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Wicked review: Spellbinding show is still flying high 13 years on

PUBLISHED: 14:31 22 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:41 23 October 2019

Nikki Bentley (Elphaba) sings Defying Gravity in Wicked The Musical at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre Credit: Matt Crockett

Nikki Bentley (Elphaba) sings Defying Gravity in Wicked The Musical at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre Credit: Matt Crockett

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Louisa Baldwin headed to London's Apollo Victoria Theatre to watch Wicked, which has been spellbinding audiences on the West End for over a decade.

Alistair Brammer (Fiyero) and Nikki Bentley (Elphaba) in Wicked The Musical at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre Credit: Matt CrockettAlistair Brammer (Fiyero) and Nikki Bentley (Elphaba) in Wicked The Musical at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre Credit: Matt Crockett

Wicked tells the untold story of the witches of Oz and is set both before, during and after Dorothy arriving in Kansas.

But this isn't simply a rehash of the classic story, in fact she doesn't even feature in the show, and it brings something completely fresh and explores how Elphaba (Nikki Bentley), who became the Wicked Witch of the West, formed an unlikely friendship with Glinda the Good Witch (Lisa-Anne Wood) and how they both ended up on different paths.

The show begins with powerful, ensemble number No One Mourns the Wicked and Glinda floats on to the stage in a giant bubble and asks: "Are people born wicked? Or Do They Have Wickedness thrust upon them?"

The clocks then reverse and we are transported in time to Elphaba being born with green skin, serious credit to Bentley who must have to sit for hours in the make-up chair every day, and how during her childhood her father resented her for it.

When she starts at Shiz University, run by the slippery Madame Morrible (Kim Ismay), she is met with the same looks of disgust and it is Glinda who finally accepts her and learns that beauty comes in all different forms.

The chemistry between the two witches is electric, which is all the more impressive as Wood is an understudy, and their vocals compliment each other beautifully and they raise the roof with duets For Good and comedy number Popular, where Glinda offers to give Elphaba a makeover.

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As the show progresses, it becomes clear that it is Glinda that needs more help as behind her immaculate appearance is an insecure girl and with Elphaba's help she lets her guard down and opens up.

The pair then go in search of the Wizard of Oz, as Elphaba dreams of working with him, and once again it reinforces the message not to judge a book by its cover.

Nikki Bentley as Elphaba in Wicked the Musical at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre Credit: Matt CrockettNikki Bentley as Elphaba in Wicked the Musical at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre Credit: Matt Crockett

The way the story intertwines with the original Wizard of Oz is very clever, with references to Dorothy throughout and you also find out how the scarecrow, lion and tin man came to be.

They two friends are also tested with love interest Fiyero (Alistair Brammer), whose vocals were smooth and faultless and, despite coming across as a bit of a lout at the start, you learn that he has a heart as gold as Elphaba's skin is green.

The soundtrack is extremely catchy, with songs such as the Wizard and I and One Short Day, but the real star number is Defying Gravity as Elphaba finally finds her voice and rises up throughout the theatre.

It isn't any surprise the music and lyrics are so powerful and poignant as Stephen Schwartz is behind it and he also worked on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Prince of Egypt and Pocahontas.

The costumes and sets were simply dazzling and the show was a kaleidoscope of colour, magic and plenty of monkeys.

Wicked has been flying high on the West End for 13 years and long may it continue delighting audiences and bringing the message of acceptance to the masses, which is more important now more than ever.

You can purchase tickets at wickedthemusical.co.uk

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