Wicked continues to defy gravity in London’s West End
The Tony Award-winning production of Wicked has just celebrated its 12th successful year at the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End, where it has been selling out to enthusiastic audiences night after night, defying all expectations and proving beyond doubt that the public has an insatiable thirst for spectacular musicals on a grand scale. I was lucky enough to be invited along by Encore Tickets to see the production of Wicked at the Apollo Theatre.
Entering the theatre it’s hard not to have your appetite whetted by the glowing, green-infused, thoroughly ‘Wicked’-themed foyer, and the large auditorium was full, with a mixed audience of all ages waiting in eager anticipation for the show to begin.
Written by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman and based on a novel by Gregory Maguire, this extraordinary musical is a prequel to the much-loved Wizard of Oz. It cleverly reimagines the witches, telling a story of a profound friendship which unfolds between them.
There are strong, feisty performances, particularly from the cast of female leads. Good Witch Glinda (Sophie Evans) is blonde, vain, knowing, ambitious and picture-perfect, whilst Wicked Witch of the West Elphaba (Alice Evans) is her binary opposite. Born green-skinned, Elphaba is no classic beauty, and whilst she started life with a good-hearted outlook, having been dealt a bad card at birth she struggles to find her place in the world. As we all know, being different has its problems…
The two witches meet at Sorcery School, where they are presided over by magic-dispensing headmistress Madame Morrible (Melanie La Barrie). After a rocky start, a bond forms between them, and their friendship begins its journey. Of course, no tale is complete without a love interest, which in this case comes in the shape of fellow student Fiyero (Davis Witts), who finds himself torn between the two young women.
The first act doesn’t fail to deliver. Smart, sharp and thrilling, it sets the scene perfectly with impressive sets, dazzling lighting and rollicking songs including ‘Popular’, ‘Because I Knew You’ and ‘Defying Gravity’.
The Land of Oz has become thoroughly corrupt; the great Wizard himself weak-willed and ineffectual. Elphaba has a strong moral code, which she follows unwaveringly, whereas the dizzy Glinda initially has other things on her mind. Eventually, though, the witches come together to fight the system, colliding with the authorities – and taking on the role of animal liberationists!
Act Two is utterly compelling; a rollercoaster drama; executed in magnificent detail, it has the audience in the palm of its hand and really pulls on the heartstrings. With references to Dorothy and her famous shoes and appearances from the Tin Man and Scarecrow, the story often takes us back to the old Yellow Brick Road. The Wizard of Oz was one of my childhood favourites, and there’s something rather magical about this cleverly written back-story. This is proper West End theatre; a night on the tiles and a show that will appeal to young and old, couples and families alike.
Wicked is playing at the Apollo Theatre, Victoria, Wilton Road SW1.
More London Musicals:
I’m a huge fan of London musicals. A few of my personal favourites include the RSC’s fearless and moving production of Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre, and the very glorious 42nd Street at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which makes for a dazzling night out. Kinky Boots, at the Adelphi, delivers an unexpectedly good story, which is both witty and touching!
And, I’m still really very keen to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie which is showing at The Apollo Theatre.
There’s more to come of course, and I am particularly looking forward to a couple of new openings over the next few months:
Caroline, Or Change is coming to London’s West End Playhouse Theatre in November for 12 weeks. I know I won’t want to miss out on what is sure to be one of this season’s biggest hits.
I’ve also got my eye on the hit Broadway musical Waitress, which opens at the Adelphi Theatre in February 2019. A first-ever for London’s West End, with an all-female-led creative team at the helm.
All of these shows are available to book at Encore tickets: