Brace yourselves, my fellow musical fanatics, London’s most hilarious and didactic musical has been identified and it’s bursting with life on stage. Hurry to the Apollo Victoria Theater, from Mondays to Saturdays, and experience a chaotic story of political turmoil, staggering friendships, and clichéd love triangles, all unearthed within the green glory of Wicked. Just when you’re about to swear that the Grinch would be the first and last green being you felt sympathy for, Elphaba, the leading character in the plot, is sure to change your mind.

Condemned by the Guardian as being ‘more like a piece of industrial product than something that genuinely touches the heart or mind’, to me, Wicked is rather dimly reminiscent of a clichéd high school story, with its sassy banter and cheeky humour. The show sets off chronologically, in the present, but soon enough it becomes apparent that the whole plot will unfold in a flashback. The citizens of Oz gather around Glinda, who informs them of the Wicked Witch’s long-awaited death. I find that the use of the flashback is quite appropriate at this point, as it bridges time, place, and action to reveal information about how Glinda came to know Elphaba in the first place, aiding the story to move forward. Not only that, but throughout the flashback, we are introduced to the characters’ true nature, their feelings and thoughts in the face of unfolding events.

Each actor is, of course, worth noting without the rest, but standouts include Jeremy Taylor (Fiyero), Savannah Stevenson (Glinda) and Kerry Ellis (Elphaba). Glinda is the typical golden girl: blonde, beautiful, and very ‘popular’. Savannah Stevenson’s ringing voice and amazing charm, badges a wealth of comic detail to Glinda. I also believe that ‘communication via costume’ is at play here, with the choice of colours for costumes riddled with symbolism. Looking at Glinda’s dresses (and the number of shoes she owns!), ranging from white to baby pink, are colours that have the ability to evoke a certain allegory of her being sweet and innocent, while at the same time being superficial and childish.

Elphaba, on the other hand, is a low profile, strong-willed, and quite witty witch, who is, nonetheless, scorned and laughed at for being green. She is constantly dressed in black, which is usually apportioned to a villain, signifying darkness, evil, and mystery.

This compels the audience into thinking ‘who in their right mind would ever have paired those polar opposites?’ However, Wicked is so wicked that it not only unfolds an improbable and unforeseen friendship, with a side serving of sharp humour, but it also breaks down all stereotypes tied to aesthetics. The physical, as well as intellectual, disparities between the two witches are so pronounced that they evoke an almost perverse pleasure, creating an impeccable rib-tickling element, and, eventually, a heartwarming friendship.

I love how, amongst several other fully developed themes, the whole musical plays on the idea of appearance and reality; characters are not what they appear to be, and stereotypes are tossed out of the window. A flunk-out from numerous other schools, Fiyero is a young man initially brimming with superficiality and entitlement. He believes that life is ‘more painless for the brainless’, and his philosophy of ‘dancing through life’ prompts us to think he is outrightly deluded. Very soon, however, the mistreatment of talking animals provides a storytelling vehicle, not only for the political element entrenched throughout the musical, but also to reveal Fiyero’s genuine insightfulness. Jeremy Taylor’s astonishing voice and immaculate acting help bring the character of Fiyero into place, while he never ceases to amaze the audience with his mind-blowing expressions.

Michael McCabe’s immensely inventive production is almost awe-inspiring in its sheer scale and intricacy – quite a  remarkable feat. The music, the singing, the set, and the overall performances are nothing short of incredible, and I would say it is definitely a ‘must see’ show. Of course, by the end, as expected from a true didactic musical, everyone learns a few valuable lessons while we dash to an unconventional ending, leaving the audience with a long-lasting urge to sing along to ‘The Wizard and I’.

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