The Wicked Witch is still spellbinding as musical enters 12th year in West End

The magical world of Wicked is entering its 12th year on the West End stage, and it is still spellbinding in its production, music and performances.

The story of how the Wicked Witch of the West became who she is known to be in the famed 1939 musical, The Wizard of Oz, has become a West End staple over its time on the stage and is well loved by tourists and hardcore musical fans. Taken from a novel by American author Gregory Maguire, the story begins with the death-by-melting of the green-skinned witch, before Glinda the Good retraces the story of their beginnings and how, even though the Emerald City may have decided how evil she is, the truth is not always as it seems.

The audience are taken back to Shiz University, a place where Elphaba (who later becomes the witch) and Galinda (who removes the ‘ga’ in a rather strange fashion) are put together as roommates. Even though they see one another as polar opposites initially, their relationship grows as does Elphaba’s power and their mutual desire to do good, despite this coming out in very different ways.

The music and lyrics, written by Godspell composer Stephen Schwartz, are fun and far beyond the average musical fare. From the opening No One Mourns the Wicked, which showcases the powerful voices of the chorus in close harmony, to the comic What is this Feeling?, chronicling Elphaba and Galinda’s mutual loathing, the audience are taken up in the intricate scoring of the music.

The most well-known of the songs is decidedly Defying Gravity, which is staged incredibly as Elphaba is lifted high above the Ozians to begin her new life as the witch, hitting some powerful notes which have become renowned in the musical world.

The main roles were originated by Idina Menzel, who went on to voice Elsa in Disney’s Frozen, and Kristin Chenoweth, both of whom featured on the iconic original soundtrack album. But Alice Fearn, taking on the witch’s role, and Sophie Evans as Glinda, are completely captivating. Their chemistry is palpable and they are perfectly timed in the comic moments, aided by wonderful supporting performances from Bradley Jaden as love interest Fyero, Andy Hockley in an outstanding turn as the Wizard, and Melanie La Barrie as Madame Morrible, who, to tell you more about her, would mean spoiling the ending.

Having seen this for the first time more than a decade ago, Wicked has lost none of its charm and delight. In fact, it has only matured and improved over time and will continue to thrill its audiences for years to come.

Wicked plays at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1LG, over Christmas and with dates booking into 2018.

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