If you think you know the story about the Witches of Oz think again.
The musical Wicked is based on the novel ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ by Gregory Maguire which creates a parallel universe to L. Frank Baum’s ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’.
Wicked tells the story about the Witches of Oz before Dorothy defeated the Wicked Witch of the West. The musical shows how two very different young girls become Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West and how their relationship defines the future of Oz.
At the beginning Glinda, a popular and spoiled young girl, and Elphaba, an outcast
green (!) girl, have to share a dormitory much to their dismay. Elphaba get’s so upset about this that she accidentally uses her powers and frightens her classmates. When their teacher Madame Morrible sees this she makes Elphaba her personal student. Glinda is furious about this as it was her plan to become Madame Morrible’s student. This fuels the girl’s hatred for each other even more and Glinda tries everything to embarrass and upset Elphaba. While the girl’s are fighting with each other a new student arrives and things take a turn for the worse in Oz. As the story continues Elphaba struggles to stay true to herself and to being good by helping others, while Glinda is torn between her friends and conscience and also wanting to be popular.
Besides the girls’ feud the show also focuses on the politcal topics of race and the rights of minorities. Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the lyrics and music, describes the political storyline of the show by referring to Elphaba’s character development: ‘Also, the central character of Elphaba clearly has her political conscience and consciousness raised in the show – as she becomes aware of the plight of the Animals, fighting the injustice being done to this “race” becomes her central cause […]. In effect, as in the book, she becomes a revolutionary.’
The musical is a sight to behold, apart from the fantastic story the set design is amazing. The stage transforms with every scene and works with the actors’ performance. It really gives you the feeling that you just travelled with Elphaba and Glinda from the university campus to the Emerald City. As colourful as the musical is it also captures the sad or desperate situations of the characters perfectly. The actors are also able to perform simultaneously on two levels on stage. Which gives the show an unique and complex feeling and complements the actors’ vibrant performance.
The performance of the actors is outstanding. The actresses of Elphaba (Emma Hatton) and Glinda (Savannah Stevenson) manage to capture the audience with their performances. When they sing ‘Defying Gravity’ together you will get goosebumps. Emma Hatton does an excellent job at capturing Elphaba’s struggle to fit in but at the same time trying not to care whether the others accept her or not but also at portraying the Wicked Witch as a misunderstood girl who is just trying to help others but ends up being judged for her actions. At the end of the musical one can understand what let her to believe she can only do worse. As an opposite to Elphaba, Savannah Stevenson shows a different take on Glinda the Good who is in fact not as perfect as she wants people to believe and struggles which side she should take. Savannah Stevenson is able to bring depth to the seemlingly shallow character who just focuses on being popular.
In addition to the two main characters other characters include The Wizard (Mark Curry) and Madame Morrible (Liza Sadovy) who plays the girls’ teacher. Oliver Savile does a remarkable job at playing Fiyero and showing how people can change when they meet just the right person who brings out the best in them and challenges them to think differently.
The main question of the musical is if people are born wicked or if their environment changes them for the worst. The musical answers this question throughout the play through the actions and emotions of the characters but without explicitly stating what the answer is, the viewers have to figure it out themselves. It also shows that a lot of situations which seem black or white are really more complex then they seem and encourages you to take a closer look before you form an opinion.
You are looking for a musical which is very well performed and staged or for one that inspires you to think about certain topics even after the musical has ended? Either way Wicked is the perfect choice for you.
Where: The Apollo Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Rd, London SW1V 1LG (next to Victoria Station)
When: Everyday at 7.30 pm + Wednesday & Saturday 2.30 pm
Premiere: 2003 on Broadway and 2006 in London
Price: Tickets cost £19 to £115
Reviewed by: Michaela Koch an Intern at Tti School of English
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