Wicked, Mayflower Southampton, review: ‘This is sure to be a family-pleaser’

Wicked is at the Mayflower until October 27.
Wicked is at the Mayflower until October 27.

A re-imagining of the events inBaum’s immortal The Wizard of Oz, the Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman adaptation of Gregory Maguire’s novel is a simultaneously powerful drama and clunky allegory.

The first act, in particular, thumps its ‘equal rights, regardless of colour or species’ drum loudly, equating Oz under the Wonderful Wizard as a magical Nazi Germany.

Act two takes us on a more personal journey for Elphaba  – a note-sure, belt-voiced Amy Ross – and Glinda, Helen Woolf, and we come to see how sweet Elphie eventually became the Margaret Hamilton we all know and love.

Amy navigates the choppy waters of Elphaba well; sweet, well-meaning and misunderstood, you perfectly understand her change into the bitter Wicked Witch of the West. Helen Woolf, equally sure-voiced with some incredible upper-soprano range, tries too hard with the comedy in the first half, but rises to the emotional challenge of the second – and who couldn’t love her cheeky nod to Eva Peron on the balcony?

Aaron Sidwell makes a charming Fiyero and – again – one stands in awe of his vocal-range. Steven Pinder does fine work as the likeable Doctor Dillamond and the very un-likeable Wizard – but Kim Ismay made it for me; more Madame Machiavelli than Madame Morrible, and with a voice like syrup to boot.

Blazing ensemble work – both vocal and physical – and this is sure to be a family-pleaser, if perhaps a little too dark for the very youngest.

James George.