Music and Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Book: Winnie Holzman
Director: Joe Mantello
Reviewer: Helen Jones
For those who have been living under a shell for the last fifteen years, Wicked, based on Gregory McGuire’s fantasy novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, is a prequel and retelling of The Wizard of Oz but from the viewpoint of Elphaba and Glinda rather than Dorothy. Starting after the demise of Elphaba and Dorothy has been returned to Kansas, the show then moves to flashback to tell of Elphaba’s birth and her father’s horror at her being green then onto her first day at Shiz University where she ends up rooming with the vainest but prettiest girl Galinda. Their loathing for each other eventually turns to friendship, but what happens when they see the Wonderful Wizard of Oz sends their lives in opposite directions.
The staging and direction still follow the original by Joe Mantello, and Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics are faithfully followed by Musical Director Dave Rose. But this doesn’t make this production, at the Palace Theatre for the Christmas season, any less spectacular. Eugene Lee’s sets are beautifully designed and constructed and Susan Hilferty’s costumes are the perfect accompaniment. The Ozian outfits are often bizarre and over the top while Elphaba’s school dress the epitome of simplicity. Glinda’s dresses are spectacular and sparkle as much as the actress playing the role.
Helen Woolf’s Glinda is excellent, from the vain and rather ditzy teenager she emerges as a maturer and nicer person with great aplomb. She has a great voice especially when duetting with Elphaba. Amy Ross as Elphaba is outstanding. An unassuming young woman starting university to look after her younger sister, she develops into a character you love and empathise with. She possesses one of the best singing voices this reviewer has heard in a long time and uses it to full effect in many songs including the best-known Defying Gravity.
The two leads are supported by an extremely capable cast – Pinder a the Wizard, Kim Ismay as Madame Morrible, Aaron Sidwell as Fiyero, Emily Shaw as Nessarosa and Iddon Jones as Boq all turn in fine performances. The ensemble is strong, and provide all the other more minor characters as well as general Ozians.
It always seems that the Judy Garland film The Wizard of Oz is shown on television over the Christmas period, this year make a change and see the alternate story in a show and production that should not be missed.
Runs until 5 January 2019 | Image: Matt Crockett