The prequel to well-known and much-loved classic ‘The Wizard of Oz’ has been a firm resident of London’s West End since September 2006, when it flew across the pond following incredible success on Broadway. Having played to packed audiences night after night at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon – and with a powerful score, dazzling set and magical script, it’s easy to see why.
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, ‘Wicked’ tells the untold story of the Witches of Oz and the wonderful Wizard himself – before Dorothy, her flying house and ruby red slippers. Making clever reference to old favourites, including the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow, audiences are taken back to the adolescent years of G(a)linda the Good Witch and Elphaba the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’, when they were once the best of friends whilst studying at Shiz University. Coupled with a complicated love triangle, the witches are eventually torn apart by a difference in personal motives. Where one witch craves power and popularity, the other simply wishes to make a difference in a deteriorating Oz – but ‘which witch is which’ will come as a refreshing shock to those who know the classic Ozian tale.
Kerry Ellis’ surprise return to the musical, following Willemijn Verkaik’s untimely departure earlier this year, has been at the centre of West End excitement since it was announced back in July. Ellis is the original British Elphaba and her previous experience in the role and obvious connection with her green counterpart is clearly reflected from the outset in her portrayal of the misunderstood character. Like Elphaba’s strengthening personality throughout the story, she performs the part with a delicacy that gradually cresecendos into some great vocal talent. By ‘No Good Deed’, her vocal range is at its finest, though the build-up to this moment leaves a lot to be desired. Her performance is effortless, but seems to lack passion.
However, it’s not all about Ellis. Flying in by bubble, Savannah Stevenson is a true diamond (or should one say emerald..) in the role of ‘good’ witch G(a)linda. Stevenson’s compatibility with her character is unrivalled by anyone else performing on stage, delivering witty one-liners and the show’s more comedic elements with comfortable expertise. It is clear from the offset that she loves to perform this role and she thrives as a performer because of it.
Wicked isn’t just a good musical, it’s a great one – like a fine elixir, it’s just getting better and better with age. The show is colourful, energetic and truly entertaining throughout. Whilst little ones will appreciate the magic of it all, adults will relate to the messages behind the story: namely, the importance of friendship and for standing up for what you believe in. Hop down the Yellow Brick Road (otherwise known as the Circle Line) and ‘discoverate’ this show for yourself – make your friends ‘hideoutiously’ green with jealously!
Find out more about Wicked and buy tickets for the show with Theatre Breaks.
Photographs under the copyright of ViaJess. Previous Elphaba, Willemijn Verkaik, is featured.