Manchester got its first taste of the record-breaking musical Wicked when it flew into the Palace Theatre back in 2013 and now the UK and Ireland tour has returned to where it all began, for a five week Christmas run.
Defying Gravity this time as Elphaba is Amy Ross, a hugely talented performer who fits the role like a glove. It’s no mean feat hitting the high notes of Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics but she manages to deliver them with power and punch.
Spreading the sparkle as Glinda the Good is Helen Woolf who injects more humour than I have ever seen in the blonde bubble headed character. Ross and Woolf make a great on stage combination and the duo complement each other both vocally in numbers like ‘What is this Feeling’ and the emotionally charged ‘For Good’, and in the brilliantly choreographed showdown towards the end of the musical when they are at loggerheads.
For the uninitiated to Wicked (where have you been for the past 15 years??) it’s the story of what happened before The Wizard of Oz (prior to Dorothy’s arrival) then simultaneously and after the familiar Oz tale.
Was the Wicked Witch of the West truly wicked? Was she actually friends with the Good Witch Glinda?
Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, Wicked the musical gives you a completely new perspective on the original L. Frank Baum classic and has a soundtrack that will leave you wanting to hear more.
Stephen Pinder is a real treat to see as the Wizard and also as Doctor Dillamond – Pinder dominated our TV screens in the 90s when he was in Channel 4 soap Brookside and now he has swapped telly for stage proving he can do both successfully.
Aaron Sidwell is also great to watch as Fiyero, the love interest of the two witches. Sidwell plays the carefree card to the max in his solo ‘Dancing Thru Life’ and sizzles in his duet ‘As Long As Your Mine’ with the electricity bouncing off both him and Ross as Elphaba.
When West End shows go on tour they pull out all of the stops to make sure the audience gets that huge production feel and this is where Wicked always delivers. The combination of Eugene Lee’s set design and Kenneth Posners lighting is spectacular and transforms the audience into the world of the Emerald City influenced by echoes of green and some incredible creations such as the Wizard’s huge metal head and Glinda’s bubble transportation.
Elsewhere Susan Hilferty’s costume designs are visually stunning, creating a unique style for the ‘Oz world’ full of textures, sparkle and colour. Her ‘flying monkeys’ are a sight to see, especially when they spread their wings and glide past your eyes.
This is a truly first class production, which will go on wowing audiences for many years to come. Don’t let it fly out of Manchester without seeing it.
Wicked runs until Jan 5th 2019 at the Palace Theatre.