'Wicked' is often said to be a prequel to 'The Wizard of Oz' but in reality it is so much more. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, the story takes place before, during and after the events which we all know as the story of 'The Wizard of Oz’ and it’s the untold story of how two sorcery students influence each others lives and ultimately fulfil their destinies as Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.
'Wicked' has been a smash hit since it opened back on Broadway in 2003 and is currently the 6th longest running Broadway musical of all time. In London, 'Wicked' continues it’s open-ended run at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and is now the 14th longest running West End show of all time. Wicked is also the recipient of over 100 major international awards, including 3 Tony Awards and 2 Olivier Awards.
'Wicked' also previously toured to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in 2013, where it was one of the most successful productions in the venues history, seen by over 130,000 people. In simple terms, 'Wicked' is a world-wide phenomenon, loved and seen by millions.
It’s hard for touring productions to give us a taste of the ‘real’ West End or Broadway show. Often, shows tour with a sparse chorus and sets which have been cut in half or more. It’s understandable, if frustrating at times. However, with a cast of over 30, the 'Wicked' tour has cut no corners and spared no expense to make sure that this production is every bit as spectacular as its counterparts across the various seas.
The heart of this story is a friendship between two young women, who have a connection that runs far deeper than skin colour or class. Glinda, ‘The Good’, and Elphaba, the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’, recognise in each other a need for finding purpose in their lives. They both come from very different worlds and are the unlikeliest of friends. After the disastrous start we see in the song ‘Loathing’, they find that they are not all that different after all
In a role that was originated by Idina Menzel, Amy Ross plays Elphaba. Hard shoes to fill but Ross does an incredible job, marking the role with her own individual flair. In the same fashion, Helen Woolf plays a charming Glinda, with nuances that are all her own. The onstage chemistry between these two best friends is nothing short of magic.
The one disappointment with the show was the casting of Fiyero. Played by Aaron Sidwell (of 'EastEnders' fame) he just isn’t quite on par with the talent of the two leading ladies. He does redeem himself later in Act Two with some lovely acting scenes, but his vocals just aren’t quite strong enough for the demands of the role.
The chorus of 24 is simply spectacular, the choreography is sharp and the vocals varied and precisely executed. Some of the actors are reprising their roles from the 2013 tour and this comes through in their great familiarity and confidence with the characters.
If you do one thing this summer, get yourself to see 'Wicked'.
Review by Ranae von Meding - 'Wicked' runs until September 1st at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre.