REVIEW: WICKED @ THE APOLLO VICTORIA
📍 Apollo Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, Pimlico, London, SW1V 1LG
🗓 Friday 16th September 2022
Last night I returned to London's Apollo Victoria Theatre and to the musical masterpiece that is Wicked. The show opened in September 2006 at the same theatre and has been selling out the huge 2,328 seat venue ever since.
There is something about this story that captivates the audience and keeps them coming back for more. Part of it is that it is visually spectacular and of course the songs are all very popular - pun intended!
The show has the tagline The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz and is essentially that. The book by Winnie Holtzman, adapted from the Gregory Maguire novel, cleverly wraps itself around the classic Wizard of Oz story.
Telling the story of Glinda the good witch and Elphaba, aka The Wicked Witch of the West, we learn how they met at Shiz university and how the two opposites formed an unlikely friendship. The song What is this Feeling hilariously showcases their first impressions of one another.
If you haven't seen the show I won't spoil the ending but we learn the truth about how wicked Elphaba really is ... or isn't, and we learn the origin stories of the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion.
Helen Woolf (original Wicked UK & Ireland Tour, Friends: The Opera) gloriously brings my favourite character Glinda to life. One of the great things about this show is that each person who plays these characters brings something different and has their own interpretation to the role.Woolf's Glinda is everything you want from the character and more. She is self obsessed, charming, funny and caring. I particularly enjoyed her performance of Popular which really showed off her talents in all these areas. She has had a long relationship with this role and her professionalism shows throughout. She is utterly believable and shines from the stage.
The role of Elphaba is played by Lucie Jones (Waitress, Les Misérables: The Staged Concert). Her performance of the seminal number Defying Gravity was wondrous but for me her stand out performance was No Good Deed which was jaw droppingly good. My one small criticism would be that during her speaking parts, she didn't shout loud enough! Elphaba is a very passionate character and I wanted to feel more from her in certain moments.
Stage legend Gary Wilmot (Anything Goes, The Prince of Egypt) was sensational as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I would even go so far as to say his was my favourite interpretation of the role. His performances of A Sentimental Man and Wonderful were note perfect and joyous to witness.
Carina Gillespie (Grease, The Buddy Holly Story) was astounding as Nessarose. Her vocals were out of this world and she gave a believable and confident performance throughout.
Other notable performances came from Nicholas McLean (Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon) as Boq, Sophie-Louise Dann (The Windsors: Endgame, The Girls) as Madame Morrible and Simeon Truby (War Horse, Sweeney Todd) as the tragic Doctor Dillamond.
Unfortunately there was one performance that I felt let this production down and that was from Ryan Reid (City of Angels, Dreamgirls) as Fiyero. You may know from reading previous reviews that my biggest bugbear in theatre is when you can tell the performer is acting. It completely breaks the illusion of theatre and this was my personal opinion of Reid. His vocals were also the weakest in the company and when comparing him to other actors I've seen in the role, I was disappointed.
I can't describe why, but the very start of the performance felt a little subdued to me. This didn't last long though and the show seemed to kick up a gear from the song Popular and then the energy was sustained at the highest level.
Wicked has one of the best sets I've seen on any stage. Designed by Eugene Lee it really helps to create places such as the Emerald City fantastically. The set even protrudes slightly into the auditorium and every inch of the stage is wondrous at all times.
When matched with Susan Hilferty's costumes, the illusion of Oz is complete.
Overall this production is very good and thoroughly enjoyable and I'm sure it will continue to captivate audiences for a very long time. With the movie version being released in two parts within the next couple of years, this show is going to reach a whole new audience and will undoubtably keep on growing.
It's a real testament to the story, lyrics and performances how this show has remained in this impressive theatre for so long. Often a show will move to a smaller venue after a while but Wicked has firmly made the Apollo Victoria its home and it's not going anywhere!
The show is currently booking until 28th May 2023. Check out the show website at www.wickedthemusical.co.uk for all the details.
If you haven't done already, then read my blog post about tickets where you will find my top tips for getting the best priced tickets both in the London and around the UK.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.