Seen by 53 million. Known by all. Winner of over 100 international awards. Running for well over a decade. There can only be one production that fits this impressive criteria. WICKED has flown back into Bristol for the start of its UK and Ireland tour, and after it being at the top of my “To Watch” list for so long I finally had the opportunity to see it.
If you are a fan of the Wizard of Oz then WICKED is a must. I was a hardcore fan from a young age proved by the attached (slightly embarrassing) video. As you can see my 5th Christmas was enlightened by the VHS copy of the Wizard of Oz video.
The story is clever and well paced, answering all the questions about the Wizard of Oz you didn’t know you had, as well as packing in plenty of references to the 1939 film starring Judy Garland. The prequel follows the friendships of Glinda, the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba and the Wicked Witch of the East, Nessarose, during their time at University as they learn how to be a witch. Slight Hogwarts vibes here. It’s a story that teaches you to look twice before judging, a message threaded into every scene and character. A refreshing motif in the times we live in.
There were flawless vocals from all members of the cast. Glinda fulfilled her role as the grating goody-two-shoes, and Elphaba as the independent teenager. As an audience member you have the pleasure watching their hard exteriors melt away to reveal characters you that you can’t help but fall in love with. Aaron Sidwell also proved himself as the gorgeous and effortlessly cool love interest that would make any witch go weak at the knees.
Second to the perfect singing was the visual element of the production. The production credits are lengthy and you can see why. The unique hunger games style costumes, layers of complex scenery and mechanical dragon (yes that’s right) are worth a visit alone. Bold statement but I’ll say it… WICKED is by the most advanced show production-wise I have ever seen.
This may turn out to be a slightly controversial opinion, but my plus one and I didn’t feel as if there was enough magic. There were occasional wow moments (‘Defying Gravity’ for one) but I felt more could have been done to make a greater impact. I wanted to see Elphaba flying on her broom and maybe the occasional magic spell to be performed in front of my eyes. Instead we were given a costume swap behind a wardrobe and Glinda who had to be awkwardly strapped into her “bubble” when she floated in and out.
The ensemble cannot be faulted. Simple as that. They are one of the most skilled ensembles I have come across. The choreography was effective and the standard of dancing was way above what I expected. Also major credit is needed to be given for dancing in such elaborate outfits and wigs.
Naturally the ‘Defying Gravity’ number stole the show. I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the most successful songs that has originated from any musical and the production did it justice. Making it the centrepiece of the show and ending the first half with a bang, it was the stand-out, goosebump-giving, spine-chilling, theatre-magic moment. And I loved it.
However the low lights of the show come in the form of other songs. I felt numbers such as ‘Wonderful’ and ‘A Sentimental Man’ performed by the Wizard, along with his awkward dance moves, lacked the energy and the polished feel the rest of the numbers had. Many just weren’t as memorable as I would have liked.
It is an incredibly high caliber show, but I must say I feel the hype has outgrown it slightly. One of the most talked about productions in the industry and I felt it lacked some of the magic it has promised over the years.
WICKED runs until 3rd of March at the Bristol Hippodrome.