I was there in Manchester for the fan-fared premiere of this touring production of Wicked in 2013.
It’s been round the world since and in what feels like a wave of a wicked wand later, it is returned to the Palace Theatre for a limited five-week engagement, the finale of its record-breaking, critically acclaimed tour.
More than sixty million theatregoers worldwide can’t be wrong but this quirky re-imagining of the story around the Wizard of Oz – telling the back story of the witches and the Wizard of Oz himself – seemed strange fare for a musical when it first opened more than 15 years ago.
Safe to say it’s exceeded expectations by becoming the 6th longest running Broadway show and the 14th longest running West End show of all time.
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So what’s the appeal?
This production, with its cast of more than 30 and total company of more than 100, is no mean feat to get on the road – not least because of the ambitious set design.
It’s huge but strangely personal, there’s something for everyone in the audience as it this is a story layered for your interpretations.
While on the surface the Legally Blonde meets Harry Potter (with shades of Romeo and Juliet) storyline based in Oz resonates, look further and there are nods to racism and suppression of minorities, to Nazi Germany, not to mention the tipped cap to gender neutrality within the costume designs.
The costumes themselves are fascinating as Steampunk meets Hogwarts meets the Hunger Games (the flying monkeys) in a technical sets that sees characters flying in bubbles and – of course – on broomsticks.
This all sounds bonkers until you see it all put together on a stage – there so much to watch out for as well as the barnstorming numbers that Wicked is famous for including of course, Defying Gravity – the astonishing staging of which is a simply must-see theatre moment.
For this run the acclaimed cast of 31 features Amy Ross as Elphaba, Helen Woolf as Glinda, Aaron Sidwell (best known as ‘Steven Beale’ in EastEnders) as Fiyero, Steven Pinder (best known as ‘Max Farnham’ in Brookside) as The Wizard & Doctor Dillamond, Kim Ismay as Madame Morrible, Emily Shaw as Nessarose and Iddon Jones as Boq.
The starring twosome of Elphaba and Glinda steal the show, both Amy and Helen absolutely raising the roof with the beautiful score, which boasts some of the highest notes in the business.
Their chemistry as they develop from sorcery students to their destinies as Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West is absolutely on-song, from the haunting duets to their more comedy-moments, particularly the ‘makeover scene’ and the ‘dance scene’ where they initially make friends.
Wicked is simply wicked so go and see it before it vanishes on January 5 – this may be your last chance for a while and it’s selling fast.
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