REVIEW - Wicked at Birmingham Hippodrome is 'glorious, high-octane, intelligent showstopper' - The Worcester Observer

REVIEW - Wicked at Birmingham Hippodrome is 'glorious, high-octane, intelligent showstopper'

Worcester Editorial 7th Mar, 2024   0

THE TOUR of Wicked flew into the Hippodrome last night, complete with some of the best effects ever to appear on a world stage alongside a powerhouse of a book and a songbook full of classics.

The musical came six years after Gregory Maguire wrote his acclaimed 1999 novel ‘Wicked – The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ with Winnie Holzman adapting the story for the stage: Holtzman stayed faithful to the Maguire multifaceted discrimination messages, which Stephen Schwartz endorsed with powerful lyrics and score.

Wicked recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Broadway premiere. I was lucky enough to be in New York for that premiere and got to see the late legend Joel Grey play the Wizard.

In a nutshell, the story concerns two witches from the land of Oz: one being Elphaba, whose skin is green, and the other Glinda, a beautiful blonde. The two meet at Shiz university where they are assigned to be room mates. Their instinctive dislike soon changes to an unusual friendship.

Picture by Matt Crockett. s

The show reveals how Elphaba became the Wicked Witch and Glinda, the Good Witch. It’s a clever retelling of the original ‘Wizard of Oz’ story, full of ingenious double meanings. No nice guy Wizard here though – or happy little peeps dancing the days away in the merry old Emerald city. ‘Wicked’ has the Wizard as a controlling, corrupt despot and Oz a land which is rotten to the core. Despite this being a big fairy tale musical, there is an unspoken dark underbelly concerning ethnic and disability intollerance.

There are also some incredibly funny lines and some very heart-rending moments.

The stunning set design from Eugene Lee with projections by Elaine J. McCarthy is a wall-to-wall kaleidoscopic tapestry topped by a huge flying dragon above the proscenium arch.

Joe Mantello directs with a passion that grabs the show by its soul and sprays it out to us in a delightful bitter-sweet, candy-coated cacophony.

Picture by Matt Crockett. s

Both Laura Pick (Elphaba) and Sarah O’Connor (Glinda) have huge voices and there is not a thin sheet of paper to slide between them on the acting brilliance of their performances. I’ve seen Wicked ‘four times over the years and this duo are my favourites (including the Broadway originals).

Carl Man is engagingly infectious as the dashing hero Fiyero and Donna Berlin brings a touch of ‘His Dark Materials’ Mrs Coulter to the role of Madame Morrible. Daniel Hope makes much of Boq – a Munchkin who is lovesick for Glinda – and Simeon Truby is Elmer Gantry-come-Boris Johnson in a wizard’s coat peddling snake oil.

This Wicked is a glorious, high octane, intelligent showstopper which indeed, like Elphaba, defies gravity.

Picture by Matt Crockett. s

If you’ve seen it before – go again – if you’re a newbie then you’re in for a wicked treat.

Wicked is on at the Hippodrome until April 7. Click here for times, tickets and more information.



Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

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