It is hard to believe that it has been ten years since we were first asked to Defy Gravity with this amazing long running stage show based on the book by Gregory Maguire. Bringing the show to life with a series of classic songs like What Is This Feeling, As Long As Your Mine and No Good Deed. Having already spent three years on Broadway winning three Tony awards and six Drama Desk Awards. It is now the 10th longest running West End show.
Showing the story of the Wizard of Oz from a totally different view point to the original book/film series. What if the Wicked Witch of the West wasn't actually wicked? What if she was only doing what she thought best? What if in her eyes she was actually the hero of the piece? And Dorothy Gale the true villain of the piece?
Let’s look at this again: Dorothy crashes into Munchkinland, kills a woman by landing a house on her. Then she steals the dead woman's shoes. Goes tramping through the land, stealing whatever she feels like to make the trip easier. Demands people help her with directions. Orders the great Wizard of Oz to help her get home. Runs off, attempts to break into the Wicked Witches house to steal her broom and then melts her! Giving her two murders under her belt in only a few days. Is this the true face of a hero? I do not think so!
Aren't heroes meant to be all sugar and spice and all things nice? Not murderous attention seeking children? Not whining about wanting to leave Kansas so badly then deciding constantly there is no place like home!
Wicked starts with a celebration of the death of the witch. Glinda telling the people that she is gone for good, they are safe. Until someone asks if she knew the wicked witch. When she starts to reveal the story of how they had met at school and Elphaba's early abandoned life for being 'different'. Green skinned, picked on, abandoned, and just used to take care of her younger sister. You really feel her pain when her sister Nessa-Rose was given a pair of brand new expensive shoes when she started school and she got nothing but the empty box to put away.
Even at school Elphaba doesn't fit in, students of jealous of the fact she is the only person to be taking high sorcery class as she has a special talent for it. Students ignore her, or pick on her. She puts up a brave front, to hide the pain inside, lurking around with Doctor Dillamond, the only Animal teacher on site also teased for being different. All she really wants is the same as everyone else: to be loved, accepted, to feel a part of something. Leaving it clear why this show has been taken up as a gay anthem piece. You can read the Animal rights battle as LGBTQ+ rights, black rights, and women’s rights, anything that affects YOU personally. The book even more strongly this way, please note that the book and theatre endings are very different.
Then when things change at the school, the wizard needs to be told and Elphaba tries however she can to get to meet him. To protect the Animals. And when a small caged little lion cub is brought to school, beaten and shocked so that it will never learn to speak she snaps. Her magic running free leaving only her and Fiyero (a young winky prince she crushes on) unaffected to rescue the cub. An event which will change everything for both Elphaba and Fiyero.
This isn't the first time I have seen the musical, nor will it be the last. I admit this is a slight (oh okay I'm not allowed to lie, so huge) obsession of mine. I love everything from the music to the costumes and everything in between. I did see the show in April, and planned to review it then yet the cast just didn't feel right. Leaving the show a little dull, and cold. Almost leaving me not returning on my trip to Paris for pride. However I just can't do London without a show and found some side circle seats on offer. I am glad I did come back, as the 10th anniversary has clearly heated things up. New costumes, new attitude, new cast. Even though we had several of the understudies onstage it was a fantastic show. In fact no, I think it was the skill of the understudies which made it so fantastic. Often I find they put more effort into the roles then the main cast because they are just so pleased to be centre stage. Alice Fearne as Elphie has to be the best young lady I saw in the role. Matching Suzie Mathers as Glinda perfectly.
If you haven't had a chance to catch this show yet, there is still time as it is booking until at least march 2017.
Sarah Beth James