Ever since I was a child I have loved the excitement of the theatre, although,admittedly, my early experiences were limited to the little theatre in our local town and the annual pantomime. Aged sixteen, one of my favourite memories is my first visit to London to see a Shakespearean play in a London theatre. And after realising there was a whole world of theatre out there where the stages were bigger, the scenery was more spectacular, the productions on a completely different level to those in my home town, I was hooked!
So last month when we were invited down to London to see Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, we didn’t even hesitate to say yes! Unfortunately on the day Megan was unwell and, with Harry still a little too young, it was just Gaz, Lewis, Eva and I who made the two hour train journey down to London followed by a short tube ride over to Victoria. With a few hours spare, and Victoria within easy distance of both Buckingham Palace and Westminster, we had plenty of time to do a little sightseeing before the matinee performance.
After a lovely morning exploring we returned to the Apollo Victoria Theatre, collected our tickets, and took our seats. We were lucky enough to have stall seats with a really great view and, even before the show began, the scenery gave us a small insight as to what lay ahead!
For those who are unfamiliar with Wicked, it tells the story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two young women – Glinda and Elphaba. Following an encounter with The Wizard of Oz, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and those around her, have unexpected and shocking consequences for her future.
Based on the novel ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ by Gregory Maguire, there are references to the well known story of ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ by L.Frank.Baum. Maguire describes his novel as a “reimagining of the same world” creating a “parallel universe” to Baum’s magical world as the story takes place before, simultaneously and after the familiar tale.
Wicked has been seen by over 9 million people, and brings in over 15,000 people a week to Victoria and 850,00 people a year. Winning 100 major awards around the world and hailed as “Best musical of the decade” by Entertainment Weekly, it’s success has been incredible!
There are 350 costume changes during the performance, plus 75 different wigs and 140 pairs of shoes. Whilst Glinda has 7 costumes, Elphaba has the biggest with her Wicked Witch dress made from over 40 yards of different fabrics with 50 layers and 3 weeks to construct!
Glinda has 7 costumes with one, her Bubble Dress, being made with 36 petals in the skirt, 20 different sequins and almost 100,000 sequins per costume! Just one person is employed to take care of the Bubble Dress four days, four hours, a week.
And from the opening scene until the curtain fell, I think that the four of us remained completely and utterly mesmerised. It’s hard to put into words just how amazing it was and yet every single cast member, and every single costume, was just spectacular!
Alice Fearn, who plays Elphaba, and Maria Coyne, who plays Glinda, were perfectly cast to take the audience on a powerful journey of friendship, from their original feelings of loathing to their eventual feelings of love. Together they create the most spellbinding and dynamic duo, their voices complimenting each other perfectly, beautifully portraying the importance of female friendship.
With the introduction of Fiyero, played by Bradley Jaden, we see how Glinda and Elphaba’s friendship is jeopardised, and how Elphaba sacrifices her own happiness in order for Glinda to achieve hers.
When Elphaba refuses to conform to the Oz-ian way once she realises that they aren’t working towards the greater good, despite criticism from the public and – ultimately – a witch hunt against her. Her resolution to do the right thing and defy the status quo makes her an inspiring and strong role model for both children and adults. It is in that moment, when she sings the iconic song, Defying Gravity, that I found myself overcome with emotion and the hairs on my arms stood up. If I had to choose just one favourite moment from the entire production, it would be that.
The second half of the production sees Elphaba on the run, hotly pursued by The Wizard, and the dilemma she faces in following her heart with her love for Fiyero. The moment when Fiyero and Elphaba finally face the truth of their feelings for each other is utterly beautiful and, although we know that it will break Glinda’s heart, as an audience we are cheering them on as a couple.
By the end of the production I felt as though I had held my breath for the entire finale and, with tears streaming down my face, it was as though everything I had read in ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ made sense in a way I had never imagined. And despite each and every cast member giving the most breathtaking performance, it was for Glinda and Elphaba whom I clapped the loudest, and for their incredible friendship which moved me on so many levels.
We were very lucky to be taken backstage after the show to meet Alice Fearn and Maria Coyne, who greeted us with such kindness and, although Eva remained completely overwhelmed, made her first visit to London the most memorable experience we could hope for.
For anyone debating booking tickets to Wicked, I urge you to get them booked. It was undoubtedly the best show we have ever seen and I can assure you that when the opportunity comes around to see it all over again, I will be right there, feeling all of those emotions once again, enjoying it every bit as much as we did right that very first time.
For ticket prices, dates and bookings you can find out more here at www.wickedthemusical.co.uk.
You can see more of our trip by watching our vlog below!
** We were gifted these tickets for the purpose of this review and compensated for our time and travel. **