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Review: Wicked

Posted on June 13, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Wicked

Where: Apollo Victoria Theatre, London 
When: 7.30pm Mondays–Saturdays, 2.30pm matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays
How long: Two hours 50 minutes with a 20 minute interval
How much: £15-£60 (concessions available)
Tickets from: 0844 826 8400 or www.ticketmaster.co.uk

Okay, I'll admit that musicals aren't really my thing. But when you get given a "dinner and theatre" Red Letter Day by a nice person, there's not much to choose from except musicals: Wicked seemed the best option by far. 

I'm glad I went though, since despite the "tourist trap" rep and obvious singing and dancing, it's quite a fun evening out.

Plot
WICKED is based on the best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire that re-imagined the stories and characters created by L. Frank Baum in ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’. The spellbinding stage musical adaptation is packed full of wonder and enchantment, transporting audiences to a fantasy world of witches and wizards to tell the incredible untold story of the Witches of Oz, and how one came to be called 'good' and the other 'wicked'…

Is it any good?
Now it's no good my even trying to pass judgement on the quality of the singing or the dancing, because it's all a bit like a bucket of sulphuric acid (or water) in the face to me. But no one fell over and everyone hit the right notes, so let's class that as a success.

Instead, let's move on to the story and the songs. This is essentially one of those stories that says "Everything you think you knew before is only half the story or propaganda. Here's the real story." In this case, it's a prequel to the movie version of The Wizard of Oz that explains that the wicked witches weren't really so wicked after all.

It's quite cleverly done. The songs are witty. While the story doesn't quite mesh with the original L Frank Baum book, it ties in with the movie version very well and explains how the scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion came to be the way they were.

It follows the Wicked Witch and Glinda the 'good fairy' from school through to meeting the Wizard of Oz and to the events of the movie. They become friends, fall in love with a handsome prince, show their true colours – green in the Witch's case.  

By the end of it, you'll be rooting for the lovely 'Wicked' Witch – the only person in Oz who can do real magic – and booing Dorothy and Glinda the 'good' fairy. You'll even be questioning the movie itself and things you might never have asked yourself before: How come the lion can talk? Is it acceptable to steal a dead woman's shoes? 

There's not much point my reviewing the cast's performances, since in between the performance I went to and this review, the cast has changed. But the cast I saw were very good, talented singers and performers. I think Harriet Thorpe (The Brittas Empire) is still in it, but Nigel Planer (The Young Ones) has gone on to pastures new, I believe.

The sets are ridiculously opulent, right down to the giant dragon who lives above the stage, dancing and breathing smoke, without ever featuring in the play itself. Even in row Z, which is where we were (and there were ZAs and more behind us), the sound quality was perfect.

Good fun, enjoyable, not especially deep, but a decent night out.

Rating: 3-4/5 (depending on how much you like musicals)

The audience
As you might expect, not your typical West End bunch. On the whole, a bit noisy and touristy, but not too bad. Managed to stay quiet and off their mobiles for a good 95% of the performance.

The theatre
Very roomy inside, but too few toilets and a tiny bar.

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