Writer: Winnie Holzman (Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire)
Music and lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Director: Joe Mantello
Reviewer: Beverley Haigh
As a spin-off from The Wizard of Oz, undoubtedly one of the most famous musicals of all time, Wicked is fast becoming of equal standing, paralleling its predecessor in becoming an iconic show in its own right. As the eighth longest-running show currently playing in the West-End (soon to be celebrating 10 years) Wicked continues to delight, gaining new audiences and appealing to the masses, and it is easy to see why.
More than a prequel, the backstory of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba and her friendship with Glinda, the Good Witch of the North also takes place in tandem with the original Oz story, continuing the story after and drawing it to a new conclusion. By exploring the profound relationship between the two sorcery school students and their ultimate destinies, the show also explores subtle and hidden themes of jealousy, rivalry, peer pressure, racism and exclusion. It examines the idea of being created wicked and the blurring of distinctions, putting a whole new slant on a classic and well-known story.
From the outset the production is visually stunning, creating an Emerald City where green goggles should be mandatory for the audience too. The performers are perfectly cast. Carly Anderson is suitably sparkly and frothy, with questionable superficiality as Glinda, whereas Jacqueline Hughes as Elphaba has the much harder task of filling the shoes of Idina Menzel, who made the role famous in the original Broadway version, winning numerous awards for her portrayal. Hughes does a more than credible job, building slowly to give the most spectacular and incredibly powerful performance of Defying Gravity at the climax of Act 1. This is truly the highlight of the show, a spine-tingling moment, proving what good theatre is capable of.
Much is played for laughs but there is also some real sincerity within the piece. The pairing of the two accomplished leads provides much scope for comedy, in particular, during the hugely entertaining Popular, where Glinda teaches Elphaba to be just like her. The strong female leads also have some heartfelt and very moving duets, in particular, the beautiful For Good, which draws the show to a close, perfectly showcasing the talents and the strengths of their voices.
Visually spectacular, Wicked is full of appealing and memorable songs, with an energy that will captivate the non-musical fan and devotee alike. Although a daunting undertaking as a concept, the show successfully ties up all the loose ends, with plausible explanations for all the characters’ behaviour and sub-plots that arise.
Fully deserving of the standing ovation it received, this show is set to delight Bradford audiences for a full month. Wicked is pure magic and puts the Wonderful into Oz.
Runs until 21August 2016 | Image: Matt Crockett