Defy Gravity (Wicked Review/Chat.)

Ok so this is kind of a review and kind of an excited ramble. I know this isn’t directly about music, but I haven’t blogged in quite a while and this is something I really wanted to write about, and haven’t had a chance to previously with Christmas and New Year going on. On Dec 22nd I went to see Wicked at London’s Apollo Victoria theatre and it was spectacular.

It’s the story of the two witches of Oz and how they became known as good and evil, but more than that, its themes had messages that resonate with real life such as bullying, acceptance of differences and using your voice to stand up for what you believe in. It is truly inspiring.

(WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS…though I’ve tried to keep it to a minimum!)

The story starts off with the people of Oz celebrating the wicked witch’s death, however, you find out that the two witches; Glinda the good and Elphaba the wicked, were once friends and this is the story of that friendship, and how it disintegrated into the two becoming enemies.

Elphaba wasn’t always wicked, she was born green skinned and because of that feels neglected by her father and feels that her sister is embarrassed of her. Elphaba and sister Nessa Rose are sent to the same university, Elphaba promising to look after Nessa. However, Elphaba is forced into sharing a room with popular, blonde, spoiled classmate Glinda and the two take an instant dislike to each other; Glinda having the whole school on her side due to her popularity. However, that changes one night after everyone makes fun of Elphaba at a school function and Glinda has an attack of guilt and the two become friends.

Strange things are happening in Oz and Elphaba wants to help, but little does she know that someone else wants her power for something she does not want to be a part of, and in trying to set right the wrong that’s been done she is condemned and given the title ‘wicked’. Though there is one person that see’s Elphaba for what, and who, she really is: Fiyero (played by Matt Willis, ex Busted) the object of Glinda’s desire.

I absolutely loved Elphaba’s line “Don’t tell me I’m beautiful, you don’t have to lie to me.” To which Fiyero replies, “It’s not lies, it’s looking at something in another way.” I thought that was really moving as it projects the idea that it’s not all about the exterior and it’s what’s inside that counts. That being said it isn’t corny at all. It’s so moving and so inspirational, my friend and I were both giving standing ovations after all the songs, as well as the final curtain call.

The musical was absolutely amazing! The set was flawless, the props were astounding, the singing was sensational and the acting sucked you into the world of the performance completely. The set, complete with a red eyed, smoke breathing dragon above the stage, was great. With all it’s tricks and techniques it was very well put together and really added to the performance. When the lights were on and the actors were all in costume, singing and dancing, it looked magical. And the props, such as the Wizard of Oz head sculpture, were amazing; you could imagine the time and effort the team spent to make that for the production.

The orchestra was fantastic; the score really fitted the mood and tone of what was happening onstage and contributed to the atmosphere, making you engrossed in the story even more. The singing was phenomenal, especially Rachel Tucker who played Elphaba. She had such a powerful voice that was able to fill every corner of the room and made  belting out those top notes seem effortless. Tucker gave such a truly great portrayal of  Elphaba that I can’t imagine anyone else playing her. She made her so believable that, as an audience member, you start to sympathise with the character and understand her all the more. This is why I think the music works so well as I feel, in Tucker’s case, these little bursts of song are where you get to see the extent of the characters’ passion for what she believes in. Tucker matches that feeling perfectly with her voice; holding nothing back and giving it her all, whilst always keeping control of her voice, sounding absolutely breathtakingly flawless. In particular, the performance of the song Defying Gravity, really stuck out for me as it showed Elphaba’s true character. The extent of Tucker’s vocal ability and the staging of the number was also absolutely excellent.

The believability of the show was enhanced by the actors, and the fact that you really could believe what they were doing. You got sucked into the story so much that you start to feel emotion for the characters. For example, after gaining the insight into the character’s background, I felt for Elphaba and understood where she was coming from in that she wasn’t really wicked in the true sense of the word; and to be honest the whole story did kind of change my perceptions of the events in the original Wizard of Oz, due to the links with it.

For instance, when Nessa Rose dies wearing her late mother’s shoes after a house falls on her (of course the iconic scene at the start of Wizard Of Oz when the wicked witch’s sister is killed) and the shoes are given away by Glinda to ‘a farmer girl’, Elphaba takes this ‘farmer girl’ (who we all obviously know as Dorothy) in an attempt to take back the only thing she has left of her sister – their mother’s shoes.

The ending reveals a few twists in the original story and ties everything together beautifully, highlighting its themes of friendship, love and acceptance. I feel that this musical has a great message and it is communicated absolutely brilliantly by the actors and the emotion shown throughout. Though, I’m not sure how I would feel about seeing it performed by a different cast, as I think as an audience member you identify with who you see bring the characters alive, and as you can probably tell I can’t rave enough about Rachel Tucker. I also think that Gina Beck (Glinda) and Matt Willis (Fiyero) were great in their roles, and the three had a dynamic that I really liked, probably because I was so captivated by the story and believed their performance and relationships. So, I think to see someone else in the three central roles would be a bit weird for me, personally.

Nevertheless, It’s a performance I’m definitely planning to go and see again and I would recommend this musical to anyone, whether you have seen Wizard Of Oz or not – and you don’t really have had to – as I was blown away by it. It’s such a passionate story and truly something to be experienced.

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