Review: Wicked – UK & Ireland tour

Ahh Wicked. I don’t go to the theatre much, but “Wicked” was the first thing I went to see at the West End (school trips discounted). I loved it then, I loved it year after when I went again, and I loved it tonight as it came to Milton Keynes.

wicked posterHaving seen a touring version of “Joseph” last year, I worried that it would be a bit scaled down and… well, a bit more provincial. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, and tonight was every bit as good as the West End performances I’ve seen.

I’m no theatre critic, so don’t expect anything insightful about the acting – aside from the fact that I thought they all did a great job. Some roles are just more engaging than others, and of course a musical lives and dies by the strength of its songs. Fortunately this wasn’t an issue, and goes a long way to explain why the show is as strong a box-office draw as ever, even in its tenth year.

It tells the story of the making of the Wicked Witch of the West from the iconic film “The Wizard of Oz”. Of course that was based on a book (as was “Wicked”), but it follows all the same visual cues as the film. Elphaba, a strong-minded girl born with green skin, has to deal with being an object of fear, hate and mockery, while accompanying her disabled sister to university.

wicked elphaba glindaThere she meets her polar opposite – bubbly, blonde and spoilt Galinda – and discovers she had a rare talent for magic. But her quest for acceptance from the world takes her on a whirlwind of a trip, where people aren’t always what they seem. We follow her and Galinda’s exploits until just after Elphaba gets a bucket of water in the face, all the time challenging our perception of the most legendary of Hollywood baddies.

The songs are great too, if varying in quality. Some washed over me a little bit, like “One short day”, “As long as you’re mine” and “Wonderful”, but the vast majority stirred something in me. Special mention though to Galinda-centric “Popular”, Fiyero’s “Dancing through life” and Elphaba’s showstopping “Defying Gravity”.

defying gravityJust go and see it, that’s all I’d recommend. I hadn’t even seen “The Wizard of Oz” before I first saw “Wicked”, though it’s hard to escape the story of it, even without the film. The two main roles – Elphaba & Galinda – are both brilliantly written, complementing each other. 2 1/2 hours of Elphaba being a victim or Galinda being a ditzy blonde wouldn’t have been worth seeing, but their relationship outshines any of the love matches or supporting characters. I would say I thought Liam Doyle as Fiyero was the best of the three I’ve seen before though.

That’s all, just go and see it, alright?

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