A smash hit on Broadway and the West End, Wicked is a show close to many people’s hearts. Fifteen years on since its debut and once again touring the UK, the true story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’s villain proves itself to be as sensational as ever before.
While it may be a touring production, no corners have been cut here. The show is visually stunning, with both the costumes and set pieces transporting us to the city of Oz with all its opulence. As for the cast, we are gifted with a stellar set of performers who deserve a standing ovation after every performance.
Amy Ross is truly spellbinding as Elphaba. She convincingly portrays the “wicked witch” we all know from the 1939 film as misunderstood and misled by those she looked up to. Ostracised for her green skin, her tough exterior masks a compassionate young woman who only ever wanted to do good. As for the musical numbers, no note is too daunting for Ross. Her performance of Defying Gravity will not only thrill audience members, but also confirm her place on the list of Elphabas to remember. As for the “good witch”, Helen Woolf’s Glinda does at first feel too much like an imitation of Kristen Chenoweth and her distinctive intonation – with her characterisation at times veering towards Julie Walters. That said, as Glinda matures so does Woolf’s performance; in Act II she is a worthy equal of Ross’s Elphaba in both vocal ability and character. Their harmonies are exquisite and their rendition of For Good will give you goosebumps.
Unfortunately, some of the magic is lost due to acoustic issues. The ensemble sounds muted and so struggles to fully capture the audience’s attention from the get-go: the same goes for the orchestra, with Winnie Holzman’s magnificent score prevented from having its shining moment as it welcomes you to the land of Oz. Dancing Through Life and One Short Day – usually high-energy favourites – are at risk of coming across as lacklustre due to the musicians’ struggle to fill the Playhouse’s impressive space. This is all such a shame, for it is such a menial technical issue that leaves theatregoers struggling to follow the story and the obvious talent onstage unable to truly stand out.
Thankfully, the spectacular performances of Ross and Woolf do not allow these issues to eclipse the production. Whether you are seeing Wicked for the first time or the hundredth time, you are bound to fall in love with the songs and story (perhaps all over again). Like Elphaba, theatregoers will all be leaving the Edinburgh Playhouse feeling the same: wicked.