This week I had the absolute pleasure of being invited to the Press Night for ‘Wicked‘ at the Birmingham Hippodrome. This is the second time that the family favourite has visited my local city, the first time being in 2014 which was a well-celebrated run.
I had never seen Wicked before. I had seen the odd clip on television here and there and I’m actually ashamed to say that I didn’t really know much about the storyline prior to the invite. I had, however, heard wonderful things about it and had no hesitation when deciding whether to go.
For those of you, who may be like me and are unsure of the storyline, let me give you a bit of background information.
Wicked is based on the novel ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ by American author Gregory Maguire. The book was inspired by the characters and storyline in the famous ‘Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ written by L. Frank Baum. Of course, I am sure you are all familiar with the film The Wizard of Oz? Well, Wicked is often described as it’s prequel, even though the story actually takes place before, simultaneously and after the famous Oz tale that we all know and love.
The story tells the tale of two young girls who become best friends at University. Elphaba (played by Amy Ross) and Glinda (played by Helen Woolf) have an unlikely friendship and share a love for the same fellow student, Fiyero (played by Aaron Sidwell of Steven Beale, EastEnders fame).
Whilst Glinda is labelled as a ‘good witch’ and Elphaba as a ‘wicked witch’ the story takes a turn as unfortunate circumstances lead to their friendship to be put in jeopardy. The question you’re there to find the answer to is ‘was the Wicked Witch of the West really wicked or just the innocent victim of a corrupt regime?’
Ross played an incredible Elphaba. Obviously, I have nothing to compare it to as this was my first time seeing the musical, but I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job. Her enthusiasm and sincerity for the role shone through and I loved the character from the first moment. Totally and utterly fascinated by the amazing green makeup, I watched on as Ross belted out numbers with hair-raising vocals. I couldn’t fault a single thing.
The one song I was familiar with was ‘Defying Gravity’. I had seen it on numerous television shows in the past and had sneakily had it on Spotify on the days leading up to the show. Ross didn’t disappoint and on reaching the pinnacle of the song, the audience erupted and rightly so. The number took us into the interval wanting to return for more.
Delightful Glinda (the G is silent, you know!), is a chirpy character that you can’t help but love. Woolf was perfect for the role and along with her beautiful high pitched voice and hair-flicking accompanied expressions, she captured the audience with her humour and charm.
The chemistry between Ross and Woolf was wonderful and you can easily see why they were cast in the roles. It made the whole story feel more believable than it already was.
I had a soft spot for Fiyero. As an avid Eastenders fan, seeing Sidwell in an entirely different role to that of what I am used to, it took a little getting used to, but eventually, I totally forgot. He’s clearly a natural when it comes to treading the boards and Fiyero was a character that was cast for him just perfectly. The audience surely agreed judging by their reaction as he returned at the end to take a bow.
The set and the special effects were something else. Seamless set changes, breathtaking lighting and perfectly timed executions. All of this combined with the amazing costumes made for a complete and utter visual delight.
The cast rightly received a tremendous standing ovation as they returned to the stage to take their bows at the end. It added to the excitement of the whole evening and it was wonderful to see the cast get the recognition that they really did deserve.
It is not difficult to see why Wicked is loved the world over and it’s certainly not hard to understand why it has been seen by 55 million people around the world.
I will definitely be returning to Oz at some point in the foreseeable future when the opportunity arises. I arrived not knowing much at all about this Wicked tale and I left having been well and truly seduced and captivated by its spellbinding, magical powers. Everyone needs a bit of magic in their life and I think it’s safe to say I’ve found mine.
Wicked is in Birmingham until 29th April but is SOLD OUT at the Birmingham Hippodrome, but you can check daily for returns. Take a look also at the Wicked UK Tour website for remaining tour dates and tickets. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
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Photography: Matt Crockett
Huge thanks go to the Birmingham Hippodrome for inviting me to see this wonderful show.