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Publishing Newspaper: The Stage
Date: 5th October 2006
Author: Paul Vale
Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

Bewitching audiences

Apollo Victoria, London
Opened September 27
Authors: Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman, novel by Gregory Maguire
Director: Joe Mantello
Producers: Marc Platt, Universal Pictures, Araca Group, Jon B Platt, David Stone
Cast includes: Idina Menzel, Helen Dallimore, Adam Garcia, Miriam Margolyes, Nigel Planer
Running time: 2hrs 50mins

Based on Gregory Maguire's novel, Wicked is a musical that fills in some of the background to characters in L Frank Baum's Tales of Oz, focusing on the much maligned Wicked Witch of the West and her friendship with Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.

Stephen Schwartz's score, arguably his best so far, is an ebullient mix of grandiose anthems and lyrical ballads, while Winnie Holzman's book expertly blends fairy-tale whimsy with broad moral issues. Much of the appeal of the story is our recognition of so many memorable characters, and designer Eugene Lee ensures that the Oz we see on stage is nothing too unrecognisable, although with a whole Act 1 finale dedicated to Elphaba's Defying Gravity, the flight sequence is woefully lacking.

Raising an ovation by simple walking on stage, there can be little doubt that Idina Menzel's green-skinned Elphaba is on of the most anticipated performances of the year. Fortunately the praise is well deserved, for Menzel has a powerhouse voice that soars above the orchestra and a personality that shines through, ready to charm audiences. Helen Dallimore has the equally difficult jon of showing the less than perfect side to Glinda the Good Witch but this effervescent actress treads that fine line with panache. Adam Garcia provides the love interest and performances by James Gillan and Katie Rowley-Jones add depth to the subplot.

A fine ensemble company fizzes with Broadway pzazz and there is veteran support from Nigel Planer as the Wizard, and Miriam Margolyes, a galleon in full sail floating imperiously across the stage as the truly wicked Madame Morrible.

Article © The Stage/Paul Vale, 2006

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