When the green baby starts to scream only a few people laugh. The others know: this first scream is the beginning of wicked terrors for the land of OZ.
The green witch Elphaba (Rachel Tucker) may fly on a broom in waving black robes and a pointy hat, but she is not the tiniest bit wicked.
The musical, which is based on a book by Gregory Maguire, tells the story of how she gets caught up in the Wizard’s plans to enslave all animal inhabitants of OZ.
Elphaba refuses to help and goes into hiding, getting support from her lover Fiyero (Lee Mead) and her colleague roommate Glinda the Good Witch (Louise Dearman). But her fight inevitably leads to the bucket of water and Dorothy, revealing secrets and also creating some.
Besides the non-wickedness the musical also proves that the Witch of the West’s voice is not at all screechy, but crystal clear and goose-bumps-causing.
Amazing music that you’ll never forget
When Elphaba decides to try ‘Defying Gravity’, the music rises higher and higher with a moving mixture of passion and aggression. Elphaba rises with it, flies off to the stage ceiling and explodes into green light.
Other songs like ‘Popular‘ (video!) are witty and funny but also require good acting skills. Glinda does the splits, purring seductively, when she tells Elphaba how to become almost as popular as her.
It is the technical devices that disrupt the performance from time to time. Movements that should indicate magic do not work, microphones are turned off at the wrong places and the acoustic system in the Apollo Victoria Theatre makes the whole percussion sound muffled and flat.
Also, it is very mainstream that the love affair between Elphaba and Fiyero is rolled out to Hollywood extents.
The plot in Gregory Maguires book ‘Wicked’ is much more political and socially challenging and it is very sad that the musical audience seems not to be trusted to appreciate that.
Still: simply magical
But the music by Stephen Schwartz and the performance of the whole cast is so overwhelming that even such shortcomings do not spoil the experience.
After the evening in the ‘Emerald City’ the audience cheers in standing ovations.
The Witches fly from Monday to Sunday in London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre (Tube: Victoria Station). Tickets are from £15 to £80 and can be booked at www.apollovictoria.co.uk.
Want to Elphaba yourself? Find the magic wand turn your pic into Elphie here.