It’s not often a show promises so much but ends up delivering much much more. Wicked was a real joy to watch at the Bristol Hippodrome, one of the show’s stop-offs as part of its UK tour.
It tells the story of the Witches of Oz – Glinda, the Wicked Witch of the East- Nessarose and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West.
During its two hour forty five minute duration, it packs in an incredible amount. The gripping book by Winnie Holtzman, is liberally peppered with show stopping numbers, paternity plot twists, love triangle, peer pressure, disability issues, racism, prejudice, good versus evil, the dangerous power of the PR machine and mob rule.
Central to the story is the power of friendship, particularly between two strong female characters. It’s basically Frozen but for grown-ups and teens.
The action is overseen by an impressive, giant red-eyed dragon, watching the proceedings from the theatre’s proscenium arch.
Beautiful Glinda, played to warm-hearted and ditzy perfection by Emily Tierney, floats in amidst the glittering bubbles the part necessitates. There is celebration going on as the news spreads that the Wicked Witch of the West – Elphaba – is dead.
Glinda takes us back in time to when she, Elphaba and Nessarose were uni friends. It turns out that far from being wicked, Elphaba, used to the prejudice thrown at her for being bright green, is simply standing up to the system which is discriminating against various members of Oz’s society.
There are some stunning moments in the production, notably Defying Gravity at the end of Act One. Ashleigh Gray as Elphaba nails the role perfectly, nipping between power, angst and sorrow with ease. In fact, it’s one of those rare productions where you believe in the characters thanks to the talent of the performers and Suspension of Disbelief is achieved due to the creatives.
Susan Hilferty’s costume designs are stand-out to the production, ranging from Faustian Winged Monkeys to the Steampunk of Oz’s Emerald City.
The show is only in Bristol for a limited run, though due to its popularity, additional performances had to be added.
It’s fantastic that the Bristol Hippodrome continues to attract this calibre of show. Best praise must come from my four-year-old who tantrummed on Monday morning because she didn’t want to go to school, instead wishing to go back to the theatre to watch the witches again.
Wicked is playing at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 21 March 2015