- Adeline Amar
- 17 May 2018
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