REVIEW: Wicked, Apollo Victoria (2006)

Madame Morrible: I’m sure you’re very bright
Glinda: She’s phosphorescent

Company in Wicked - Photo: Tristram Kenton
Company in Wicked - Photo: Tristram Kenton

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?

Musical Numbers

Act One

No One Mourns the Wicked

Dear Old Shiz

The Wizard and I

What Is This Feeling

Something Bad

Dancing Through Life

Popular

I’m Not That Girl

One Short Day

A Sentimental Man

Defying Gravity

Act Two

No One Mourns the Wicked (Reprise)

Thank Goodness

The Wicked Witch of the East

Wonderful

I’m Not That Girl (Reprise)

As Long As You’re Mine

No Good Deed

March of the Witch Hunters

For Good

Finale

Production Notes

Wicked
Book by Winnie Holzman, based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Directed by Joe Mantello

Cast

Starring:

Idina Menzel

Helen Dallimore

Nigel Planer

Adam Garcia

Miriam Margolyes

 

With: 

Kerry Ellis (taking over the role of Elphaba in January 2007)

Martin Ball

James Gillan

Kate Rowley Jones

Simon Adkins

Paul Ayres

Elinor Collett

Joseph Connor

Nadine Cox

Sarah Earnshaw

Jye Frasca

Maria Graciano

Nicky Griffiths

Simon Hardwick

Pippa Higgs

Melissa Hunte

Kady-Jo Jackson

Cassidy Janson

Caroline Keiff

Joshua Lacey

Andy Mace

Adam Murray

Dominic Shaw

Philippa Stefani

Craig Stein

Oliver Tompsett

Tim Walton

Kerry Washington

Creatives

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

 

Information

Running Time: Two hours and 50 minutes with one interval

Booking from 18th October 2020 to 27th November 2021

 

Theatre:

Apollo Victoria

17 Wilton Road

Victoria

London SW1V 1LG

Tube: Victoria

 

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the Apollo Victoria on 24th September 2006