Wicked is London’s ninth longest-running musical, a quirky modern classic which made its UK capital debut in 2006. This colourful production is the headliner at one of the West End’s most iconic theatres, the Apollo Victoria—and with The Rubens at the Palace and Hotel 41 just a five-minute walk away, there really is no place like Red Carnation Hotels for a London home. Pair a magical night in Oz with a pre-theatre dining experience, such as palace-facing afternoon tea at the Palace Lounge or a specially curated menu at The English Grill.
The Wizard of Oz is widely regarded as one of the silver screen’s greatest jewels, a technicolour triumph following the adventures of Kansas-born Dorothy and her mismatched merry band, while waylaid over the rainbow in the fantastical world of Oz. Since the film’s initial release in 1939, it has premiered twice more—leading it to be known as the most-seen film in history—been nominated for six Academy Awards and has even been inducted into UNESCO’s Memory of the World register.
Wicked re-focuses The Wizard of Oz’s narrative, setting the scene for Dorothy’s climactic arrival in Oz with a well-developed, heart-wrenching backstory for its two resident witches: Glinda the Good and, of course, Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. We learn about the duo’s university days and unlikely friendship, before learning the tragic tale of Elphaba’s unfair fall from grace, Glinda’s erstwhile obsession for popularity and the pair’s subsequent split. All the while, we are exposed to the ebullient absurdity of the Land of Oz, laden with the same musical pomp and cheer that defined The Wizard of Oz as a pop culture classic.
Wicked is currently running at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre, open-ended. Already in its 14th year, the musical has been one of the capital’s most successful hits, with over 10 million tickets sold, almost 6000 performances completed and over 100 major awards won—including three Tony and two Olivier awards. The person who brought the spectacle to London is Executive Producer (UK) Michael McCabe, the four-time Olivier Award-winning producer of Sweeney Todd, An American in Paris and Promises, Promises.
The show’s appeal is obvious. The chromatic exuberance of The Wizard of Oz is painstakingly brought to life through dramatic emerald and amaranth backdrops, specially designed to evoke the scenic surrounds of Munchkinland. At the same time, the costume design brings to life the conflicted dichotomy between Elphaba and Glinda, with the former’s iconic green mask and ashen-black shrouds contrasting the latter’s bright, flowery frocks.
The stars of the show, however, are the set-piece musical numbers—staged by Tony winners Wayne Cilento and Joe Mantello—which see dozens of singers in fantastical garb swirl in sync under mesmerising, kaleidoscopic lights. The culmination of Act One, Defying Gravity, even takes the performance airborne, as Elphaba drifts upwards into darkness, robes trailing down, above an assembly of stunned onlookers.