Wicked is the multiple award-winning West-End show dubbed as ‘the untold story of the witches of Oz’ – currently playing at the grand Apollo Victoria theatre. Originally based on the 1995 novel penned by Gregory Maguire which itself was an unusual interpretation of the 1900 novel and 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Wicked the musical tells a story from the perspective of the two witches – Elphaba and Glinda – who eventually become the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of The North. Rather cleverly, the story is set both before and after the original Wizard of Oz timeline – taking place before and after Dorothy’s adventures in Oz. It is, in essence, that oh-so-popular medium haunting Hollywood at the moment – a prequel.
Originally debuting on Broadway in 2003, Wicked was subject to a luke-warm reception from the theatre-going critics and even suffered some scathing criticism from certain quarters. Despite this, it has proved to be a continued success throughout the last few years, with shows in Japan, Germany, Australia – hitting the West End in 2006. Since the initial outing in 2003, Wicked has won multiple awards including a Grammy and has broken box office records around the world – most notably of which was taking £100,000 within the first hour of tickets being on sale.
The original story of Wicked (Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West) is known for being a complicated commentary on the nature of good and evil with political, social and ethical undertones. Obviously adapting such a complex story for stage was quite an undertaking. Where the author of the novel told the story from the Wicked Witches’ perspective, the production team decided to focus instead on the friendship between the two witches, thus completely changing the plot for the theatre. The two main characters contrast so wonderfully in appearance and personality that the story is sure to make for good viewing. Glinda – the beautiful blonde who’s popular with everyone is the unlikely friend and unwitting enemy of Elphaba – the green-skinned, raven-haired distrusted Witch of the West.
Now in its 5th year, the West End production is quite different to the original theatre performance first debuted in San Francisco. Tweaked for the discerning British audience, the show saw changes to dialogue, choreography and more. There have also been a number of cast changes, seeing the lead roles changing hands for the more recent performances.
The plot begins with the death of the Wicked Witch of the West (Elphaba) and then travels back in time to tell the tale of the friendship between the two witches. Wicked treats us to brief appearances from the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion, but Dorothy is missing from the stage as the limelight shines on the witches – and rightly so.
The score of Wicked is truly tremendous and enthralling. Critics have widely commented on the thematic nature of the songs, but the power ballads are what stand out the most, with the two female leads taking centre stage and reminding the audience who the story is about.
The current West-End leads are played by Rachel Tucker (Elphaba) and Louise Dearman (Glinda) both thoroughly beautiful and talented actresses with strong history on the stage behind them and it shows. They put on a marvellous performance and do the original production justice.
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