REVIEW: Wicked, Apollo Victoria (2006)
Madame Morrible: I’m sure you’re very bright
Glinda: She’s phosphorescent
Note: This is my review of the first opening of Wicked in London in 2006. 14 years later, Wicked has become the phenomenon that people love to return to!
The much anticipated Broadway musical Wicked comes to London to play in the Apollo Victoria, a very large theatre that was once a cinema. There are precious few changes that have been made, none to the story line, just a few nods to British expressions altering some of the more obvious Americanisms.
Re-casting all except the part of the green witch Elphaba (Idina Menzel) with British or Australian actors means that the accents are different. Helen Dallimore, an Australian, plays Glinda as a stuck up, upper class, English public school girl who ends up sharing a room with the new green girl. Miriam Margolyes (Madame Morrible) has been put in a blonde wig and Danny La Rue (a British transvestite) make-up, so that she looks like she goes to the same beauty salon as The Muppets Miss Piggy. With this handicap, it is hard to see her comic acting. Nigel Planer seems rather too benign to be the evil Wizard but reveals a strong singing voice.
I found Wicked visually very exciting, I loved the magical lighting, the opulent staging, the inventive costumes, which were a blend of Victoriana and fantasy with clever and frivolous hats in every shade of green. The set for the Emerald City will have other set designers green with envy.
The music was pleasant and tuneful but not memorable on first hearing. Of course many musicals need their songs to be heard more than once to become great music. But my main criticism is that although well enough acted, the characters did not elicit my sympathy or engage my emotions and that has to be attributed to the script writer and lyricist.
Idina Menzel as Elphaba is of course very, very good. She has a lovely singing voice and can act. Adam Garcia is very cute as Fiyero and well cast as the vain socialite who finds another way. Helen Dallimore too is bubbly as Glinda, she is all blonde curls and blonde intellect rather than the pale version of Elphaba. When Glinda dresses up Elphaba and puts a pink rose in her hair I was reminded of a painting by Vladimir Tretchikoff famous for his Green Chinese Women art popular in the 1950s.
I should imagine that Wicked will be critic proof.. On opening night there was a standing ovation and it was obvious that the audience were having a wonderful time. In Act Two, Glinda’s opening scene “Thank Goodness” is a parody of Evita’s great balcony scene, a witty touch. The question I was left asking was how Elphaba’s green makeup stayed on and didn’t leave a mark on the people she came into contact with, but of course her compassion does. The musical’s themes of animal rights, sisterhood and colour (green) discrimination sit together awkwardly. There were many in the audience quickly picking up on the show’s allusions to The Wizard of Oz. I hadn’t realised what a following the Judy Garland film still has. I wonder what would have happened if the Dorothy part had gone to the producers’ first choice, Shirley Temple?
No One Mourns the Wicked
Dear Old Shiz
The Wizard and I
What Is This Feeling
Dancing Through Life
I’m Not That Girl
One Short Day
A Sentimental Man
No One Mourns the Wicked (Reprise)
The Wicked Witch of the East
I’m Not That Girl (Reprise)
As Long As You’re Mine
No Good Deed
March of the Witch Hunters
Book by Winnie Holzman, based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Joe Mantello
Kerry Ellis (taking over the role of Elphaba in January 2007)
Kate Rowley Jones
Choreographer and Musical Staging: Wayne Cilento
Scenic Designer: Eugene Lee
Musical Director: Stephen Oremus
Costume Design: Susan Hilferty
Projections: Elaine J McCarthy
Musical Supervisor: Gareth Valentine
Orchestrations: William David Brohn
Sound Designer: Tony Meola
Lighting Designer: Kenneth Posner
Running Time: Two hours and 50 minutes with one interval
Booking from 18th October 2020 to 27th November 2021
17 Wilton Road
London SW1V 1LG
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the Apollo Victoria on 24th September 2006