Theatre Review: WICKED (UK Tour) – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Helen Woolf as Glinda & Amy Ross as Elphaba in WICKED UK Tour.

Helen Woolf as Glinda & Amy Ross as Elphaba in WICKED UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Credit: Matt Crockett

From its striking set and breathtaking special effects to Stephen Schwartz’s memorable score, WICKED continues to cast a spell over all those who see it

It’s fair to say that Manchester theatregoers are spoilt for choice with shows this Christmas. From THE PRODUCERS at the Royal Exchange to DR DOLITTLE at The Lowry, there is pretty much something for everyone this festive season here in the North West. But all of them are going to have a hard time competing against WICKED, which flies into Manchester’s Palace Theatre for a five-week run this December.

Inspired by the stories and characters created by L. Frank Baum in THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, WICKED tells the untold backstory of Elphaba (Amy Ross), a green-skinned social outcast unloved by her fellow peers and her Munchkinland governor father. At university, Elphaba strikes up an unlikely friendship with popular fellow sorcery student Glinda (Helen Woolf) but the pair’s opposing personalities and rivalry over the same love-interest Fiyero (Aaron Sidwell) ultimately sees them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Helen Woolf as Glinda in WICKED UK & Ireland Tour.

Helen Woolf as Glinda in WICKED UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Credit: Matt Crockett

The risk with a show as big as WICKED is that expectations are so high that you can sometimes be left a little disappointed – thankfully, this is certainly not the case here. From the striking set and breathtaking special effects to the bold and bright flamboyant costumes, every inch of this touring production is a complete and utter visual delight. Add in Stephen Schwartz’s memorable score with tracks like FOR GOOD, POPULAR and, of course, DEFYING GRAVITY, and it’s no wonder this visual spectacle casts a spell over all those who see it.

The touring version sees few familiar faces join the 30+ strong cast including EastEnders heartthrob Aaron Sidwell who showcases an impressive vocal range as Fiyero in AS LONG AS YOU’RE MINE and Brookside’s Max Farnham (Steven Pinder) who plays the not-so-wonderful Wizard of Oz with real energy and vigour.

But the real stars of the show are the two female leads. Amy Ross is simply memorising as Elphaba, demonstrating an innocent side to the character which feels fresh and new, whilst also holding her own on the difficult musical numbers, most notably, DEFYING GRAVITY, which sees her soar above the smoky stage much to the delight of the audience.

Amy Ross as Elphaba as the cast of WICKED UK & Ireland Tour.

Amy Ross as Elphaba as the cast of WICKED UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Credit: Matt Crockett

Helen Woolf is equally excellent as the kind-hearted ditsy blonde Glinda, her perfect comic timing bringing light in this dark tale. Dressed in dazzling costumes, she commands the stage with her exquisitely over-the-top portrayal and soft operatic tones, once again, demonstrating real skill and precision in the musical numbers.

But the real magic happens when the two actresses share the stage. While polar opposites in both character and performance style, the chemistry between the two female leads is electric, reaching fever pitch in their moving performance of FOR GOOD.

In fact, pretty much everything works here, from Winne Holzman’s adaptation to Dave Rose’s orchestra. No wonder the musical has broken so many box office record around the world. If the performance at Manchester is anything to go by, it looks like WICKED is still flying high.

(5 / 5)

WICKED runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until 5 January 2019.

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1