Phil has always wanted to use the word “behemoth” in a review and at last an opportunity presented itself last night when West End Whingers put the cork in the bottle and subjected themselves to three very long hours of the broadway import Wicked.
The good news? Idina Menzel’s performance as Elphaba is strong despite having performed her role hundreds of times after which the dialogue and songs must have worn very thin; Andrew and Phil were finding them threadbare by the end of Act 1.
Oh, and there’s one good joke. But that’s the last kind remark you’ll be hearing from us today.
For a musical comedy it doesn’t have much in the way of music and it takes itself very seriously.
In case you don’t know, this is an imagined prequel to the Wizard of Oz (whose charms and tunes Andrew – not previously a huge fan – yearned for). It tells (rather laboriously) the story of how the Glinda and Ephaba respectively became the good and evil witches. Or didn’t. They were both terribly misunderstood.
The music is and lyrics by Stpehen Schwartz (Godspell, Children of Eden) is dreadful and the orchestrations smack of rock opera inclinations which put Andrew in mind of the appalling Rent, as did the applause of the uncritical audience before every song. It just sounded like a bad rock concert – over-amplified and swamping the singers.
In fact, from our seats the sound mix was so appalling we couldn’t hear a word the chorus was singing, and precious little else. Probably a blessing.
Phil felt it was less of a show than a behemoth (see) – it’s big and overblown. Strangely, although the production looks expensive there’s not much “wow factor” and WEW came away feeling that investing a little less money and a little more imagination would have paid dividends.
Andrew felt it was one of those occasions when you can see your money up there on the stage, but wish that they had spent it more wisely.
Phil might have been able to see his money up there on the stage, but from his seat in side block C of the stalls, half of the rear of the stage was obscured by the vast mechanical construction that adorns the proscenium.
This was compounded by bad blocking which plonked performers too near the front, frequently obscuring the action futher up-stage. Apparently there was a lion puppet in a cage at some point but Phil saw none of it. He was also flummoxed when a Tin Man appeared on stage without any apparent explanation, Phil’s line of sight ensuring that he missed a key transformation scene.
As for performances: Menzel put her all into it (but you would think that by now someone would have pointed out that her green make up stops halfway ‘tween wrist and elbow); Miriam Margolyes as Madame Morrible is wasted; Nigel Planer makes so little impact as the Wizard he could have stayed at home; Adam Garcia works his way through it with very little to build on apart from prosthetic buttocks (we don’t know why either); Helen Dallimore as Glinda is passable, but lacks the charm needed to overcome the monstrousness of her teenage high school character. Perhaps a few lessons from Alicia Silverstone who pulled that particular coup off in Clueless would have helped.
We weren’t even sure quite who this show is aimed at. Not us. Kids? WEW were thankful that there were few in evidence at the beautiful barn of a theatre the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
By the interval, Andrew was close to leaving, but WEW stuck it out. By the end, Phil was close to tears. A woman near him did sob at the end, but for quite different reasons.
And £6 for a programme? It’s called a “souvenir programme” but isn’t every programme a souvenir? And whats wrong with an ordinary one? £55 for seats from which we couldn’t see plus another six quid to find out the titles of the songs we couldn’t hear – no wonder it’s called Wicked.
Pay no attention to that show behind the curtain!