|AS IT DEFIES GRAVITY!
Wicked has never been one of my favourite musicals for a number of reasons. It’s the type of musical that its fashionable to see and be seen at – with much of its darker side and message flying as high as the witch’s broomstick over the audience’s head.
However this new touring production has certainly changed my mind and I am beginning to feel a sort of affinity with it.
Wicked is a seamless production that moves along with pace and momentum with brilliantly conceived links so you never lose your concentration or the story line.
Each scene unfurls onto simple but stunning sets and some of the most effectively designed and accessorized costumes appear as if by magic.
Wicked is a production where the technical team and crew need the highest praise for their efforts and although its an old cliché ‘the cast couldn’t hope to do it without them’ with this show it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Based on Gregory Maquires’s book: ‘Wicked The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ inspired by the characters and stories in L.Frank Baum’s ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, it is often regarded as a prequel to Baum’s book.
However it takes place before, simultaneously and after showing how The Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion got into the predicament they are in when Dorothy finds them.
Wicked tells the story of two young women who meet at Shiz University and graduate to the wider world of Oz, where life is beginning to turn sinister.
Glinda is a spoilt rich blonde brat, used to getting her own way whilst Elphaba, a green-skinned outcast, deep thinker and model student is mocked and ridiculed by everyone.
In true girly fashion these rivals soon become best mates with their only fall-out being about a man!
Nikki Bentley’s Elphaba is perfectly balanced. She excels in the powerful vocals, her characterization has depth and conviction and she masters both the pathos and drama. As the show progresses her portrayal is such that you begin to feel sorry for her and to take her side in her quests for justice.
As Glinda, Helen Woolf could just have walked out of the White House. She has that American millionaire’s daughter off to a tee down to the last detail. She swishes her hair and has sort of a I want it and I will have it attitude and just really loves herself down to her last manicured finger nail and designer shoes.
Steve Pindar is amazing, tackling two very demanding and different roles as Dr Dillamond and the Wizard whilst Kim Ismay’s Madam Morrible, laced with shades of Hermione Gingold, is regal and formidable. Pindar is one of those actors who can convincingly tackle any role – and I’ve seen him in many – yet why on earth do people still associate him with the ineffectual Max Farnham in Brookside?
As Madam Morrible, Kim Ismay gives a regal performance laced with shades of Dame Edith Evans, it was the high necked dress that brought that to mind, and a touch of Hermione Gingold. A truly wonderful piece of character acting down to her upright carriage and convincing facial expressions.
Aaron Sidwell’s Flyero proves he can do far more than being Steve Beale in EastEnders. I loved his handsome hero persona that was a cross between Mr D’Arcy and Made in Chelsea. A real piece of eye candy for the ladies, he successfully made the change from a self opinionated arrogant young man to a thoughtful, sympathetic and brave young man -thank goodness though he didn’t change his very tight trousers!
Wicked has a wonderfully talented cast from supporting and cameo roles through to its high energy ensemble, who change their personas as often as they do their costumes, singing and dancing their way through exceptionally energetic, complicated, but excellently choreographed numbers.
The musical is blessed with a live orchestra which Musical Director, David Rose keeps under firm but melodic control and must be a pit aspiration to those on stage as he flips between some difficult orchestrations without taking his eyes off the stage.
Even if you have seen Wicked before I do urge you to see it again – I guarantee you will enjoy it even more. This is one not to miss if we want to keep live theatre gracing our regional stages in the future.
Wicked is at Leeds Grand Theatre until 7 July.
Liz Coggins is a member of The Critics Circle.