So what is the fuss about? Remember The Wizard of Oz? Well have you wondered about the back story of the good witch and that one with the green face? Wicked explains what was happening in Oz before Dorothy dropped in and skipped along the yellow brick road.
In the beginning, the Governor (Howard Ellis) and his wife (Sara Morley) have a baby. The celebrations are quickly subdued when the child, Elphaba (Amy Ross) turns out to be green from head to toe. Later they have another child, Nessarose (Emily Shaw) who has the same skin colour as the parents but is wheelchair bound. The two daughters start Shiz University together. Except that, in her father’s eyes, Elphaba's primary role is to care for her sister.
When they start uni they meet Glinda (Helen Woolf), the all popular alpha female who always gets her own way. By a quirk of fate Elphaba and Glinda end up as room mates and so the rivalry begins. This is not helped by Elphaba getting private tuition on sorcery from Madame Morrible (Kim Ismay) at the expense of Glinda. Both girls hope to eventually meet up with the wizard (Steven Pinder) but a lot of obstacles are in their way – especially if you’re green.
The magical experience begins when you arrive in the auditorium. A huge Dragon above the arch is spread across the width of the stage staring down on the audience below. This is part of a fabulous set design from Eugene Lee (set) and Susan Hilferty (costumes). The show has a feel of the ‘west end in the North East’. Added to this is a nice steampunk feel which fits in well with the story. This is especially so when the wizard appears at Emerald City. The special effects are nice too and they add rather than detract from the action.
Glamour aside, it is the casting that sets this production of Wicked apart. Helen Woolf’s Glinda is suitably self absorbed and egocentric at the start. Amy Ross’s Elphaba warms the audience from the start. There is a great chemistry on stage between the cast members.
The pace was even, so we could follow the story by Winnie Holzman, based upon Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Director Joe Mantello creates a delightful musical tale. The choreography from the talented ensemble adds to the feel of the action. The sound design from Tony Meola ensured that there were no problems hearing what was going on.