Monday, October 01, 2007

"Wicked" - September 2007 (London)

As we were heading to London to see "Elling" it made sense to fit something else in the Saturday matinee slot and "Wicked" was top of our list - its premise of the backstory of the Witches of Oz even overcoming my general dislike of musicals. But since booking we'd picked up the soundtrack CD and I'd been left unimpressed. Would the spectacle of the stage show have more of an impact?

Well, as soon as we entered the auditorium at the Apollo Victoria I could certainly see where the price of my ticket had gone, and as the show progressed the sets, backdrops, costumes and props just got more and more impressive and by the end I simply couldn't grudge a penny of the ticket price.

But then again, the music is the important thing in a musical, isn't it? Kerry Ellis gives a stunning vocal performance as "Elphaba" (the Wicked Witch of the West) and while Dianne Pilkington's "Galinda/Glinda" doesn't quite match it, she makes up for it by bringing out the humour in the dialogue.

Oliver Tompsett is fine as their love interest "Fiyero" but has relatively little to do, while in the performance we saw Kerry Washington filled in as "Madame Morrible" without any problems. Nigel Planer was a disappointment as "The Wizard" - nothing special vocally and brought little to the character by way of acting, and to be honest I'm surprised the role justifies what appears to be a little bit of celebrity casting.

And the music... well if you'd asked me at the end of the first Act I'd have said I loved it - "What is this Feeling?" (Loathing), "Popular" and the genuinely spine tingling "Defying Gravity". Sadly Act II isn't up to the same standard, and while the performances from the leads remained strong, "As Long as You're Mine", "No Good Deed" and "For Good" did very little for me.

What also doesn't help is that the lyrics for many of the songs are pretty poor, often including almost cringe-worthy rhymes. And it's a shame, as the plot is actually fairly decent, and has some nice links with the original "Wizard of Oz" story.

I'm going to stop analysing the show now, as I think I'd probably talk myself out of liking it and that would be dreadfully unfair on a show I genuinely really enjoyed. Yes it's all about two performances, combined with a huge amount of spectacle, and the lyrics are somewhat suspect, but if you go into this with an open mind and wanting to be entertained I defy anyone to leave disappointed. And if you wanted serious content, what on earth were you doing there in the first place???

Wicked continues its run at the Apollo Victoria in London.