Review: Wicked @ Palace Theatre, Manchester

Manchester is a city that’s second to none – but you can’t beat a good trip to the Land of Oz.

Thankfully the two have become one now that Wicked has kicked off a four-week stint at the Palace Theatre.

The musical – which has smashed numerous records since first opening on Broadway in 2003 – is considered one of the most stunning productions of all time, so expectations have been through the roof for this one.

Most theatre-goers will already have a familiarity with the characters involved because the story focuses on those popularised in the classic film The Wizard of Oz. No, not Dorothy and her chums, but the witches who arguably lacked a backstory when the movie first hit screens in 1939.

It’s not as cut-and-dried as you might expect, with the strength of this tale lying in the fact that it muddies the waters and leaves us questioning the ‘good versus evil’ narrative that was portrayed in the film.

Amy Ross is at the helm as Elphaba, the character otherwise known as The Wicked Witch of the West. She’s marvellous in the role, rising to the challenge – as well as to the rafters – magically throughout.

Green-faced Ross is joined on stage by Helen Woolf in the role of Glinda (aka The Good Witch). The chemistry between the two is constantly bubbling over, with a further cauldron of sparks occurring when Aaron Sidwell is thrown into the mix as Fiyero.

The trio bring all the heart (and courage and brains) to the role that you could ever expect, delivering a world-class performance from the word ‘go’. This is all the more impressive when you consider that those behind the production could arguably get by on the production value alone should they have seen fit.

The costumes are vibrant and creative, not just for the leads but the whole of the supporting cast. In addition, the staging is intricate and designed for the enjoyment of all seats – not just those lucky enough to bag their place in stalls. In fact, the set and the high flying theatrics means that you’re guaranteed to get a great eyeful of the action from most of the Palace.

It truly is difficult to find fault with this production. The whole thing plays out like a saga in many ways. There are twists and turns teamed with thoughtful explorations of eternal themes like love and jealousy.

The one minor gripe would be that the first half perhaps goes on for a couple of minutes too long. Its conclusion is not just satisfying due to Ross’ show-stopping rendition of Defying Gravity, but also because you finally get the chance to stretch your legs and debrief on Act One.

Act Two sees the action moving at a faster pace, but nevertheless still maintains the same crispness that the audience are treated to in the first half.

All in all, it’s safe to assume that no one will be going home disappointed after watching Wicked.

*Wicked is showing at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday, January 5. You can buy tickets HERE.

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