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Publishing Newspaper: London Lite
Date: 28th September 2006
Author: Martha De Lacey
Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

So which Witch is the real villain of Oz now?

There are certain films I cannot watch without hoping that the reel will spontaneously take on a like of its own and change the course of events.

The Lion King is one. When Simba finds his dying father my fingers are crossed that Mufasa will leap up, knock back a Nurofen and skip off.

Last night I found myself watching Wicked with the same kind of emotional attachment.

The musical adaptation of Gregory Maguire's prequel novel to L Frank Baum's classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz opens with the Good Witch announcing the death of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West (Idina Menzel) to the delighted population of Oz. All is fine until a Munchkin points out that the two witches used to be mate. The ornate stage is set for Helen "Glinda The Good" Dallimore's reminiscence of what happened before Dorothy rocked up.

Joe Mantello's production is a spine-tingling mix of laugh-out-loud wit and deft dance routines with a political punch.

The moral dilemma centres on whether Elphaba's "wickedness" was innate or if it was "thrust upon her". It seems she wasn't given the best start in life by a mother whose relations with a green gentleman extended beyond a handshake…

But we are led to question whether "Elfie" was evil, or whether it was a notion created by those desperate for a scapegoat. The fabricated spin created by Nigel Planer's power-hungry Wizard and the 'orrible Madame Morrible drew more than the occasional cheer.

This magical production turns the traditional story on its head. It addresses the role of good and evil, issues of racism and fears of "otherness".

The costumes were spectacular. Dallimore sported a wardrobe to turn Lily Allen green with envy. And it wasn't just Menzel's bodypaint and the Emerald City posse dressed for the occasion; even the audience were sporting an impressive amount of colour.

There was a touch og The Lion King-esque Disney magic. But the music isn't as unforgettable as the performances and effects and electrifying.

Booking until 24 Feb, 17 Wilton Rd, SW1 (0870 4000 751, apollovictoria.co.uk), Mon-Sat 7.30pm, mats Wed & Sat 2.30pm, £30 - £62.50. Tube: Victoria)

Article © London Lite/Martha De Lacey, 2006

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