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Wicked London Feature Articles and Reviews

Wicked Reviews and Articles

Glinda in Wicked London - Helen Dallimore Wicked 2007 - Let the Green Girl Go!

by Gerry Sloan - Special to WickedWestEnd.co.uk

When Idina Menzel as Elphaba stepped out on stage for the London opening of Wicked, she didn't have to sing a note to receive a huge roar from the audience. Idina has now handed the witches broomstick to relative newcomer Kerry Ellis who has the unenviable task of following Idina's Tony award winning footsteps. Kerry is the first British Elphaba and on opening night her entrance was met with silence. However, several minutes later following her soaring rendition of "The Wizard and I", she not only won the whole audience over but earned a well deserved, prolonged standing ovation.

Wicked opened last October at The Apollo Victoria Theatre and has now made itself firmly at home in the large auditorium. Wicked has become a much-admired success lighting up London's West End with its imagination and wit. It's a genuine crowd pleaser with its soaring score, dazzling effects, and outstanding performances. Eugene Lee's phantasmic stage design alongside Susan Hillferty's beautiful costumes manage to create the world of Oz at once alluring and also slightly threatening. None of this technical wizardry would matter if the central characters did not manage to win the audiences hearts. Step forward two new bright stars Kerry Elliss (Elphaba), and Helen Dallimore (Glinda).

When Wicked originally opened, it received scant critical praise but audiences clearly liked it. Most of the British press reacted to this American import with an icy glare. Yet Wicked on the other hand has been building with many people returning. Yes, its a repeat of what happened in NewYork and while Wicked may not turn out to be the phenomenon it is in the US, it has certainly placed itself as an unqualified smash.

Kerry Ellis delivers a throughly intelligent, likable performance. She may not capture all the humour and emotion of Idina Menzel's portrayal, but when she sings, you can feel the rafters of the Apollo Victoria shaking. Her blistering rendition of "Defying Gravity" brings down the house and her line readings are always commanding. After a few months Kerry will be delivering a flawless performance, but for now it's safe to say she delivers probably the strongest vocal performance of all the Elphabas.

Kerry is much stronger in the second Act when her character struggles with acceptance, loss and betrayal. She may be slightly smaller than some of the originals, but she is fully in command of the Apollo Victorias ever changing ozian kaleidoscope. This green witch is a feisty, no nonsense survivor who shunned by the world she lives in and manages to change peoples lives around her. Kerry must be praised for putting her own original stamp on the role whilst paying respect to other Elphabas before her. The creators of Wicked have given musical theatre divas a wonderful part and the chance for audiences to hear some real "singing".

In the role of Glinda, Helen Dallimore was at first criticised for not playing it in the usual American cheerleader style. However, the more you see her the more you melt. Her performance is exactly right. Spoiled, indulgent, sparkling, hilarious, sardonic and bittersweet, this is a Glinda for the ages. Holding her own against the green Witch Helen manages to make Glindas loss at the end a genuinely moving affair. Now far more in command of Glindas comic capabilties she is in real danger of walking off with the entire show.

The supporting cast remains strong with special mention to Adam Garcia for managing to make his Fiyero much more than a pretty face.

Wicked offers its audiences who buy into the experience a thrilling evening out that never panders to its audience but instead mixes the very best of musical theatre with wonderful story telling. The more you see it the more you will be convinced it ranks as one of the musicals that will continue for generations. There is so much to see. So much to admire. So much to think about and discuss.

Wicked remains a real theatrical thrill. When Kerry Elliss soars to the top of the proscenium during Defying Gravity and states "no one will bring me down", you cheer not only for the moment, the character but for the show that has defied its critics to become a cultural landmark.

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Opening Night September 27th London 2006: One Short Day in the Capital City

by Gerry Sloan - Special to WickedWestEnd.co.uk

At precisely 10:00 pm on September 27th 2006, an unprecedented event occurred. 2208 people stood at The Apollo Victoria theatre and roared their approval for the cultural phenomenon known as "Wicked--A New Musical". This was no mere standing ovation but an undisputed stamp of approval for this magnificent production that has flown onto the stage with a freshness, inventiveness and originality that hasn't been seen in London for years.

"Wicked" comes to London already a major theatrical smash having wowed audiences across the USA. News of its dominating success preceded the opening. Record breaking sales and standing ovations at every preview performance may be indicative that "Wicked" is set to repeat its USA success. Repeat bookings from audiences are essential to a musical's success and "Wicked" has re-written the book in how many times people see it and tell their friends to see it. This is a testament to a production team operating at the height of their powers to deliver an unashamed theatrical smash!

"Wicked" arrives with the weight of expectation but the production team have wisely revisited their work revealing a more streamlined somewhat re-told version of what is on view across America. The gamble has certainly paid off. "Wicked" emerges as a true classic work of art for the ages.

Telling the untold story of both Glinda (the good one), and Elphaba (the green one) the famous witches of Oz, the show casts a captivating spell. In an evening full of unprecented theatrical bliss, it will be up to each audience member to pick out their favourite moments.

Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) and Winnie Holzman (book) must be credited for taking the original novel by Gregory Maguire and condensing it into one of the more eventful musicals of our time. The score is a fantastic combination of take home numbers tinged with darkness. These are real show tunes. They are medolic, lingering and soaring. Winnie Holzman is up to the task of matching the magnificent score with a witty script firmly establishing the characters and allowing the audience to follow their journeys until the bitter sweet ending that lingers long in the memory.

Wicked in LondonEugene Lee's stage design is no mere design but a triumph of architectural engineering with enough eye candy to keep even the most jaded of theatre goers happy. This glittering stage design is almost in constant motion with its phantasmagorical cog wheels, scenic surprises and stunning coups de theatre. Susan Hilferty's costumes are a riot of imagination and style. The Emerald city sequence should be sent down a fashion catwalk as soon as possible. Both designers put a contempary spin on Oz which is at once familiar and boldly fresh.

There is not a weak link in the casting. Idina Menzel repeats her New York triumph and makes the green witch a case study in the misunderstood outsider who changes the world for the better around her. Her singing and delivery is flawless.

However from the moment Helen Dillimore descends on her bubble as Glinda stating "It's good to see me isn't it", the phrase "a star is born" springs to mind. This Glinda is a pushy, confident, blonde, posh princess who uses everyone around her for her own purposes and enhancement.

Playing wonderfully against Idina Menzels green witch, Ms Dallimore unique take on the character is at once hilarious and ultimately very moving. Looking magnificent in her gowns and with a lovely way with put-downs this Glinda is a real, three dimensional embodiment of when you get everything you want it does not guarantee acceptance or happiness. This is a blissful performance and should place Helen in the short list of stars that can headline a major musical. Her rendition of the famous "Popular" is a riot.

Adam Garcia as Fiyero with Helen Dallimore as GlindaAdam Garcia is an athletic and sexy Fiyero. There is no trouble seeing why both girls fall for him. Miriam Margoyles is a suitably icy Madame Morrible with a mischievous glint in her eye suggestive of things to come. Nigel Planer is equally strong as the Wizard who will cling to power whatever the cost in an unassuming but sinister way.

The supporting company have added great sharpness to Wayne Cilento's contemporary choreography and look smashing in their Oz get ups. They are clearly having a ball.

Joe Mantello directs the huge production with enormous flair. The staging could be used as a text book on how to use the resources of theatre craft to deliver a story that engages its audience from beginning to end. It may be big, but it retains a personal quality.

Wicked review writer Gerry Sloan [Photo: Gerry Sloan who wrote this review for WickedWestEnd.co.uk]

One of the reasons "Wicked" has succeeded is simply because it works on every level. It is spectacular without being excessive. Each element is used to push the story forward. It is an accessible story of friendship, loyalty, politics, appearances and hope. In three short hours it takes us on the audience's knowledge of both the book and movie of "The Wizard of Oz" whilst supplying endless surprises that will both excite and stimulate an audience.

Wicked is a show that requires repeat viewing just to take in the grandeur and serious ambitions of the project. It is interesting that the London critics have not welcomed it with open arms (a repeat of New York perhaps) but clearly London audiences are already ecstatic.

"Wicked" is that rare treat. A musical that does not sacrifice entertainment for art's sake or art for entertainment's sake.

London will be emerald green for some time to come.

See also Buzz for comments about the London show, now in previews - Sept 2006: Wicked Buzz

[Photos of Wicked by Tristram Kenton: Glinda the Good Witch (Helen Dallimore) in her bubble.]


Defying Gravity... and Belief!

Wicked Press Night Review
Wednesday 27th September, 2006
London - West End, Apollo Victoria Theatre

By Richard Sutton [London]
(A version of this review first appeared on www.theatremonkey.com)

Predictably, the online buzz about Wicked at the Apollo Victoria has amassed volcanically as it did for the superb Original Broadway Cast Recording, now claiming in excess of 600 ecstatic Amazon.com reviews, and London's so ready for it! When did a creative team last come together so emphatically in this city of musical theatre?

Stephen Schwartz is a genius; listen to Pippin (1972), the work of a 24-year-old which made more than $3m on Broadway, and judge for yourself. Trevor Nunn describes The Baker's Wife (Original London Cast Recording, 1990) as "melodious, joyful, plangent, haunting, atmospheric and above all memorable..." and how appropriate these epithets seem for the new show. Schwartz's lyrics bear no hint of strain or contrivance, and only Sondheim matches his rare gift for harmony and vocal line.

History encourages us to believe that artists, musicians, writers of substance have a work in them -- a Guernica, or Sound and the Fury -- which perhaps surpasses all other personal achievement, and so it is with Schwartz in his chosen field. Wicked, this visionary, life-affirming score, is his best, and better than anything we've seen in the UK. The nightly 2000-strong standing ovation, and the block-long queue of cameraphones desperate for the 'green girl' (well over an hour after the curtain), bear witness.

What an amazing night: the fabulous, churning old Deco Cinema-turned-OzFest and lush green carpets beckoning out towards the subway! I've never felt an atmosphere in the West End like it: a huge, monumentally visceral anticipation. The ticket prices are high but, for once, you feel your money has been well spent. The Book is dark but compellingly wry, Mantello's direction, ingenious and sure-footed (...what an articulate, personable man when we spoke at a Preview), the design, staging and costume all scrupulously detailed, and, Wow! the lighting. So many ferociously talented people, all at the very top of their game.

It's a national disgrace that the UK broadsheet critics wasted so many inches misinterpreting Wicked as allegory that the coruscating performances immediately above their collective beak went virtually unnoticed. Has the printed word ever been more at odds with public opinion? And, for that matter, I'm sick of dull children complaining that "...she doesn't actually fly." For the record, on Press Night Helen Dallimore was hilariously engaging, spirited, effortless, matched by an expertly-drilled cameo-cast led by a charismatic Adam Garcia, singing quite differently from Norbert Butz.

Idina Menzel, however, eclipsed all that: she was staggering and lovely in virtuosity, panache and timing (no wonder there's so much gnashing on Amazon about not having seen her in the Original Cast) and it felt like the entire population of Delaware had flown over in support. 'Defying Gravity' -- and yes, the present reviewer has studied clips of the excellent Shoshana, and feisty Eden -- was thrillingly and elphabatically nailed. The electrifying interest of the song comes through visual spectacle and partly, it seems, in its risk -- will the voice cope with the decibels and the tuning and the broomstick; will the cherry-picker do its stuff? Well, lucky us: 27.09.06 was mesmerising--so, too, the other three performances I've been privileged to see.

Hurry back, Idina; don't leave 'for good!' Wicked rocks!

Richard Sutton [London]
Email: rfsrollercoaster@hotmail.com


Read more personal reviews below from Londoners seeing the US version.


"It's Good To See It, Isn't It?": Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre

By Gerry Sloan, London, UK

Who do you know who would fly over five thousand miles, pay double airfare, stand in the freezing cold for over three hours and then do it all over again at great cost to see a musical? Yes, me! Was it worth it? Every single penny.

Every now and again a musical comes along that transcends all that has gone before it, within minutes you get that feeling you are watching something unique, different, ground breaking, profusely imaginative. It happens again and again at Wicked, for those who have seen it and those who are going, Wicked pushes the envelope of musical theatre so far forward that its going to take something equally as grand and lush to top it. It is a spectacular opulent production but it never distracts from the characters. It has plenty of plots but the story is told in a hugely entertaining manner and at its heart is a profusely moving story of love, friendship, betrayal and hope. Did I also say its immensely witty with belly laugh lines?

Witness the queues of people at the box office and those (like me) who paid and feel that every dollar is put on that stage. And witness those (like me) who are going to see it again in March.

Wicked coverAs you may have heard Wicked the musical is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire and the prequel of the book and movie The Wizard of Oz, telling the back story of Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the East (Elphaba).

As seen at the Gershwin theatre, the musical Wicked has enough eye-popping visuals and jaw dropping sets and costumes to justify admission. It may take a coffee table book to pour over to do them justice. This is supported by a clever, enjoyable book by Winnie Holzman, which tells the story with stunning clarity, plenty of laughs, drama and passion. It doesn't flag for a second.

The music by Stephen Schwartz may take several hearings to appreciate fully but it has enough beautiful songs in the pop opera vain to keep musical theatre freaks happy for months especially wonderful are "Popular", "Defying Gravity", "What Is This Feeling" and "Couldn't Be Happier". Both lush and simple, this is a real theatre score. Added to this a sizable of young, attractive chorus members sporting the outlandish outfits like they were in the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady, complete with star turn performances from Joel Gray and Carole Shelley, Wicked the musical as it stands is a superb evening. However, added to this are two megawhat star performances from Kristin Chenoweth(Glinda) and Idina Menzel (Elphaba). [continued....]

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[...continued from above]

Kristin Chenoworth is divinely hilarious in all she does as Glinda the Good, lands every laugh, sings beautifully and eats up the stage. Watch as she camps through "Popular" moving to sweetly touching in "Couldn't Be Happier". This is a star turn and one that we never get to see much anymore.

Idina Menzel almost blows the roof of the Gershwin theatre and moves from intelligent thoughtfulness, anger to defiant rage. Any person whose jaw does not drop at her performance of "Defying Gravity" is simply not in the same musical theatre world as the rest of us. These two girls are surrounded by a constantly changing production and yet as directed by Joe Mantello it is essentially their story and the focus never shifts.

Wicked is a musical theatre goers dream. The kind of big, bold, brassy no holds barred intelligent spectacle so rare these days.

In a world that is sadly devoid of magic, the new Broadway musical Wicked delivers the goosebumps, the thrills and all with an archly knowing nod to the movie and book The Wizard of Oz.

Now really what more could you ask for.......whats that, a ticket? Well there is no place like home. The wonders of Oz await you.

To submit a review or ask questions write carol@musicalschwartz.com with "QUESTION UK" or "REVIEW UK" in the subject line of the email

Read Gerry's other reviews: Billy Ellliot and Mary Poppins

So if you care to find the best musical, look to the Western Sky

by Juan-José González Pascual of Spain

I first read about Wicked last summer on the internet, because here in Spain it hasn't been promoted yet. In the beginning, It seemed to me that this musical wasn't interesting. Why a musical that talks about the witches of Oz? I already knew that there were one good and one bad, that's it, there was no mystery. But then I started listening to clips. The first one I listened to was Defying gravity. Wow, it blew my mind, I knew straight away. I had to see it live when I went to New York, and so I did. And, after having some troubles in getting the tickets, I was not dissapointed at all.

Since I was a child I've always been keen on musicals and some of those I've seen are great shows with spectacular scenes, incredible costumes and beautiful scenery but lacked of meaning, of feeling, of such a heart like Wicked has.

Some people may think this one is like any other colourful, happy-go-lucky production on Broadway but that would be judging the book by its cover as I did when I saw the pictures first. That's exactly what WICKED is all about [looking deeper than the surface values], and more.

Of course, apart from the deep meaning, every minute of the show, from the first notes of "No One Mourns the Wicked" to the finale, fascinated me. I had seen many pictures, read reviews and listened to clips of the show …but you actually have to be there to experience the magic, to fly to Oz on a magic broom, because everything on it makes you believe that for 2 hours and a half you travel to the Emerald City.

Comments about the Wicked album

From Shaun E., North Wales, UK

I discovered WICKED around 6 months ago when my life was just stuck in a rut. At 18 I had been working for TESCO, A British Supermarket, for two years since dropping out of Sixth Form after High School. I was suddenly at the stage where I really didn't know what to do with my life. Then, by pure chance, I stumbled across this wonderful Musical. As with 99.9% of every British Child, I was brought up to know the story of Dorothy, Toto, The Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion bravely fighting the Wicked Witch of the West and fulfilling their dreams. But as the teenage years draw in, such "rose-tinted" tales fall upon deafened ears.

But this story intrigued me from the word WICKED! The Music is incredible, and even after hearing for the umpteenth time I still find amazing dynamics hidden beneath the surface which provides hours upon hours of musical pleasure. The Story is something else and having read WICKED and received SON OF A WITCH this morning by post, I have been once again lured in by the Enchantment that is Oz.

This Musical, it's amazing Cast and Crew and especially the sheer brilliance of a stunning musical score inspired me to take control of my life. I went, literally on the spur of the chords of Defying Gravity to enroll at my local College for the BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts. I was told that my Audition was the next morning at 9am. I read the Prologue from WICKED and sang 'For Good' as my audition song. As a male, trying to scrape to the likes of Idina and Kristin were beyond a possibility but it got me on the Course. That was 6 weeks ago, and now I am so happy. My life is back on track, I actually doing what I've always wanted to do.

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