Publishing Newspaper: Daily Mail
Date: 28th September 2006
Author: Patrick Marmion
Photo Credit: N/A
First Night Review - Wicked, Apollo
Victoria Theatre, London
Here it is: full and final proof that box office
busting musicals can be critic proof.
This is the show that got a critical mauling when
it opened three years ago on Broadway, but such is
the show's popularity it went on to be a massive hit
anyway, extending its franchise worldwide.
Now it's opened in London, and history looks set
to repeat itself. The critics will largely deplore
it. But it won't matter.
Critics of course are hardly the target audience
of a show clearly aimed at teenage girls hitting the
age when they start refusing to budge from or tidy
It is the tale of how Elphaba, a girl who after being
born green, grows up to be maligned as the wicked
witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. But it's also
the tale of her friendship with bimbo Glinda, the
most popular girl in school.
The show's message is that the forces of superficiality
led by Nigel Planer as the seemingly harmless Wizard
of Oz in league with the matronly Miriam Margolyes,
are in fact bent on world domination and animal exploitation.
Only Elphaba is smart enough and individual enough
to want to stop him. But trouble really flares when
Fiyero the school himbo, with a Kevin Keegan perm,
falls in love with Elphaba leaving Glinda bitterly
jealous. Stephen Schwartz's music, like the story
in Gregory Maguire's novel adapted by Winnie Holzman,
is spectacularly over-blown. Full of rambling keyboards,
blasting brass and cascading drums, there are times
when the score even rivals Carmina Burana for supersized
Schwartz's lyrics meanwhile take banality to galactic
proportions. Indeed it's one of the show's most excruciating
ironies that while asserting the importance of being
earnest it is wilfully moronic.
Nor does it help that Idina Menzel who won a Tony
Award on Broadway for playing Elphaba howls like Dolly
Parton in between telling everyone off for being shallow.
At least Helen Dallimore as Glinda is a convincing
bimbo with a shrill and warbly voice.
In its favour, Joe Mantello's production is never
less than stagey although there are times when the
amount of dry ice and gothic stage effects put you
in mind of heavy metal bands satirised by Spinal Tap.
Not, you'd have thought, up the street of adolescent
girlies, but their hysterical squeals of delight said
otherwise from start to finish last night. What ever
the critics say, this is going to be a palpable hit.
You can Elpha bet on it.
Article © The Daily Mail/Patrick
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