Theatre Review: Wicked @ The Lowry, Salford

‘Wicked’ tells the story of a potential prequel to the Wizard of Oz.

Based on a novel by Gregory Maguire, it imagines just what the Wicked Witch might have been like as a youngster and college student – as well as her nemesis, the benevolent Glinda the Good Witch.

Here named Elphaba, the Wicked Witch is an outcast who has wickedness forced upon her after years of torment over her green skin.

Glinda, meanwhile, is unbearably self-centred and vain, the popular blonde adversary of poor Elphaba.

Despite their initial love-hate relationship, the tale of unconditional sisterhood that emerges is moving and often hilarious.

The production is epic, as all modern musicals are, while making clever reference to the old classic film it reimagines.

In fact, it’s a must-see even for those who haven’t seen the Wizard of Oz, as Dorothy’s sparkly shoes, the yellow brick road and the Tin Man are so embedded in popular culture.

And all of these are touched upon teasingly during the show, in which this new plot slots alongside but never quite overlaps with the original.

The music and set pieces are spectacular, while ‘Defying Gravity’ – first sung in the musical’s 2003 debut by Frozen’s Idina Menzel – is surely one of the most powerful musical hits ever written.

Ashleigh Gray in this production gives a cracking rendition of the spine-tingling song, though no-one will ever quite match Menzel when it comes to vocal talent.

Meanwhile Emily Tierney’s Glinda (or ‘Ga-linda’, as she likes to be addressed) is surprisingly lovable despite her extreme vanity and tactlessness.

The show returns to Manchester’s Lowry Theatre after a successful run at the Palace Theatre back in 2013.

While the storyline is occasionally sloppy and the production can be overly gothic in places, it’s a stunning and exciting show – and a night out well spent.

Wicked is showing at the Lowry Theatre until Saturday 25 July.

For more information, visit: www.thelowry.com/event/wicked

Main image courtesy of The Western Sky, with thanks.

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