Record-breaking show ‘Wicked’ has flown back to Bristol Hippodrome for a magical month-long run of sorcerous and sensational musical theatre.

It’s a subversive take on The Wizard of Oz, so if you’re a die-hard fan of the original film then be warned – we’re not in Kansas anymore. Put everything you know so far to one side for the evening and prepare to have your perceptions of winsomeness and wickedness challenged.  

Fans may enjoy spotting the Wizard of Oz references throughout… (Nessarose: What’s in the punch? Boq: Lemons and melons and pears. Nessarose: Oh my). The yellow brick road features briefly, as does Dorothy herself (“that wretched farm girl”) albeit in silhouette at the end of the show. But the real focus is on the unlikely friendship between preppy and popular Glinda (Helen Woolf) and her reluctant college roommate Elphaba (Amy Ross), an outcast since birth because of her unusually green skin. 

As much as it turns the original story on its head, this is still a traditional tale of love and friendship. It’s filled with messages about differences, diversity and respect.  

ElphabaImage - Helen Woolf as Glinda in Wicked, credit Matt Crockett

Glinda is a likeable airhead, strikingly similar to Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods - only a chihuahua in a clutch bag is needed to complete the likeness. In fact, her tutorial on hair flicking as she tries to make Elphaba more popular is almost an exact replica of the bend and snap scene. In this version of the story, however, it’s Elphaba that we end up rooting for. Her terse wit and spiky personality are a welcome antidote to Glinda’s sugary charm and end up ensnaring devil-may-care new boy Fiyero (Aaron Sidwell).  

Woolf and Ross have remarkable voices, perfectly suited to the show’s powerful songs. Defying Gravity at the close of Act one is an unquestionable high point. This rebel-rousing number propels Elphaba into the sky as the Wicked Witch of the West and sends the rest of us into the foyer in a great mood. (By the way, the Hippodrome’s Piano Bar served Oz inspired cocktails at the interval – a Ruby Slippers anyone?)     

Wicked

Image - Defying Gravity (a previous cast), Wicked, credit Matt Crockett

Act two sees even more familiar Oz characters enter the story. The tin man, scarecrow and cowardly lion all slot into the story neatly, while fabulous costumes (particularly in the Emerald City) and impressive animatronics (a giant red-eyed dragon hangs over the stage throughout) give it a big budget, Broadway glamour.  

Wicked runs at Bristol Hippodrome from Wednesday 31 January until Saturday 3 March, 2018.

Review by Wendy Johnson

Related

Wicked (UK Tour), Bristol Hippodrome Theatre
Theatre
Wicked (UK Tour), Bristol Hippodrome Theatre

Winner of over 100 international awards, Wicked has been casting its magical spell across the world for over a decade and continues to break records at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre, where it is already the 17th longest running show in West End theatre history.