Wicked … a modern classic

When I went: 2008, 17 February 2009 and 7 October 2015

Music Owl Hoot rating: 4/5

Location: Apollo Victoria Theatre, London

Performers: 2008: Ashleigh Gray (Elphaba), Dianne Pilkington (Glinda); 2009: Rachel Tucker (Elphaba), Louise Dearman (Glinda); 2015: Oliver Savile (Fiyero), Emma Hatton (Elphaba), Savannah Stevenson (Glinda), Katie Rowley Jones (Nessarose)

Creative team: Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics), Winnie Holzman (book), Joe Mantello (director), Michael McCabe (executive producer)

Approximate price: £30 (2008 and 2009), £68 (2015)

Special points: ‘Young’ feel and more ‘popular’, accessible music

Best bit: No Good Deed (2008), Popular (2009), Defying Gravity (2015)

If I could change one thing: Better opening song


The musical:

Wicked is a modern musical phenomenon and probably one of the best musicals for reaching audiences of all ages, the updated wittier take on the world of The Wizard of Oz. Often, the average age in a musical is fairly old, partially due to rising ticket prices, but Wicked is especially popular with children and young adults.

I really like the music in Wicked generally, but while the opening song (No One Mourns the Wicked) does have charm, it doesn’t stand up to openers like All That Jazz or Willkommen. However, the show soon hits its stride, with Popular, Wonderful, For Good, Dancing Through Life and especially the show’s biggest number, Defying Gravity, providing strong hits. The lyrics are perhaps even stronger than the music, even if they are fairly simple, and help to anchor the story as well as cementing the songs in the audiences’ minds.

The story itself has the advantage of building on the world created by The Wizard of Oz, utilising the point of view of Elphaba and Glinda, who provide a humorous and clever perspective on the more black-and-white older story. The show never gets really dark but does have plenty of moving moments, especially those highlighting the friendship between the two leads and Elphaba’s doomed romance.

Wicked is a great choice for a family treat or a date, and holds up well on repeat viewings.

These performances:

Of the performances I’ve seen, those by Ashleigh Gray (understudying Elphaba in 2008 when Kerry Ellis was away), Dianne Pilkington and Louise Dearman (playing Glinda in 2008 and 2009 respectively) were probably the strongest; Dianne Pilkington was especially memorable and had the finer points of the part completely nailed.

In the 2016 performance, Oliver Savile slightly muffed the words in Dancing Through Life but you really had to know the show well to notice it, and it was a packed house even on a weekday matinee. The show had a slight ‘pantomime’ feel to it on this performance but that is more an issue with the book than the performers, and it is probably this quality which draws in younger audiences.



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