Wicked at the Apollo Theatre
As the wonderful Wizard of Oz in the musical Wicked so aptly explains: “The truth is not a thing of fact or reason, the truth is a thing everyone agrees on”, and in view of a sold-out theatre on a scorching Monday night, filled with new visitors and scores of die-hard fans who keep returning, the truth is that the show is fast becoming as timeless as the original story upon which it draws its inspiration.
A prequel to L. Frank Baum’s classic book The Wizard of Oz, the narrative is based upon a 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, offering a surprising backstory for two of fiction’s most recognisable characters: the witches of Oz.
At the heart of the tale is an unlikely friendship between two young sorcery students who experience familiar growing pains during their time at university: insecurity, self-doubt, broken hearts and misplaced trust. Set within a dictatorial regime in a vivid, yet very different version of the Oz we have come to know, their journey is an epic, poignant adventure driven by an incredible soundtrack, particularly the soaring Defying Gravity, which is flawlessly performed by Louise Dearman as Elphaba, the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West.
Matching Dearman chord for chord is Gina Beck, who stars as Glinda, the Good Witch. The self-absorbed character provides a comical edge to the narrative’s sombre themes, ensuring an uplifting experience for the audience. However, if it were merely left to humour and vocal acrobatics to carry the show, Wicked, like many other musicals before it, could quickly grow stale. It’s the clever interweaving of established players, including the Wicked Witch of the East (Katie Rowley Jones) and the Wizard (Keith Bartlett), with fresh faces such as Fiyero (Ben Freeman), Madame Morrible (Harriet Thorpe) and the beleaguered Munchkin Boq (Sam Lupton), that reinvents Oz as a fascinating new place for exploration all over again. Therein lies the real allure of Wicked, turning the familiar on its head to create something new, yet relatable.
With breathtaking sets and extraordinary costumes added to a mesmerising cast, beautiful songs and endearing new characters, the magic that weaves together this spellbinding tale is exceedingly rare and unlikely to wane anytime soon. Wicked, it seems, is simply too good.
Wicked is at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.
Watch a trailer for Wicked here: