Wicked is often said to be a ‘prequel’ to the Wizard of Oz. But in reality it is so much more. Based on a novel by Gregory Maguire, the story takes place before, during and after the events which we all know as the story of the ‘Wizard of Oz’. It’s the ‘untold’ story of how two sorcery students influence each others lives and ultimately fulfil their destinies as Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.
Wicked has been a smash hit since it opened back in 2003 on Broadway and is currently the 6th longest running Broadway musical of all time. In London, Wicked continues it’s open ended run at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and is now the 14th longest running West End show of all time. Wicked is also the recipient of over 100 major international awards, including 3 Tony Awards and 2 Olivier Awards.
Wicked also previously toured to The Bord Gais in 2013, where it was one of the most successful productions in the venues history- seen by over 130,000 people. In simple terms, it’s a world-wide phenomenon, loved and seen by millions.
The 2018 Ireland/UK tour of Wicked opened last night at The Bord Gais Energy Theatre and Grand Canal Square was absolutely buzzing with fans. From celebrities to teddy-clutching young children. There was a ‘green’ carpet with photographers as we arrived, adding to the excitement and anticipation.
It’s hard for these touring productions to give us a taste of the ‘real’ West End or Broadway Show. I have often seen shows with sparse chorus and sets which have been cut in half or more. It’s understandable, if frustrating at times. However, with a cast of over 30, the Wicked tour has cut no corners and spared no expense to make sure that this production is every bit as spectacular as it’s counterparts across the sea.
The heart of this story is a friendship between two young women. They have a connection that runs far deeper than skin colour or class. Glinda (‘The Good’) and Elphaba (the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’) recognise in each other a need for finding purpose in their lives. They both come from very different worlds and are the unlikeliest of friends. After the disastrous start we see in the song ‘Loathing’, they find that they are not all that different after all.
Elphaba is played by Amy Ross. (The role that was originated by Idina Menzel.) Hard shoes to fill but Ms. Ross does an incredible job, marking the role with her own individual flair. In the same fashion, Helen Woolf plays a charming Glinda, with nuances that are all her own. The on stage chemistry between these two best friends is nothing short of magic.
My one disappointment with the show was the casting of Fiyero. Played by Aaron Sidwell (of EastEnders fame) he just isn’t quite on par with the talent of the two leading ladies. He does redeem himself later in Act 2 with some lovely acting scenes, but his vocals just aren’t quite strong enough for this role in my opinion.
The chorus of 24 is simply spectacular, the choreography is sharp and the vocals varied and precisely executed. Some of the actors are reprising their roles from the 2013 tour, and I think this comes through, as there is a great familiarity and confidence with these characters.
Act 1 culminates in one of the most breathtaking scenes in all of musical theatre in ‘Defying Gravity’. I won’t give it away, but let’s just say, it’s a moment that does defy gravity!
I’m a self confessed Wicked fangirl. I’ve seen it countless times. In many countries. I know every word of the script. I’ve seen Idina play Elphaba. So it is hard to impress me. And let me tell you. I’m impressed.
If you do one thing this summer. Get yourself to see Wicked.
Running until September 1st at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. Click here for tickets.