Review: Wicked - Musical casts spell despite lack of magical chemistry

Helen Woolf as Glinda and Aaron Sidwell as Fiyero in Wicked
Helen Woolf as Glinda and Aaron Sidwell as Fiyero in Wicked
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OVER-HYPED, over long and not far enough over the rainbow, Wicked has long presented me with a conundrum.

A screeching, one-size-fits all score married to an adolescent story-line dripping with sentimentality, it is a musical peopled by one-dimensional pantomime characters... yet audiences love it.

* * *

THE PLAYHOUSE, Greenside Place

No, they don’t love it, they adore it. Last night, at The Playhouse, most fell completely under its spell.

For those unfamiliar with Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman’s musical, Wicked is a prequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

It tells of the ‘unlikely but profound friendship’ between Glinda and Elphaba, and their journey to becoming Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

How they get there takes just under three hours to reveal - make sure you’re in your seat on time, there’s an 18-minute lock out at the start of the show.

As Glinda and Elphaba, Helen Woolf and Amy Ross lack chemistry, though each is immensely watchable in their own right and sport impressive vocals.

It isn’t until the arrival of Aaron Sidwell’s thoughtful Fiyero that connections are made.

Defying Gravity may provide a spectacular Act One finale, but it is As Long As You’re Mine, engagingly delivered by Ross and Sidwell that steals the show, albeit ruined by the corny delivery of the line that immediately follows.

Iddon Jones, as the love-struck Boq, also deserves mention, bringing warmth and humanity to a lesser role and boasting one of the best voices on stage.

Elsewhere, there is a sense of going through the motions from some of the company.

Played out against glistening greens and glittering golds, Eugene Lee’s striking, yet functional, clock-face set is stunningly lit by Kenneth Posner who brings the real magic to Oz.

Susan Hilferty’s steam punk costumes too, are gorgeous.

By the final curtain there’s a sense that every imaginable box has been ticked, after all, no one is ever really that bad, just misunderstood.

It’s PC heaven, but if the politics of the piece are laboured, it has to be acknowledged that Wicked carries a vital message addressing oppression, acceptance and the need to stand up and be counted.

It holds a mirror to the world we currently find ourselves living in and proves chillingly prescient.

A Marmite show then, try it, you may well be in the majority who love it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you if your not.

Run ends 9 June