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