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  • Review by john Murray

A Wicked musical

Musicals do not come much bigger than Wicked and this touring production has now camped in Edinburgh for a month. By all accounts this is a lavish Broadway show with a huge cast, modern songs and dazzling choreography to bring a spectacular stage experience. First seen on Broadway in 2003 it soon won Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards and even a Grammy for the cast. Still running it has grossed over $1billion in the US. The UK production is to the same standards as has been resident at the Apollo Victoria for over ten years so quite a bit anticipation for this Edinburgh residency from fans and lovers of musical theatre.

The story surrounds the Wizard Of Oz as a prequel to the Dorothy and Toto story we all know and love from the movie starring a young Judy Garland. In our story 2 sorcery students meet at Shiz University. Elphaba, the wicked witch of the west played by Amy Ross and Glinda, the good witch played by Helen Woolf with a mesmerising operatic vocal performance. We meet Elphaba’s father (Howard Ellis) and her disabled sister Nessarose played by Emily Shaw. We witness how tutor Madam Morrible (played menacingly by Kim Ismay) manages all three girls and in Dr. Dillamond (Steven Pinder who also plays the Wizard of Oz) we experience discrimination as he is banished from teaching as he is a goat. Actually the overall theme here is of relationships, of status, of dreams and of love’s turns and diversions. Messages galore here and surrounded by a colourful musical fantasy. In this show something happens in every minute. We can see scene changes at the back but meanwhile we get the energetic and acrobatic monkeys scurrying around the stage. The setting is elaborate with wheels and cogs, rooms that change, Galinda rising high above the set, the animated wonderful Wizard of Oz plus the animations over the stage and I have still to mention the songs. Defying Gravity is the magnificent well known piece that closes the first half on a high, One Short Day is an enchanting duet with Elphaba and Glinda and I’m Not That Girl a great moment in the first Act and reprised in Act II.

There was an ovation at the finale and the theatre was packed like no other night. A magnificent performance and supreme orchestration from the musicians led by Dave Rose.

Edinburgh Playhouse until June 9

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