Since its wildly successful debut on Broadway ten years ago, Wicked has played all over the world in major cities including Tokyo, Melbourne and, of course, London. What started as a book has transformed into a cultural phenomenon, and it doesn’t look like the magic is about to stall anytime soon with a UK tour just launching this month in Manchester and London’s Apollo Victoria selling out until next year.
Wicked tells the story of how the ‘Wicked’ Witch of the West, Elphaba, came to be, with the ‘Good’ Witch Glinda demonstrating to the citizens of Oz that in fact things were not as they seemed. The musical takes its audience on a wild and wonderful journey to the early days of the two witches’ relationship with an outrageously talented cast which currently includes Louise Dearman as Elphaba and Gina Beck as Glinda and a mind-blowing set. This show has been in the West End for seven years and yet unlike so many other shows that are still present or have come and gone, it still feels remarkably fresh; it could still be in its first year.
Of course having frequent cast changes helps in maintaining a ‘newness’ but that happens in the vast majority of musicals and it doesn’t always work in generating an all-round great show. There has obviously been a lot of money put into Wicked and this can’t be overlooked, especially when you see the elaborate costumes worn by the cast. The set, too, is extraordinary and looks far from tired or half-hearted. The ensemble all look consistently enthused about being on stage and a general good-feeling and passion glows from every scene. I think what is quite unexpected to new audiences is how hilarious Wicked is. It’s striking how three dimensional the performances are and how much care is passed through the script. Gina Beck’s Glinda is dry, scatty and fabulous, and an absolute treat to watch, whilst Louise Dearman’s Elphaba works as her sensible and unsure counterpart. Their voices are out of this world, especially when Dearman sings ‘Defying Gravity’; it really does leave you breathless.
Wicked is just as good now as it was in September 2007 when it debuted to a very excited UK theatre audience. Everything is flawless, from the acting, to the singing and the glorious set. In a difficult year which saw new shows such as the disappointing Viva Forever close, it is comforting to know we can still rely on the old faithfuls.
Wicked is playing the Apollo Victoria and booking until next year. For more information and tickets, see the Shows in London website.