Wicked - Apollo Victoria Theatre London - Review
First things first, I would like to apologise if I get any cast names wrong in this review. At the performance I attended, the matinee on Wednesday 29th March, the electronic cast board in the theatre foyer was not working.
We all know the story of The Wizard of Oz, the tale of Dorothy being transported to the magical land of Oz where she becomes friends with a scarecrow, a tin man and a cowardly Lion on an adventure to find the wizard, escape the wicked witch and ultimately make it home to Kansas again, but do you know the story of what happened before Dorothy’s home flew into Munchkinland? That, ladies and gentlemen, is where Wicked comes in. This is the story before Dorothy, before the yellow brick road and before all that you think you know about Oz.
Wicked transports audience members to the magical land of Oz, where we meet Glinda, you might know her as the good witch, played by Lucy St. Louis and Elphaba, (you could say the wicked witch), played by Alexia Khadime as students at Shiz University. Glinda is the popular girl, whereas Elphaba is teased, pushed aside and taunted for her green skinned appearance. But Madame Morrible (Sophie-Louise Dann) sees beyond the green to Elphaba’s magical talent. With Elphaba’s sister Nessarose (Caitlin Anderson) constantly needing her sister’s support, their munchkin class mate Boq (Joe Thompson-Oubari) hanging on Glinda’s every word, and new boy Fiyero (Ryan Reid) becoming the centre of attention for both young witches, Wicked explores the beginning of the story, questioning ‘are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?’.
Very recently, Wicked become the fourth longest running musical in Broadway history, and in London, the show is quickly approaching its 17th birthday at the Victoria Apollo Theatre, and it’s not really hard to see why it has proved so popular. With its story combining magic and fantasy with truer to life topics of friendship, romance, inclusivity, and competition, interwoven with catchy songs, beautiful sets, and enchanting costumes, it’s everything that you would want a big musical to be.
I’ll be honest and say that this wasn’t my first trip to Oz, in fact it was my third, but my first time visiting the show in its London home. And that is something that lifts it, enlarges it, and gives it even more oomph. Lights reach beyond the stage into the auditorium and the famous time dragon comes to life, quite an experience.
It hasn’t been long since the new cast joined the production, and they carry the powerful story with ease. Lucy St. Louis’ Glinda, all giddy excitement and blonde curls is instantly lovable, and her beautiful vocals float over the audience. Her chemistry with both Khadime’s Elphaba and Reid’s Fiyero is believable, and you find yourself willing her on to succeed. As Elphaba, Alexia Khadime shines. Her powerful vocals earn rapturous applause throughout, and she brings a wonderful level of sass and sarcasm to the role.
Ryan Reid’s Fiyero is every part the prince, smooth talking, dashing and charismatic. He truly shines in the impressive ‘Dancing Through Life’ number, and whilst at times I found myself wishing that he gave certain lines just a touch more energy, he is truly believable as he faces difficult decisions between right and wrong. As the wonderful Wizard of Oz, Mark Curry perfectly balances serious and humorous as his character walks the line between fiction and reality. Joe Thompson-Oubari is a standout and certainly one to watch as the instantly likable Boq.
Whilst the production is packed full of catchy songs, from the famously iconic ‘Defying Gravity’ to ‘One Short Day’, ‘Popular’ and ‘The Wizard and I’, I believe that the wonder of Wicked lies in the story. Based in a fantasy land where animals can teach, monkeys can fly, anyone can be a wizard and people can be born with green skin, there is something that everyone can relate too. There’s the popular kids and the ones further down the pecking order, there’s sibling rivalry, romance, friendship, and politics. Things that we all understand placed into a magical land that provides the escapism we all require.
Overall, Wicked continues to delight and thrill, flying high and strong after many years, and I don’t think that’s going to be changing anytime soon. Whilst it will continue to run in London, the show also heads out on a UK Tour later this year, bringing the magic to audience members up and down the country. With its believable characters, amazing songs and a story that appeals to everyone, it’s really no surprise as to why it is such a hit.