To be honest, I could write this review in a few words -AMAZING, SPECTACULAR, MAGICAL - but that would be a very short review, and there is so much more to tell.
Wicked as a story pretty much starts at the public celebrations for the death of the "Wicked Witch of the West". At this point Glinda the Good Witch arrives and, in answer to a question, starts to recap how she and the Witch of the West first met one another.
The story of Wicked is pretty much that of the two witches and there are some real surprises in there for you. If you are familiar with the original Wizard of Oz story then there are enough elements from there to put you on familiar ground, but they are so cleverly re-worked in this production that they bring a completely new look and feel to a familiar setting. If you are one of the many who have seen Wicked at any of its multi award-winning performances over the years then you know exactly what I mean. If, however, you have still to see the show then this is one of those shows where it is unfair as a reviewer to tell you much of the story. Part of the "magic" of this show for the first time is just watching how cleverly this story unfolds and how well written the story is and this is partly what makes an audience care about the central characters.
Without giving anything away here, the one big change this show brings is that the "Wicked Witch" has a name. She is called Elphaba, and the name itself is a tribute to the phonetic sounding of the Oz stories' original writer/creator, L Frank Baum, ElPha(F)Ba. We also find out that Glinda shortened her name slightly from Galinda. Neither witch is what you will expect if you have only read the books (or seen the famous Judy Garland film). Be in for a big surprise.
The most obvious thing from the beginning of this show is the fabulous costumes, lighting and sets. This is a huge budget production and it shows in everything that you see on stage. There is something almost cinematic about this show, as the whole production runs more like a film than a stage show at times. Visually, there is another world on stage for this show.
All the award winning costume, lighting and sets mean little of course if the stage performers are not up to the task. That is never a problem with Wicked. Anyone who was on stage tonight put in a great performance, but of course special mention has to be made of the two lead witches. Ashleigh Gray (Elphaba) and Emily Tierney (Glinda) were simply "magic" in their respective roles tonight. For Ashleigh Grey, performing in front of her home town audience tonight must have been something very special too. Both put in great acting performances that made you believe completely in their characters and both were outstanding vocally. There is also that hard to define bond that has to work between the two lead roles in this show for everything to work perfectly on stage between them, and that was there tonight.
Special mention of course also has to go to outstanding performances tonight by Samuel Edwards (Fiyero), Marilyn Cutts (Madame Morrible), Steven Pinder (The Wizard), Carina Gillespie (Nessarose - Elphaba's sister), and Richard Vincent (Boq).
A musical would of course be nothing without the music and songs. Music and Lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz and there are some great musical theatre songs in this show. Somehow, the music and lyrics of the song just fit perfectly the storyline of the show; they never seem to be out of place or slow the story down.
Sometimes when a show has won so many awards and played to so many people, you wonder if the praise is really deserving at times. Well this is one of those times when it is. Wicked is an amazing piece of musical theatre, and it will be up there shining like a bright emerald green star for many years to come.
Everything just works perfectly in this show and I would happily have come right back into the theatre and watched it all again.
Review by Tom King