I saw the show on Wednesday and thought the new wizard was generally very good. He did seem to be a little out of breath at times, but a solid display I would say. I did prefer him to Keith and Des, the most recent wizards I have seen, however not as good as Clive Carter.
Rest of the cast were in fine form. Sam Edwards on for Fiyero, infinitely better than Ben Freeman. Willemijn and Savannah were a really great pair and it would be great to see their chemistry towards the end of their run.
An interesting point I feel also is customer perception of the theatres in Birmingham - particularly between the Hipp and the Alex. We get a lot of comments from customers at the Hippodrome who have been to the Alex and had bad experiences (customer service often comes up) but also other factors such as the decor of the theatre itself - the Alex is looking rather tired at the moment comparative to the Hippodrome, and also ticket prices. The Alex is part of ATG, who naturally charge "premier seating" prices (the whole concept really grinds my gears) and a restoration levy (seemingly not used for restoration) compared to the Hippodrome where top price is top price, simple as. Maybe this is the effect of large, national, private company with shareholders to please, versus charity trust. Hm.
As theatre staff, it sometimes is difficult to deal with problems immediately, despite how frustrating they can be to other customers. I work in a receiving-house theatre, and each company gives us instructions on how they want issues dealing with - for example at present we are not allowed to use our torches to get a customers attention except from extreme circumstances (constant flash photography during a performance, for example). This can often mean that whilst we are perfectly aware that somebody is taking photos or being noisy, unless they are sat within a few seats of an aisle there is not a lot that we can do besides collar them at the interval.
From the production's point of view, I guess customer complaints and the necessary compensation relating to one disruptive customer is less damaging than a dozen complaints due to Front of House staff being noisy going up and down stairs and flashing torches half way across rows!
I think with regards to picking names they can sell, in a way it isn't a massive issue...it all comes down how well the tour is selling. If it sells incredibly well in advance, there may not be a need to cast the biggest name they can as either of the lead ladies (if the producers' first choice also happens to be the biggest name, obviously I would never say not to go for them) however I don't see it as an issue having someone 'unknown' to the general public in any lead role. With strong advance sales, the tour will do just fine, even chuck in a 'name' as one of the smaller lead parts if necessary.