Was the Wicked Witch of the West ever good? Was the Good Witch of the North always nice? All is explained in the transfer of the Broadway hit “Wicked”. Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, which borrows from L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the story is focused on Elphaba (the real name of the Wicked Witch) before she goes into cackling crazy mode.
Her problems is more than just being green. Her father despises her, her peers don’t accept her and she is an overachieving outsider. She attends college with her sister and meets the popular, yet less intelligent, Galinda (soon to be Glinda, the Good Witch of the North) who first mocks but then befriends the green girl.
The story is littered with references to moments one remembers so well in the classic 1939 film which I found enlightening. We learn of the origins of the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Ruby Slippers, and the Wicked Witch of the East. However the show tries to be an extravagaza complete with mechanical dragon looming over the proscenium arch, flying monkeys and bubbles aplenty for Galinda’s big entrance. In this area is only succeeds mildly.
I've previously seen the production on Broadway. Upon repeat viewing much of the humor does fall flat and there is nothing revelatory. Still the actors, mainly Kerry Ellis (Elphaba) and Helen Dalimore (Galinda), deliver their roles confidently. The score could be as clever as some of the twists and turns in the story and numbers such ‘Popular’, ‘Defying Gravity’ and ‘Dancing Through Life’ do satisfy. But many of the other songs are negligible.
This show has got to be competing with Disney on the marketing front. I counted no less than six Ozdust Boutiques selling the show souvenirs. Also despite breaking London theatre box-office records, the buzz seems to have cooled. The seats in the back rows of the stalls were sparsely populated and a sign outside the theatre advertised seats available despite the performance being a Saturday matinee during a bank holiday weekend in London. But a quick look upstairs at the Dress Circle revealed a much fuller house. This production does not offer discounted seats at London's tkts booth.
‘Wicked’ plays at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. More info at www.wickedmusical.co.uk. Performance times are Mon-Sat at 7:30pm and Wed & Sat at 2:30pm. Ticket prices: GBP15-60. Book tickets at www.ticketmaster.co.uk. Recording of the Original Broadway Cast available on iTurnes or on CD on Decca Broadway. Production photographs are used for illustration purposes.