SOMETHING wicked this way comes, and stays at Bristol Hippodrome for the next four weeks. This musical about two friends in the land of Oz, Glinda and Elphaba, and how one may be good and one may be wicked, has charmed audiences on Broadway and in London’s West End for the past twelve and nine years respectively. The two friends go on to be the famous Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz, and this is their story from their perspective.
The excellent music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz, known for such other hits as Godspell, Pippin, Children of Eden, and for writing music for many Disney films, such as Pocahontas and Enchanted, as his songs are easy to recall, catchy and full of witty lyrics. Wicked is no exception to this, with the Act One closer, Defying Gravity, already surely recognised as a “standard” and well on its way to becoming part of the Great American Song Book.
It was an absolute joy to see the power and musical athleticism involved in this song draw a huge ovation as the first act of Wicked ended, with the song building and building, Elphaba growing in stature and rising high above the stage, volume increasing, more of the band joining in, until the whole cast and band are playing and singing their hearts out.
As Glinda and Elphaba, Emily Tierney and Ashleigh Gray have wonderful voices, which on their own are beautiful, lyrical and accurate, but when combined create a tingling magic which becomes almost spiritual, bringing a truth and honesty to Schwartz’s music and words. Tierney’s high Soprano combines so well with Gray’s mezzo range to take us somewhere even more magical than the land of Oz, and it was a treat just to hear this in such a close and intimate context.
Steven Pinder, playing both a goat who is a lecturer and the great and wonderful wizard of Oz himself, brings great humanity to both roles, with some excellent singing and dancing along the way. Other parts are played with great character and accuracy, with Marilyn Cutts as Madame Morrible, Samuel Edwards as love-interest Fiyero, Carina Gillespie as Elphaba’s sister Nessarose and Richard Vincent as lovestruck Boq, and various flying monkeys, citizens of Oz and munchkins were played by the vocally strong and slick dancing chorus.
Above all else though, this is “the untold story of the witches of Oz” and with such competent and talented actors playing the two witches, it was little wonder that most of the capacity Hippodrome audience leapt to their feet as these two took their curtain call. A thoroughly entertaining and slick show, as good as, if not better than the West End production, perhaps because not having stars in the major roles enables the casting of the best possible people, and supported by a slick and effective band including some exquisite guitar work from Ben Castle and some beautifully orchestrated woodwind and brass lines, this is certainly not one to be missed.