Wicked (3 stars)

This article is from 2018

Wicked

credit: Matt Crockett

A Dorothy-free musical about the witches of Oz

A woman-centric musical retelling of The Wizard of Oz, Wicked focuses on the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba (Amy Ross). All her life she longs to be accepted, but is rejected because of her green skin until she forms an unlikely friendship with former bully and future Good Witch, Glinda (Helen Woolf).

Wicked sits high on the sound and vision scale. Ross and Woolf's vocal prowess is highly impressive, as they energetically sing their way through an enchanting set. The costumes are just as mesmerising, beautifully elaborate and reminiscent of a retro-futurist / Hunger Games hybrid. Unfortunately the show occasionally borders on sensory overload and the first act, in particular, suffers from slightly unclear transitions and very busy ensemble cast scenes. Iit is sometimes even difficult to tell if the atmosphere is one of joy or panic. Similarly, Glinda's bubbliness often veers on overacting, giving the character a very narrow range of emotions.

Wicked is at times very funny, especially thanks to Glinda's unexpectedly witty one-liners. But for a show that originally championed inclusion and diversity, its attitudes now feel a bit dated - in particular its depiction of a fragile female friendship and the need for male reassurance. The scene where Elphaba and Glinda find grounds for a genuine friendship, much like an old-fashioned rom-com, relies on the outcast getting a makeover in order to gain the attention and respect of her peers. The two women later ending their friendship over a love interest is similarly uncomfortable to watch.

The second act is however more gripping, and gives Elphaba more gravitas and emotional depth. This is where Amy Ross truly shines, easily carrying the scenes through high emotions, powerful solos and a bittersweet. While it is sometimes uneven, Wicked ultimately succeeds in easy distraction and entertaining escape.

Edinburgh Playhouse until 9 Jun, 7.30pm, £2

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information displayed here is accurate, always check with the venue before attending (especially during the Covid-19 pandemic).

Wicked

  • Directed by: Joe Mantello
  • Written by: Stephen Schwartz (music & lyrics), Winnie Holzman

Smash-hit musical that acts as a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, with L Frank Baum's characters brilliantly re-imagined as two young girls who grow up to fulfil their destinies as Glenda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Apollo Victoria Theatre, London SW1V

Sat 28 Nov

£27–£238 / 0844 871 3001

Mon 30 Nov

£27–£238 / 0844 871 3001

Tue 1 Dec

£27–£238 / 0844 871 3001

…and 292 more dates until 27 Nov 2021

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