Ten years after its low-key opening in San Francisco and thousands of sell out shows later, Wicked is still drawing in the crowds.
Although not really a prequel to the Wizard of Oz, Wicked is based on the book by Gregory Maguire who took Frank Baum’s story of The Wizard of Oz and imagined the past lives of two of the peripheral characters.
Elphaba, the strange green child, persecuted because of her colour, forms an unlikely alliance with the bubble-headed beauty Glinda when the two are forced together by circumstances.
Over time Elphaba turns from a confused little girl into the future Wicked Witch of the West, bent on revenge against those who have railed against her.
Glinda, an attention-seeking, selfish young socialite, abandons her former friend and pursues her own agenda, using her wiles to proclaim herself the Good Witch and the saviour of the Munchkins.
It’s a fascinating story and has romance, unrequited love, jealousy, treachery and intrigue - the staple fare of musicals - but it’s also witty, has a well-written plot and some intelligent lines that make it suitable for all ages.
Dorothy, her shoes and her three companions - Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion - are all referenced and their back-stories hinted at which makes for a nice touch and brings the whole story into some sort of perspective.
Carly Anderson is a superb Glinda, who brings a humorous, light touch to the role; Jacqueline Hughes is an equally tremendous Elpaba, taking her skilfully from a frightened little girl to a tormented adult trying to make sense of the world around her and the cards she’s been dealt.
The ensemble cast are a talented bunch of singers and dancers and use the compact stage at the Alhambra to great effect.
By Julie Marshall
Until August 21