Thursday 26 April 2018

Review: 'Wicked' is a joyous spectacle that captures the imagination

Wicked - Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin

'Wicked' cast member Richard Carson
'Wicked' cast member Richard Carson
John Meagher

John Meagher

Billed as an alternative story of 'The Wizard of Oz', 'Wicked' is one of the most successful musicals this century so far. It's been seen by 38 million people and there are nine productions running across the globe right now.

Advance ticket sales for this Dublin production broke records for the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, with more than 100,000 snapped up.

Stephen Schwartz's musical – based on the Gregory Maguire book – has captured the imagination in much the same way that the original novel and Broadway production of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' did at the beginning of the 20th Century.

'Wicked' centres on the relationship between Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, superbly played by Nikki Davis-Jones, and Glinda, the Good Witch, which provides Emily Tierney with comedy gold-dust.

In the original 'Oz', the Wicked Witch was unfathomably evil, but here she is given a back story that transforms preconceptions.

Davis-Jones, who was the long-term understudy at the West End production, brings a profound sense of pathos to a challenging, visceral part while Tierney nails the comedic timing that's so essential for her role. Both are fine singers too.

One of the delights of 'Wicked' is how the original characters are re-imagined, including the Wizard himself and Tin Man, and there's one laugh-out-loud funny reference to Dorothy.

There is no shortage of clever new creations too, including the larger-than-life Madame Morrible who's played with considerable panache by Marilyn Cutts.

But the main star of this production is the astonishing set – a fantastical, otherworldly melange of texture and colour. The part set in the Wizard's lair with winged monkeys "flying" about is simply jaw-dropping and feels like a proper West End production, rather than the scaled back type that Ireland used to get.

It helps that this Daniel Libeskind-designed venue is perfectly suited for a musical of this scale – and what a joy this big, old-fashioned song-and-dance story this is.

Irish Independent

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