Wicked



Music and lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Director: Joe Mantello

Details: Apollo Victoria Theatre, Wilton Road, SW1V 1LL
Tube: Victoria
Performances: Mon-Sat 7:30 pm, Matinees Wed and Sat 2:30 pm
Running time: 2h50

Read Jill Hilbrenner's Review >>
Read Stephanie Hall's Review >>

LondonNet theatre review by Jill Hilbrenner

WickedIn short: A mesmerizing, tug-at-your-heartstrings Wizard of Oz update that reminds us all that there are two sides to every story.

In full: You'll never think of L. Frank Baum's classic tale of good witch-bad witch in the same way after seeing this West End treat.

We've all been the odd man out at some point, and let's face it - it's not a good feeling. For Elphaba, a green-skinned but big-hearted young witch in training, feeling different has become a way of life. When she finds herself sharing a room with spoiled social butterfly Glinda at university, it seems she's in for quite the term.

With a penchant for interspersing made-up words in her conversations, Glinda isn't the brightest girl on the block, and she certainly loves being the centre of attention. But after working through a few misunderstandings, she and Elphaba surprise themselves by forging an unlikely friendship.

Until, of course, a dispute with the Wizard himself sends the pair to opposite ends of the spell-casting spectrum. But even when Elphaba seals her fate as the Wicked Witch of the West, you can't help but feel for Oz's new resident bad girl.

Aside from some juvenile song lyrics and melodramatic scenes about true love and real friendship, the stage version of Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel is a don't-miss. Devoted fans questioned whether Kerry Ellis, who replaced theatre powerhouse Idina Menzel as Elphaba, could measure up in the lead role, but Ellis has the presence and the voice to gain a following of her own.

As she belts out Defying Gravity, one of the show's most memorable numbers, you might even get chills. Some West End connoisseurs who have seen both Menzel and Ellis as the Wicked Witch have actually said they prefer the powerful lungs of the latter.

Helen Dallimore stars as the overly perky future Good Witch, and although her vocals are solid, they don't harmonise perfectly with Ellis. Adam Garcia, whose film credentials include Coyote Ugly and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, is appropriate eye candy to play Oz heartthrob Fiyero, and BAFTA-winning Harry Potter actress Miriam Margolyes helps stir up trouble as Elphaba's unscrupulous mentor, Madame Morrible.

With a cleverly-designed set, a family-friendly plot and the budding star power of Ellis, Wicked is worth its nearly three-hour show time. Tickets are fairly affordable, beginning at UKP15.00, so pick up a few and let one of the West End's fan favourites put you under its spell.

- Jill Hilbrenner

Other critics:

'With its Cirque du Soleil-like production values, it's nothing less than a glittering cartoon bubble of a show.' Mark Shenton, BBC London

'Friends of Dorothy may be diverted by this musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz. But, although it has been a hit in New York, it seems all too typical of the modern Broadway musical: efficient, knowing and highly professional but more like a piece of industrial product than something that genuinely touches the heart or mind.' Michael Billington, The Guardian

LondonNet theatre review by Stephanie Hall

WickedA twist on L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Wicked is the untold story of the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn't always so wicked. A misunderstood schoolgirl, outcast and mistreated for being green, the young Elphaba heads off to University, where she ends up rooming with the most popular girl in school. The girl is spoiled and beautiful and is called, not coincidentally, Glinda (the future Good Witch). The two strike up an unlikely friendship, until they are driven into two opposing sides of witchdom in Oz.

The West End's opening cast features in the lead role as Elphaba the phenomenal and charismatic Idina Menzel, the actress who opened the same role on Broadway and earned a Tony for her performance. Menzel has a brilliant comedic timing and a stage presence that's as grandiose as her voice. She has quite a following on Broadway, having played Maureen in the original cast of Rent and in the film version, and proves here why she's so acclaimed.

Also talented is Helen Dallimore, who plays the delightfully annoying and hilarious Glinda. The ridiculousness of the future Good Witch, with her pink bubble and tight-fingered wave, is glaringly apparent after watching her perkily glide around the halls of University with her nose in the air, making up words and convincing everyone of how good she is.

The two leads successfully carry the production on their shoulders with grace and good humor, and the best points in the show are when the two are playing alongside one another. The only weak point would be that, while each actress has a fantastic voice, in the duets they don't mix as well as they might.

Based on a novel by Gregory Maguire, the story is well-written and endlessly clever. Aided by an exciting, stimulating set and a good batch of original songs by Stephen Schwartz, Wicked doesn't disappoint for a night of musical theatre. Twenty-five quid will buy a decent seat in Apollo Victoria Theatre, so make it out to see Wicked before the cast changes, because this one will be hard to match.

- Stephanie Hall