Wicked at The Bristol Hippodrome Review 2018

Wicked UK Tour
Bristol Hippodrome
01/02/2018

 

Visually stunning with exceptional production values and a top notch cast, the UK tour of Wicked flies into the Bristol Hippodrome with appreciative audiences and standing ovation.

This musical sets the bar as high as it can go. It’s not only the first big musical of 2018, but whether you love, loathe or are a bit indifferent about the show, it’s fair to say that the rest of the Hippodrome calendar is going to struggle with this level of early competition.

 

Amy Ross as Elphaba in WICKED UK & Ireland Tour

 

The musical is a juggernaut of a show, with a strong, dedicated fan base and a producer and team of creatives that have crafted not just a show, but a brand that oozes professionalism and talent at every opportunity.

It’s still on an open-ended run at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre. It’s now in its 12th year and boasts Idina Menzel in its alumni – Frozen’s Elsa for the 0.2 per cent of the world’s population who missed the ubiquitous Disney animation.

The story is adapted from novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. It tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the East, West and Glinda before and into the much loved Wizard of Oz era.

 

Helen Woolf as Glinda in WICKED UK & Ireland Tour

 

There are twists, turns, pertinent themes of racism, bullying, even state terrorism that make this show edgier than its contemporaries. It provides great talking points and role models for young children and early teens. On a more superficial level there is friendship and not judging a book by its cover, making this a show that hits all demographics. Basically, it’s a good story for all.

It’s recommended for children aged 7 years upwards which feels about right. Some children found the Wizard of Oz puppet a little scary and loud to begin with, but it’s a scene that’s over quite quickly. One thing that was noticeable was this show features a tech crew who got the sound balance in the Bristol Hippodrome consistently spot on from start to finish. So many shows in this theatre are either too loud, too quiet or slide between a deafening boom to mouse whispers.

 

Wicked Musical UK & Ireland Tour Jack Harrison Cooper as Chistery

 

Eugene Lee’s set, Susan Hilferty’s costumes (interestingly gender neutral in some numbers) and Kenneth Posner’s lighting design was just beautiful. The three worked harmoniously. It was steampunk brought to life in a magical land of Oz, fresh from L. Frank Baum’s original story, yet without being discordant with our expectations from the 1939 film.

Helen Woolf creates a well rounded character from the spoilt and ditzy Glinda. Yes, matching outfits and beautiful shoes are fine, but she also shows that underneath that glamour and initial vacuousness, is an astute person able to detect vulnerability and with the necessary steely determination to become a political leader. That’s a pretty good job considering she makes her entrance on a giant bubble in Barbie dress.

Amy Ross wastes no time establishing the fiery yet inwardly fragile Elphaba. Can she do big show number Defying Gravity? Yes she can, with aplomb. The final Act One number was a showstopper both literally and figuratively.

Amy has a wonderful voice that met the physical and emotional demands of the score yet with crystal clear enunciation, something many musical theatre singers appeared to have lost in 2017.

Wicked is one of those shows which is really enhanced by its ensemble and swing. They’re not just stage fillers and backing vocalists. As Oz residents and uni students, they provided a rich and interesting community of people who were fascinating to people watch.

The musical score has three or four great songs, but could benefit from a few cuts and although overall it’s good, it’s not in our top ten favourites. But, if you want an opportunity to see top quality musical theatre which isn’t a watered down version of the London show, you will get that here. A fantastic cast, crew and team of creatives have brought this magical prequel story to life. It will be one of the best things you will see at The Bristol Hippodrome this year.

For more information about the show: www.wickedthemusical.co.uk

For tickets: www.atgtickets.com/bristol