Wicked has been a highly regarded and well-received musical for 17 years now, and it is no surprise that it remains a popular performance across the world. It has been a mainstay in London’s West End for over a decade, showing at the Apollo Victoria throughout its run. This year, the production has undergone some major cast and creative changes and, fortunately for fans of the show, the new cast and crew have done a tremendous job in keeping this modern classic fresh and entertaining.
For those unfamiliar with Wicked, it is an adaptation of Gregory Maguire’s 1995 revisionist novel. It tells the story of Elphaba, the infamous Wicked Witch of the West from L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wizard of Oz. The difference here, however, is that Elphaba is more of a sympathetic character rather than an outright villain. She has a tortured history and plenty of character flaws, but the audience gains some insight as to what led her to turn out the way she did. This new look at Elphaba and other characters from the land of Oz makes for an intriguing story that translates exceptionally to the stage.
Laura Pick is the new Elphaba, and we couldn’t be happier with the casting here. Laura plays the role with perfect confidence and swagger all while belting out impressive tunes and providing plenty of comic relief. She wonderfully executed the wide range of emotions that befall Elphaba throughout the story, and the crowd hung on her every word in the dramatic scenes.
Nicholas McLean now plays the role of Boq, the love interest of Elphaba’s younger sister, Nessarose. With big titles like Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon on his back, McLean delights the audience with both his voice and his performance, making everyone feel sorry for his character as his beloved Glinda doesn’t love him in return.
Helen Woolf keeps taking the stage as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. This wasn’t Woolf’s first foray into the land of Oz on the stage, as she has previous credits playing the same role in Wicked UK & Ireland Tour and being the understudy Glinda and Nessarose at the Apollo Victoria. Here, Woolf takes on the Glinda role with brilliant grace and multiple layers of personality. Whether exuding warmth and an overall sense of “good” or providing generosity and humour, Woolf transforms Glinda into a Good Witch that we’ve never seen before.
Simeon Truby keeps on playing Doctor Dillamond, and he brings a heartfelt and sincere presence to the role of the doctor who cares so much for animals like himself. Animal abuse is a major theme throughout the performance, and without him, the audience would not be nearly as encapsulated and affected by the storyline. While he is not one of the leads, he is an important part of what brings this performance together so nicely.
As with any performance that takes place in a fantasy world with make-believe characters, costume and set design are exceedingly important. Wicked has some of the best costumes in the West End, and the set follows suit. The costumes capture the essence of the land of Oz but manage to make it slightly more adult. It is a fine combination of grotesque and realistic that provides a nice aesthetic balance as the events of the story unfold.
The scenery, designed by Eugene Lee, is otherworldly and creates a perfect ambience for a play such as Wicked. Much like the costumes, the set brings a fantasyland to life by adding elements of realism while maintaining the magic that makes Oz the land that it is. Credit must be given to Lee for choosing colours that complement each other perfectly and scenery that draws the entire audience in.
We can’t forget about the song and dance in a musical, and they are some of the most memorable parts of the performance. The catchy tunes and excellent choreography (compliments of James Lynn Abbott) make this truly one of the best performances you can see at London’s West End. The story flows perfectly into the songs and the songs fade back into the story with ease, keeping the crowd enchanted and the tale moving along as the actors and crew put on a spectacular performance.
Anybody who is a fan of either The Wizard of Oz, Wicked, or both will be doing themselves a favour by going to see this cast. Even those rare few who have never heard the story of Oz will be in for quite a ride if they decide to join. The story is intriguing and unique, providing us insight into the life of Elphaba and the other characters that make Oz such a magical and confusing place.
The dancing, singing and acting all come together beautifully, and audience members are likely to leave the performance with several new earworms that won’t leave their heads any time soon. All of this takes place inside a majestic atmosphere that will have you forgetting that you’re at a theatre and feeling like you are in the middle of the story, interacting with the characters and learning more about Oz than you ever thought you could.