The long running musical offering the untold story of the witches of Oz still has the power to enthrall audiences – Emma Clarendon offers five reasons why….
Last night (28th September 2021) was my third trip to the wonderful land of Oz and everything that it has to offer and I can report that perhaps the second time I saw it I felt it was beginning to lose some of its magic – but on this occasion the magic and energy has returned to this show in full force. Now this isn’t simply down to the fact the show is celebrating an impressive run in the West End but also by having an enforced break over the last year has helped to ensure that everyone can really throw everything at it to dazzle. Here’s a few reasons why it is still a wonderful show.
1. It has everything that you could possibly want in a musical: plenty of magic, humour, romance, adventure and friendship among other elements ensure that Wicked is a really fully rounded show with plenty of moments that stick out in the mind. This includes amazing attention to detail – particularly when elements of plot of The Wizard of oZ come into play. Winnie Holzman’s book is filled with imagination and creativity that is then easily translated into the way in which the production plays out visually – from Susan Hilferty’s gorgeously diverse and lavishly designed costumes, the way in which Eugene Lee brings the land of Oz to life.
2. The music is all so memorable: the skill of Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics means that the whole score for Wicked is so memorable and you are definitely able to leave the theatre singing not only ‘Defying Gravity’ but other gorgeous songs that have plenty of style about them. Songs such ‘What is this Feeling?’ and ‘Popular’ have a great playfulness about them – as well as capturing the way in which Elphaba and Glinda’s relationship changes from their first impressions of each other. But equally, it is a musical that has heartfelt numbers that feel really introspective and get to the heart of how the character feels – such as ‘I’m Not That Girl’ or ‘As Long as You’re Mine’. While ‘Defying Gravity’ is the most popular song – it is not the only song from the show that is worth paying attention to.
3. Two strong female characters at the centre of the story: while Elphaba and Glinda are two completely different characters with contrasting outlooks on life, both are brilliantly strong and charismatic personalities that makes their individual stories as well as their developing friendship so fascinating to watch. Both roles are require great personality as well as incredible vocals to ensure that the characters come to life effectively – these are quite the possibly two of the most difficult roles for actresses to take on – making it even more admirable that anyone can take the role eight times a week.
4. The story: while we are all familiar with The Wizard of Oz, what Gregory Maguire did with his novel on which Wicked is based is offer a different perspective in which makes the audience realise that there can be more than one side to the story or to a character considered ‘wicked’. I love the idea that while Elphaba is seen to be ‘different’ it doesn’t make her any less determined to do her part to make a difference in the world and stand up for what she believes in – even if it doesn’t quite work as she intended. Wicked really highlights how important it is to form your own opinions of the world as opposed to just going along with what everyone else says to simply be more ‘popular’, while also capturing just how much damage can be done by prejudice and discrimination. It is more than simply a retelling of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ – it deserves more respect than that.
5. It is a real spectacle: when you combine all the talents of those who have put their heart and soul into the show it makes for a dazzling and magical spectacle that that stays with you long after the curtain has come down.
This is just a few of the many reasons there are to catch this show and I’m really pleased that it has come back with such a force of energy and I’m sure that it will still be in London for a while yet! Happy 15th Anniversary Wicked!
By Emma Clarendon