evening was a great opportunity for any uninitiated to experience a slice of Verkaik’s career, as well as for the knowing to bask in its highlights. The small band of four led by MD Tom Deering played with dedication and life, filling the stage with sound to give the entire evening an atmosphere of scale that could have been absent in the cozy theatre.
Finally storming through a three-piece Wicked medley after an insistently-rapturous encore, Verkaik left her first London concert with a thoroughly-earned standing ovation and – no doubt – a bunch of new fans.