Bristol Hippodrome


Wicked - February 2015



Wonderfully Wicked show


The dastardly Dorothy Gale did for the witch of the East which is where our story ends.

Hang-on – what happens first?

Okay let’s go back to the beginning?

Wicked opened for a five week run at the Bristol Hippodrome on Wednesday and it plays until Saturday, March 21.

Demand for tickets has been so high that extra matinee performances have been added.

We went to the sell-out Thursday matinee and it is difficult to find adequate words to describe both the show and the audience response.

It is spectacular – in a sublime nutshell Wicked is wonderfully wicked.

The curtain opens with film and television actress Emily Tierney as Glinda standing aloft on a swinging clock pendulum and the spell is set.

Surprise, surprise - this isn’t all about the orphaned teenager from Kansas who goes ‘over the rainbow’ with an array of fictional film characters led by Judy Garland.

This is a much darker musical prelude which tells what came first based on the book by Gregory Maguire called Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West.

It ingeniously re-imagines the land of Oz, creating a parallel universe to the familiar story written by L Frank Baum first published as The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz in 1900.

Glinda appears as if she has just popped out of a drain like Giselle, an archetypal Disney princess from Enchanted.

And you can see traits of sorority queen Elle Woods in Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon especially the fashion fetish and when dressed in a baby blue suit of Eva Peron, the wife of a populist Argentine president Juan Peron.

But Miss Tierney made the sugar; spice and spite part all her own and is deviously delicious.

The totally misunderstood blue stocking Elphaba Thropp is usually played by Scottish-born West End star Ashleigh Gray but for this performance it was standby Jacqueline Hughes who stepped out on stage.

She arrives Shrek-like into this world more than a tad green.

Added to her disadvantages are her questionable paternity and an unschooled Harry Potter-style ability for magic. She is brilliant and loveable.

But it is her soft centre especially towards her rotten wheelchair-bound sister Nessarose, the dancer singer Carina Gillespie, which threatens her future.

The part of Elphaba made famous by Idina Menzel of Let It Go, Frozen fame on Broadway is a hard act to follow but despite being a standby Miss Hughes with her clear as a bell diction nailed the role whereas Ashleigh’s voice struggled sometimes with the acoustics of the Hippodrome and with the sound on full volume some of her words got lost in the dome of the theatre.

The duet by Glinda and Elphaba of Defying Gravity was the defining show stopping moment.

For those who dream that one day their prince will come, a good choice is the versatile Samuel Edwards who in the form of the cavalier and carefree Fiyero Tiggular metamorphosizes into the much maligned scarecrow.

Wicked tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two girls who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba.

It is at the strange Hogwarts-style school where undergraduates wear gender swap uniforms and react to discrimination especially towards the ageing goat from academia, Doctor Dillamond.

Following an encounter with The Wizard at the Emerald City in a scene reminiscent of the garish capitol of Panem in the futuristic Hunger Games the girl’s friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take different paths.

Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences -whatever the weather.

Other notable performances are by theatre veteran Marilyn Cutts as Madame Morrible, soap star Steven Pinder who plays both The Wizard and Doctor Dillamond and the loser-in-a-tin Richard Vincent as Boq.

So what’s great about this musical– everything including the costumes, set and the singing which is almost operatic in parts.

The marvellous munchkin chorus line dressed outlandishly in 50 shades of green hide the glare of the Emerald City behind dark glasses while flapping fans and twirling umbrellas.

But this is more than cleverly designed movement draped in silk, satin and bows mixed with feathers, fascinators and stylish shoes full of Paris catwalk chic.

It is a manmade classic fantasy built on childhood fairytales with a wickedness akin to the Grimm brothers added to the the p(l)ot.

The memorable and scary acrobatic winged monkeys, the aerial bubble machine and rusting mechanical wheels and gears of timepieces are snapshots that stay with you long after the final curtain.

This is the blackest, funniest and fantastical musical I have even seen and at the end even the children and their parents seated in the stalls stood up and cheered in a spontaneous ovation.

To book online click HERE with best ticket availability currently at Monday to Wednesday performances, including midweek matinees.

Carol Deacon