Wicked casts its spell

Defying the critics, and gravity, ‘Wicked’ is an epic, enjoyable evening

Wicked: ‘The whole confection is absolutely irresistible’

Wicked: ‘The whole confection is absolutely irresistible’

Fri, Dec 6, 2013, 10:17

Wicked

Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin

****

When Stephen Schwartz’s musical Wicked opened on Broadway in 2003, the critics were - to say the least - sniffy. Audiences, however, took to it at once; and 10 years on, it has just overtaken Miss Saigon as the 11th longest-running Broadway show of all time.

It’s easy to see why. Towering over the stage here is an enormous black dragon which flexes its wings and flames its eyes when the action hots up. And from the opening chorus, the whirl of light and colour that is Wicked grabs you in its beak and doesn’t let go.

At the centre of the whirlwind is the back story of the witches from Oz. But which witch is the wickedest? That’s the question. Glinda, played by Emily Tierney, is blonde and beautiful. Elphaba, played by Nikki Davis-Jones, is - um - green. They meet as room-mates at boarding-school. They hate each other. They become friends. They fall out over a boy. They fall in again. It’s not difficult to follow.

But it is great fun. Tierney and Davis-Jones are aided and abetted by the marvellous Marilyn Cutts - a founder-member of Fascinating Aida - as dastardly headmistress Madame Morrible. The whole confection is absolutely irresistible, thanks not just to the superb special effects but to the attention lavished on every detail: creepy dancing monkeys, outrageously-costumed chorus, and sequences of silky set changes. And that fabulous dragon. What’s not to like?

Well, you could get picky, and point out that the score is a game of two halves, and almost peters out altogether towards the end of the second act. The male characters are beyond drippy. And what is that silly “the-animals-can’t-talk-anymore” subplot all about?

But when underdog Elphaba sweeps up her broom and soars into the sky for the show’s big number, Defying Gravity, you can’t help soaring with her. Part panto, part sitcom, part musical, part sheer extravaganza, Wicked may or may not become a musical theatre classic. In the meantime, it makes for a hugely enjoyable evening.

Until January 18