As a first time viewer of Wicked, and having heard and read of the hype, I couldn’t help but expect big things. I counted down the days until it was time to “defy gravity”. I wish I could have gotten tickets earlier in its run at the Playhouse, however, due to my coursework and show availability, I attended the penultimate show of its monthly run there. It certainly was one of the largest crowds I’ve ever seen in the theatre, and one of the usher’s confirmed that every evening it was jam-packed with excited audiences. It quickly became clear why this was the case.
Wicked kicked off with a mighty dragon’s roar and plunged straight into song and story. This continued for the show’s length of 2 and a half hours, and in that time, so much happened.
For me, what I really admired about Wicked was the two leads being female characters, who are both complex, imperfect and entirely lovable. I have finally seen what I’ve heard about across the years: that this is truly a musical to treasure. Helen Woolf as Glinda stole the show for me. I appreciated every side she successfully portrayed of Glinda, so much so, I liked her and then simultaneously loathed her. I felt Woolf’s best scene of the evening was ‘Popular’ as it really allowed her to display her versatile acting. Elphaba was portrayed by Amy Ross, whose acting was consistent and captivating across the entire musical. Her vocal highlight as Elphaba was ‘No Good Deed’. The amount of passion that came across in this song was powerful, far more powerful than the universally praised ‘Defying Gravity’.
Aside from the two leads, there was a large cast – primarily of dancers – so to see everything and everyone was rather difficult, my eyes were darting everywhere in amazement. However, what a surprise the audience received when two security workers walked onto and directed everyone off of the stage, due to a technical problem. The House lights came on and there was at least a 5 minute pause. The cast and the rest of the team were professionals, and as soon as the problem was solved, they continued the show. Sadly, I think the disruption lingered in confused minds beyond the restart, but it did eventually pass and the show went on, undoubtedly aided by the mesmerising costumes, lighting and stage designs. All of which, were truly amazing, such as Glinda’s multiple costume changes. Massive, massive applause for Susan Hilferty who is responsible for the variety of colours and pieces we were treated to.
For me, the most visually impressive scene, was ‘Emerald City’ as it captured all of the above spectacularly. Yet, my friend felt that the scene for ‘Defying Gravity’ stole the show. Yes, there were stand out scenes and songs, however, all of the scenes had something that complemented Wicked’s story. For instance, there were particular scenes with no music that were extremely powerful, such as the lion cub scene and the ‘Animals are seen, not heard’ scene. These evoked feelings of horror.
As for the songs, I was anticipating my favourite to be ‘Defying Gravity’ as it is the one that I think, is fair to say, is the hallmark of the musical. But my favourite song of the evening was ‘I’m Not That Girl’. I thought the parallel and symmetry between the two female leads in different scenes was achieved beautifully and rather smartly. Similarly, Elphaba and Glinda’s concluding song – ‘Changed for Good’ – was very touching.
Wicked the Musical really feels like I’ve seen a musical at the West End/Broadway. Although, I have to say, I did feel the second half leading to the finale was somewhat rushed. The story’s pace suddenly shifted gears, and as a first time viewer too, I was rather overwhelmed. But I’m unsure if the technical interruption had something to do with this, as it occurred just before the interval. The show certainly made me laugh, for instance, everyone gave an effortlessly chuckle when Glinda advised Elphaba to “let it go!”, as a direct nod to the original Elphaba, Idina Menzel and her famous Frozen character.
Ultimately, I think the best overall credit Wicked the Musical can receive is successfully adapting a story that alters audiences perceptions of the Wizard of Oz. It is a superb story. Audiences are enthralled with it due to the costumes, stage setting and the music. I thoroughly recommend anyone who reads this, to see the musical as it is a magical, uplifting and otherworldly experience.
Thanks for reading!
Wishing peace and positivity your way…