It was purely chance that my first viewing of WICKED coincided with International Women's Day but it was a great match.
I had been waiting to see the musical for years. I'd caught the odd song and seen the odd snippet here and there but didn't know the story.
It is based on the acclaimed, best-selling novel ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ by Gregory Maguire that ingeniously re-imagines the stories and characters created by L. Frank Baum in ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’.
WICKED tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two sorcery students.
Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West (Elphaba). It was the theme of friendship – and the trials and tribulations of it – I found most poignant throughout the show as we learned about the background of Glinda (Helen Woolf) and the unfortunate Elphaba (Amy Webb) during the first act, and saw their friendship grow.
Helen Woolf was outstanding in her role as Glinda. Her portrayal of the character was the perfect blend of ditzy, comic blonde - the most popular girl in the class - while, as the show progressed, we also saw her kinder, vulnerable side as she took Elphaba under her wing and fell in love with Fiyero (Aaron Sidwell).
I particularly enjoyed her hilarious performance of the song Popular. Throughout, her performance was underpinned by exquisite vocals - the best I have heard on stage for a long time.
Amy Webb as Elphaba gave a strong performance and I enjoyed seeing her character develop from the awkward, downtrodden sister of Nessarose (Emily Shaw) into the proud, determined (and not really wicked) Wicked Witch of the West.
Her performance of the iconic Defying Gravity quite rightly ended with a standing ovation from the audience. Aaron Sidwell (Steven Beale in Eastenders) gave a funny and heart-warming portrayal of Fiyero, torn between between Glinda and Elphaba, while Kim Ismay (Madame Morrible) also entertained with great vocals.
Steven Pinder was charming in his dual role of Doctor Dillamond and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the loveable Boq was played by Iddon Jones.
I must highlight the costumes - particularly those of the company - which were bright, fantastically designed and reminded me of Johnny Depp's Wonka in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The camaradarie between Woolf and Webb on stage was clear to all and, backed by a wonderful live orchestra and great set, it was a joy to watch two leading actresses portray two very different, but equally strong, female roles. The perfect end to International Women's Day.