Wicked is a musical telling the untold story of the witches of Oz – Glinda the Good and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West. The show is based on the book ‘The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ by Gregory Maguire which provides an alternative story to the one told in the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’. The musical was developed by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman.
Wicked is currently celebrating its 9th year of Defying Gravity in the West End. It is the story of Elphaba Thropp and her journey begins when she accompanies her younger sister, Nessarose, to Shiz (the school where most of the first Act takes places). She is laughed at and stared at for her green-ness by other students but is looked upon with favour by Madam Morrible who spots her unique talent and powers.
She is put in the same room as Glinda (or Galinda), and, initially, the pair clash, singing ‘What Is This Feeling?’ but in the end come together and appreciate what they have learnt from each other, singing ‘For Good’.
Natalie Andreou (Rock of Ages, Mamma Mia, Footloose), standby for Elphaba, with Emma Hatton (We Will Rock You, Dreamboats and Petticoats, Cindrella) playing the role full time, played the green witch. Her portrayal of Elphaba is wonderful. Her performance of ‘Defying Gravity’ was breathtaking and sung with control and power. ‘No Good Deed’, another standout number in the show, is performed outstandingly by Andreou.
Savannah Stevenson (Aspects of Love, Follies, Gone With The Wind) played Glinda Upland (The Good). Glinda (Galinda in the beginning) starts out as a rather spoilt, shallow character who everybody loves and praises for being good. As the story goes on, the character evolves and becomes more caring, deep and questions things going on around her. Stevenson plays the role perfectly. Her performance of ‘Popular’ is wonderful.
Fieyro is played Oliver Saville (Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Les Miserables) who recently (the October cast change) took over the role from Jeremy Taylor. Intially, he is self-centred and shallow, falling for Glinda, but develops, thinking more, questioning things and falls in love with Elphaba. ‘Dancing through Life’ was performed excellently by Saville and he harmonising beautifully with Andreou in ‘As Long As You’re Mine’, a very tender moment in the show where Elphaba and Fieyro realise the strength of their feelings for each other.
Madame Morrible, in this performance, was played by Kerry Enright (Alice, Sister Act, Checkout Girl), the understudy, with Liza Sadovy (Oliver, Into The Woods, Annie Get Your Gun) playing the role full time. Morrible is a teacher at the university along with Doctor Dilamond, played by Sean Kearns (The Commitments, Billy Elliot, The 39 Steps), the only animal teacher left at the school as animals are being discouraged from speaking.
Tom McGowan’s (Chicago, Casa Valentina, La Bete) portrayal of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is excellent, singing ‘Wonderful’ with style, and shows a character who wanted to make people happy and got carried away in the process.
Nessarose, Elphaba’s disabled, younger, more favoured sister, is played by Katie Rowley Jones (Sister Act, Grease, Rocky Horror Show). Nessarose is a rather tragic character who falls in love with Boq, played by Daniel Hope (Alice, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan), a munchkin who is in love with Glinda, and takes measures to keep him by her side but ends up pushing him away and making him resent her.
Wicked is a wonderful show featuring amazing music, lively dancing and humour. It also makes a serious point about the misjudgement of character and stereotypes. All of the main characters are changed for the better by the end of the musical.