Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, Wicked is a musical that fills in some of the background to characters in L Frank Baum’s Tales of Oz, focusing on the much maligned Wicked Witch of the West and her friendship with Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.
Stephen Schwartz’s score, arguably his best so far, is an ebullient mix of grandiose anthems and lyrical ballads while Winnie Holzman’s book expertly blends fairytale whimsy with broad moral issues. Much of the appeal of the story is our recognition of so many memorable characters, and designer Eugene Lee ensures that the Oz we see on stage is nothing too unrecognisable, although with a whole Act I finale dedicated to Elphaba’s Defying Gravity, the flight sequence is woefully lacking.
Raising an ovation by simply walking on stage, there can be little doubt that Idina Menzel’s green-skinned Elphaba is one of the most anticipated performances of the year. Fortunately the praise is well deserved for Menzel has a powerhouse voice that soars above the orchestra and a personality that shines through the green make-up ready to charm West End audiences.
Helen Dallimore has the equally difficult job of showing the less than perfect side to Glinda the Good Witch but this effervescent actress treads that fine line with panache. Adam Garcia provides the love interest and performances by James Gillan and Katie Rowley-Jones add depth to the subplot. A fine ensemble company fizzes with Broadway pizzazz and there is veteran support from Nigel Planer as the Wizard and Miriam Margolyes, a galleon in full sail floating imperiously across the stage as the truly wicked Madam Morrible.
This is the review from the start of the production run in 2006. Cast and production details are likely to have changed since then. See below for updated cast and production changes.
Apollo Victoria, London, Opened September 27
- Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman, novel by Gregory Maguire
- Joe Mantello
- Marc Platt, Universal Pictures, Araca Group, Jon B Platt, David Stone
- Cast includes
- Idina Menzel, Helen Dallimore, Adam Garcia, Miriam Margolyes, Nigel Planer, Katie Rowley Jones, James Gillan, Martin Ball