Wicked the Musical
Rating: ★★★★
Venue: Apollo Victoria Theatre, London
Cast: Lucie Jones, Samantha Thomas, Carl Man, Grace Chapman, Sophie-Louise Dann and Gary Wilmot

Now in its landmark 16th Year at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, this “devilishly clever spin on The Wizard of Oz”(The Daily Telegraph) imagines a beguiling backstory and future possibilities to the lives of L. Frank Baum’s beloved characters and reveals the decisions and events that shape the destinies of two unlikely university friends on their journey to becoming Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Wicked is still one of the bestselling shows in the West End, despite being around for over 15 years. I haven't been back to Oz for over a decade, so I was looking forward to seeing how the show had changed over the years, and the fresh take from new cast members, including Lucie Jones. After auditioning 11 times for the role of Elphaba and finally claiming her dream role, I was excited to see how Lucie had started to make her mark on the character.

If you're unfamiliar with the story of Wicked, it follows Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) as she embarks into college life. It's here that she meets Glinda (The Good), where the pair strike up an unlikely friendship, which will change them both for good. It highlights the events which led Elphaba to follow the path she did, and how she earned her "wicked" title. The story is set with the backdrop of the infamous Oz, which is just as colourful and laced with madness, as in the film. 

The Apollo Victoria Theatre is huge, as is the stage. This means that there are some showstopping sets and props, as well as costumes and effects that wow the audience. I particularly love the flying monkeys (who I don't remember being quite as terrifying as they were!). Glinda's costumes are the envy of all. From her striking bubble dress at the beginning of the show, to her outrageously pink mini dress in Popular; Glinda really does have the best outfit selection.

When I saw the show, understudies were on for Glinda, Nessarose and Fiyero. It's worth noting that I had no idea of this until after the production when I checked the cast board. At this performance, Fiyero was played by Carl Man, who had me head over heels for a song I never really liked all that much, Dancing Through Life. He really captured Fiyero's charm and arrogant exterior; as well as his soft centre underneath it all.

Samantha Thomas (Glinda) was practically perfect (...sorry, wrong musical!). She played the ditzy, naive, spoilt role of Glinda convincingly and had the vocals to match. I would never have imagined she wasn't the principal casting, as she really was that good (as was Carl as Fiyero).

I'm a massive fan of Lucie Jones, and having seen her in Waitress, I was looking forward to her portrayal of Elphaba. While her vocal range and style is not in question here, (it really is impeccable) I left the theatre feeling a little underwhelmed by her performance. There was something missing from her performance that previous Elphaba's I've seen have had. In saying that, Defying Gravity was exceptional and her chemistry with Carl as Fiyero was unmatched. It may be because I saw her very early on in the role, and perhaps she had not quite settled into the character yet.

Without a doubt, what carries the show is the music. The soundtrack to Wicked is one of my favourite musical soundtracks of all time. Popular and What is This Feeling? are still just as comedic and fun as I remembered. And As Long as You're Mine is just as intense and all encompassing as it was when I saw the show as a teen. 

The cast has no weak link, and after witnessing the production again, it's easy to see why the show is still as popular as it was when it debuted in the West End. I'd like to go back and see Lucie perform again, as I'm also starkly aware that sometimes performers just have off days. With the film currently in production, I don't see Wicked leaving the West End any time soon. It deserves its place there, and it truly is a beautiful piece of musical theatre.

You can book tickets to see Wicked the Musical at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, here.

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