“A magnificent show”
Wicked was the first show I remember seeing when I was 11 or 12 and my mum took my brother and I out for something to do in London. It’s safe to say that the show and the performance literally changed my life as it was the birth of my love for musical theatre; an industry which has given me friends, amazing memories, a blog and a job! Wicked is a show that means a lot to me and being my 10th time seeing it, I have high expectations as well as particular ways in which I like to see the show performed.
Something that really attracts people to Wicked I’m sure is the spectacularity of the show, and turning up to Wales Millennium Centre lit up all green was a wonderful start to the experience.
The show opened to its iconic music, costumes, set and the Dragon above the stage to entice the audience, and I was beyond excited to see this special musical come to life in front of me once more. For me, Wicked is a show I can come back to again and again without getting bored, but because I have seen it so many times, I can be very critical of the show and its actors.
As many people know, Wicked is a wonderful re-telling of what we thought we knew about the characters in The Wizard of Oz. In the story of Wicked, we learn about the wicked witch of the East and the West, Glinda the Good, the lion, tin-man and the scarecrow. While Wicked has received some criticism over the years for its weak connections and explanations, it is a show that has thrilled audiences for years.
Without a doubt, the talent on the stage was unquestionable. Amy Ross has a superb voice, absolutely nailing the vocals in a role originated by Idina Menzel back in 2003. She plays the character of Elphaba who stands out from the crowd with her green skin and no-nonsense attitude. She is confident in a way that opposes her counterpart in the show, Glinda. Glinda (played in this performance by Helen Woolf) is popular, perky and high-spirited.
As I have said, Amy Ross was phenomenal in the show, hitting every note and giving me goosebumps during renditions of “The Wizard and I” and “Defying Gravity”. My only criticism is that I personally prefer it when Elphaba is more feisty, played with more sarcasm, raw humour and a bit more anger. For me personally, Ross had Elphaba as calmer and more likable character, which was a nice twist but not personally my cup of tea. Another slight disappointment for me was that Ross did not riff on any of the big numbers. I love to hear what new actresses do differently with the songs and their amazing vocals, rather than sing it the way I know it from the original soundtrack. Still, an excellent performance.
Helen Woolf as Glinda, again, was fantastic. With a voice that could shatter glass and a wonderful stage presence, Woolf was nothing less than superb. In spite of this, I did find her to be slightly too peppy for my liking, making her seem quite irritating rather than likable and funny. I had previously seen Charlie Baptie in this role as the understudy in this touring production, and for me, Baptie had the balance of peppy and irritating down to a T, potentially making her one of the best Glinda’s I’ve seen in my 10 viewings of the show. In spite of this, during some of Glinda’s most notable scenes, such as in the song “Popular”, teaching Elphaba how to “toss-toss” and more, I was laughing along with the rest of the audience and did still enjoy Woolf’s performance, despite it not being my favourite.
While I recognise that I am being harsh, this is only because I have seen some great leading actresses in these roles in the past and have my own particular preferences for the characters. This is not to say Amy Ross and Helen Woolf were bad in any way, as I was blown away and loved the show as always, their performances were just not my own personal preference.
A disappointment for me in the show was Aaron Sidwell in the role of Fiyero. If I had to describe his performance in one word it would be underwhelming. He had neither the stage presence nor the voice to carry Fiyero as a strong, funny, likable and charming character. In the opening lines of his solo song “Dancing Through Life” I was pleasantly surprised with his smooth voice, but unfortunately when it came to it, his voice never progressed from that. His vocals were not powerful enough to carry the rest of the song with the electricity it should have, nor were they able to match Amy Ross in their duet “As Long As You’re Mine”. His acting was reasonable with some occasional funny moments from his clever comedic timing, yet I didn’t find myself warming to his character as I often do.
Performances that I thoroughly enjoyed were Kim Ismay in the role of Madame Morrible and Steven Pinder as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. While not major characters, I have previously found that if these two were weak, it can bring down the rest of the show. I have seen the role of Madame Morrible played in a pantomime fashion by previous actresses before which I have never liked and is something Ismay stayed clear of. Instead, she gave a strong performance that gave a lot of depth and characterisation to Madame Morrible which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Similarly, Pinder as the Wizard was a delight to watch on stage. His two songs “A Sentimental Man” and “Wonderful” are among my least favourite on the soundtrack, which never bodes well for The Wizard in my eyes, but I did still enjoy his performance.
Iddon Jones as Boq and Emily Shaw as Nessarose were enjoyable to watch, yet nothing that blew me away.
Wicked is a magnificent show and something everyone should see. Once again after seeing this wonderful show I feel the need to congratulate the creative and production team that bring it to life. Its costumes, scenery, magic and wonder are something not to be underestimated and Wicked is certainly a show for all ages that will, hopefully, carry on forever.