Wicked: The Great and Powerful of the West End

‘Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?’ These words from the opening number really make you ponder the answers and Wicked doesn’t fail to answer them.

Director: Joe Mantello

Producer: Marc Platt

Musical Director: James Draisey

Starring: Emma Hatton, Sophie Linder-Lee, Jeremy Taylor

Running: 2hrs 45mins

Within the current political climate with the general election looming over the country, Wicked is a topical show with themes of discrimination, being different and deceitful rulers.

It brings into account the notions of social obligation and personal courage for a new and somewhat flummoxed generation, at a time when trust in government leadership is questioned. And if that doesn’t entice someone, then I don’t know what will.

The production is an adaptation of the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, which is based on L. Frank Baum’s iconic children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz made even more famous by the 1939 film adaptation. A mouthful I know.

With the array of sources to base the script around, there is wonder that Wicked is beautifully written with subtle intertextual links to the other media, the ruby slippers come to mind.

Plus the brilliance and allure of the Emerald City is assured since visitors and citizens alike don green-tinted glasses.

Walking into the Apollo Theatre in London, your eyes are immediately drawn to the giant dragon on top of the curtains. The set is both, paradoxically, basic yet detailed with wheel cogs in the background symbolising The Clock of the Time Dragon, an element explained in more detail in the novel.

Having read the novel, and thoroughly enjoyed, there are elements of the set and the dialogue that only make sense to those with the common knowledge of the novel. Nevertheless, these elements are not greatly explored within the production but only briefly mentioned.

If anyone is a fan of The Wizard of Oz, then my advice, go see Wicked. It fills in some blank spaces of the original story and makes you see the Wicked Witch of the West in a different light.

There is no doubt why Wicked is one of the longest running shows on the West End. The ambience of the theatre is built and enhanced through the live orchestra. The tooting of horns and the beating of drums as they prepare, fills the audience and theatre with an excitement that cannot be explained.

As well, the Apollo Theatre is decorated green. Whether or not this was done purposely for the production doesn’t matter, it still enhances the greeniness of the production.

The theatre was filled with schools on excursions and it proves how the English culture values the arts and that couldn’t have pleased me more.

Emma Hatton, who played the misunderstood and politically agitated Elphaba, is a true performer.

Her ability to perform the belter Defying Gravity was a, using one of Glinda’s favourite words, ‘fabulocious’ pieces of music to ever be heard and had the audience miming along the powerful number.

Glinda, who was played by the understudy Sophie Linder-Lee, easily fitted into the shoes of Savannah Stevenson.

‘I didn’t get my way’ Glinda says… Well Sophie, now you have. Her performance as the spoilt, yet popular, Glinda, paid off and the two leads harmonised together.

However, during ensemble numbers, the two leads seemed to lack the ability to override the ensemble. Whether this was due to a microphone issue or that their voices weren’t powerful enough is one to wonder. But they both made up for this through their solos and duets.

Perhaps it’s my own bias, but I cannot help but compare these leading roles with the performances of the two original Broadway witches Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel but I was still hooked by their performances.

Jeremy Taylor played the role of Fiyero. Having read the book, the character of Fiyero, for me anyway, is supposed to be confident and arrogant, yet Jeremy seemed somewhat shy and lacked the confidence in his performance.

The two performers that really stuck out for me were Boq and Nessa. These two characters are brilliantly developed and for supporting roles they really add to the spectacle of the show.

Nessa, performed by Katie Rowley Jones, is a character that always seems to be missed out, even in the soundtrack, but she deserves the credit. Her song The Wicked Witch of the East is short but powerful and Katie had an exceptional voice, no surprise for the understudy for Elphaba.

Susan Hilferty, costumer designer, shows her true talents. Having designed more than 300 productions worldwide, her ability to create the wonderful world of Oz we have all grown to love is an outstanding achievement. The green, flamboyant outfits of the Ozians through to Elphaba’s simple, yet iconic, black dresses shows her range of talents.

Wicked is a powerful story about friendship and all criticisms aside, there is no surprise the show is so ‘Popular’.

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