Music &Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Book: Winnie Holzman
Director: Joe Mantello
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
“Wicked!!!!” so the kids say. And yes it is, because Wicked is now at Milton Keynes Theatre and will be for 5 weeks! The long-anticipated show which has been at the Victoria Apollo in London since 2006, one of the most popular musicals ever, has now sent out its touring production.
Based on ‘The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ by Gregory Maguire which so very cleverly re-invented the stories of L Frank Baum’s much-loved characters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Wicked is the musical that tells the hitherto unknown tale of two Harry Potter-style students of sorcery (Elphaba and Glinda), their special – if contrary – friendship and their adventures in the wonderful land we know as Oz. These events and a significant meeting with the Wizard will lead the fateful pair to become in the end the famous Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good respectively.
Nikki Davis-Jones is indisputably the star of the piece as Elphaba. What acting, what a voice! She emits such power in both but also brings out a great empathy among her audience. She steals the scene at the end of the first half just as she is intended to do. Her rapport with Glinda, performed by Emily Tierney, is utterly believable and their duet ‘For Good’ at the show’s end is beautiful with superb harmonies. Tierney’s voice took a little while to settle but once it did there was no looking back, so to speak. The actress really does the comic aspects of the rôle well with great timing and use of gesture/facial expression and this contrasts with the more sensitive and less egoistic side of the character. Liam Doyle gives us a very sound Fiyero, loved by all the girls, and brings us the sensitive soul well. He has a good vocal range and can certainly hit some high notes! Both Marilyn Cutts (Madame Morrible) and Dale Rapley (The Wizard and Doctor Dillamond) give very solid and convincing performances in their respective rôles, although neither is a natural singer. Carina Gillespie’s portrayal of Nessarose, Elphaba’s disabled sister, is nicely understated and she ‘turns’ most convincingly in the last act. George Ure performing Boq is a wee lovable character indeed.
Hats off to the designer, Eugene Lee, for the incredible and detailed range of sets, which are magically enhanced by the very effective use of lighting. Likewise the costumes play a huge part in the production. They are stunning, especially in the Emerald City scenes. Not only is the story ingenious but the songs are so dramatic. Wicked has won over ninety awards, including a GRAMMY and Academy award for the writer of the lyrics and music, Stephen Schwartz and several of his songs have been recorded more than once, songs like the brilliant and best-known ‘Defying Gravity’ (later a Menzel dance mix)which ends the first half and ‘For Good’ recently recorded by LeAnn Rimes and Delta Goodrem. One can understand why. There are some fabulous tunes and a fantastic mix of the powerful ballad and the large sing-along numbers. The orchestra certainly does the show proud too. Totally unforgettable and totally unmissable!
Photo: Matt Crockett | Runs until 8 March 14