REVIEW: Crowd goes wild for Wicked in Bristol

PUBLISHED: 12:00 02 February 2018

Helen Woolf sparkles as Glinda.

Helen Woolf sparkles as Glinda.

Archant

You pretty much know when you go and see an award-winning West End show it is going to be good - even a touring version. And the glitz, glamour and excitement of arriving at the press night of Wicked, which has flown into the Bristol Hippodrome this week, certainly prepared me for what was to come. Costumed dancers posed happily for photos against an awards-style backdrop and there were celebrities a-plenty for those who enjoy a bit of star-spotting like me!

Aaron Sidwell smoulders as Fiyero being bewitched by Amy Ross as Elphaba. Aaron Sidwell smoulders as Fiyero being bewitched by Amy Ross as Elphaba.

Defying Gravity, the Tony-award winning musical’s best-known song perfectly sums up the amazing and mesmerising staging of this brilliant production, based on the untold back story of the witches from the classic children’s book, The Wizard Of Oz.

From walking in to a lit-up map of Oz as the backdrop and a huge red-eyed mechanical dragon suspended above the stage, the wizardry behind such a massive show cannot fail to dazzle and immediately gripped the audience with awe. It is no wonder that it takes 100 people backstage to work the scenery and props and they are the undoubted unsung heroes of this spectacular production.

I had never seen the show before and was keen to find out how the characters from the tale we all grew up hearing told to us, or from watching the film version, came to be.

It tells of the unlikely friendship between two sorcery students, Glinda and Elphaba and how they end up going to see the Wizard in Oz, and eventually sees them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

A previous cast perform Defying Gravity. A previous cast perform Defying Gravity.

Theatre stalwart Amy Ross plays Elphaba to Helen Woolf’s Glinda and the fact their friendship developing at university so beautifully unfolds and is so moving and funny at the same time is testament to how strong their abilities are. The audience totally buys into how such a relationship would develop and their stunning vocal harmonies and natural chemistry completely carry the show from start to finish.

The most recognisable cast member is Aaron Sidwell who recently played Steven Beale in EastEnders and he perfectly showcased his versatility as an actor by playing Fiyero, both girls’ love interest, with depth and passion coupled with a soft and tender singing voice.

A scene where he declares his love for Elphaba (oops – spoiler alert!) despite her unconventional looks and with dry ice atmospherically dripping off the edge of the stage was my absolute favourite scene.

Former Brookside actor Steven Pinder also shone as both The Wizard and Doctor Dillamond, portraying the frail goat teacher who inspires Elphaba to save the animals from being enslaved by Ozians, in complete contrast to the outrageous Wizard, again showing enormous versatility.

The devilishly-wicked Elphaba. The devilishly-wicked Elphaba.

The other stand-out performance for me was Kim Ismay as Madame Morrible and although a comic character is often the easiest to bring alive to an audience, she was brilliant as both mentor and later persecutor to Elphaba and has amazing stage presence.

The songs were perfectly executed and the vocal standard faultless, actors managing to be frail and vulnerable one minute and the personification of evil the next!

The sheer belting out of the aforementioned Defying Gravity by Amy Ross was so phenomenal I am not quite sure how the theatre roof stayed in situ! This was a definite highlight, as were I’m Not That Girl, One Short Day, As Long As You’re Mine and Popular.

All in all an absolutely fantastic show and for staging alone one of the best I have ever seen, so if you have not got yourself a ticket yet book up quick as the show is selling out fast!

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