One fine day in the Emerald City, a charming wizard arrived and all of the real magic in Oz was slowly replaced by flim-flam and misleading marketing ploys. It’s a situation that may somewhat remind readers of post-Thatcher British politics.
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In order to stave off such a blow to public freedoms and animal rights, young misfit Elphaba, Ashleigh Gray, must become a fugitive freedom fighter along with her cohort of flying monkeys.
Celebrated for telling the Wicked Witch of the West’s version of events, Wicked is the Emo younger sibling of the prim Wizard of Oz.
It’s gutsy, thought provoking and surprisingly ambivalent about the future of its lead characters, a touch that lends an almost downbeat feel to the end of the production.
It also calls into question whether Dorothy Gale is the cruel murderess the more cynical amongst us have always pegged her for.
For regular theatre-goers, Wicked is a vocal and visual treat, a subversive, almost unholy foray onto sacred theatrical ground.
For anyone looking for festive family fun, there is a lot to recommend Wicked. The youthful vigour of the cast infuses the auditorium with a sense of momentum, joy and exuberance, so much so that the production received a standing ovation as the curtain fell.
The journey that Ashleigh Gray’s Elphaba takes is full of twists and turns that poke fun at conventional “geeky girl meets cool guy at school” plots, Gray confidently portraying her character’s emotional lows and vocal highs with audience winning charm.
Emily Tierney’s Glinda is less condescending than other portrayals of the character, which helps the audience warm to her immediately, although playing the same role in a less manipulative capacity in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Wizard of Oz first probably allowed Tierney to build her character from a softer place than other actresses.
Samuel Edwards’ errant Fiyero is a suitable romeo for both women to convincingly be attracted to and develops well over the course of the evening.
Elphaba and her monkeys may ride on the coat tails of less cynical big sister Dorothy, who will forever be queen in the hearts of her friends, but Wicked is still good for an infusion of magic this Christmas.
Run ends January 10