How is "Wicked" Still Defying Gravity?

Lewis Baird

Next week Wicked flies into Edinburgh as part of its 2nd UK & Ireland tour. I am excited to say I will be attending press night to see how this new production compares to the previous tour and the show currently running in London's West End. However, Wicked the musical is one of, or most likely, THE most iconic musical in the world. How does it manage to maintain it's popularity 15 years after its premiere in San Francisco?

I believe one of the main ingredients is its cast. In London, the support for the cast of Wicked is astounding. I went to Rachel Tucker's final performance as Elphaba last January, and oh my goodness, it was one of the best nights I have had in a theatre. Mainly because of the energy in the auditorium. The audience was screaming as soon as Rachel stepped on stage for The Wizard and I. Also because it was a final performance, Rachel added things in to make the show bigger than normal, such as complicated riffs in songs, signals to show appreciation to the audience and also nods to show this was her last performance. For any other show this would not work, and if it hadn't been done so subtlety (at points), then it would have been too much. But this cast rocked their final performance, especially Rachel.

So, I wonder what it's like to play Elphaba and Glinda in this show 15 years on? Amy Ross, the current UK & Ireland tour's Elphaba, was asked why she thinks Elphaba has become so iconic, to which she responded "Audiences connect with Elphaba because of everything she stands for. She is incredibly passionate and cares so much about things being just. She always tries to help others and stays true to herself no matter what. I also think people can relate to Elphaba because she is an outsider. She is different and most people - at some point in their lives - have felt this way."

Lets not forget Gaalinda, sorry I mean, Glinda, who is played by Helen Woolf, in the UK & Ireland touring production, she was asked how it feels to land the role of Glinda, "I’m so proud to be taking on the role of Glinda, there are so few people who have played the role, so it feels very special to be part of that small family! She has become an iconic character in musical theatre, and it is so rewarding to be part of a show that puts a friendship between two strong female characters at the heart of the story."

It just shows that the excitement isn't just in the audience, but the cast on stage is so passionate about this show that they put their all into maintaining the high-quality standard that this show needs. After hearing Helen and Amy speak so strongly of the characters they are portraying, I cannot wait to see them smash it on opening night.

Another thing that adds to this hype in an annual occurrence which not every show achieves. The atmosphere that I experienced in London last year was not a once in a lifetime thing. At the end of every cast's run, the dedicated fans of this show turn up at the Apollo Victoria, to show their support to the actors and actresses who have entertained them for a year. I suspect the same happens on Broadway as well. I'm sure it even happens on tour as well, where the fans see the show in several different locations. The incredible passion shown by returning fans, in final cast performances or even just a normal run, is incredible. Wicked is also renowned for having one of the busiest stage doors in London's West End. Basically, Wicked fans are definitely one of the reasons this show is still running.

The show resonates with a lot of people, not just for being a great piece of musical theatre. But, for the message it carries, that you can be different and go against the system to still be right. Or that no matter who you are, where you're from or what you look like, you be you and let no one tell you differently. And these messages have matured with age, but they aren't dated, the show is more relevant now than it was back 15 years ago.

Next week I am going to see Wicked the musical for the fourth time. And I am looking forward to seeing a fresh cast take on this iconic production. Does the UK & Ireland touring production live up to expectation? Read my review to find out!

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