Review: Wicked - Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Wicked is set to wow in Southampton
Wicked is set to wow in Southampton

It's the sixth longest-running show in Broadway history - and the fifth longest-running still showing in London's West End. Now audiences in the south are getting the chance to see why.

Quite simply, Wicked is bewitching - and mainly because Amy Ross (Elphaba) - she's the green one, by the way - casts a spell not just over the whole show but over the whole theatre.

Southampton's wonderfully refurbished Mayflower is the venue for a show that has been pulling in sell-out crowds everywhere it is staged for 15 years.

It took me a while to get my head around the concept behind it - but without giving too much away, it's based on the Gregory Maguire book 'Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West' - which itself was based on the characters in L Frank Baum's 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz'.

The show centres on the complicated relationship between Elphaba and Glinda (Helen Woolf), told through beautifully delivered song and some under-stated humour, backed by top-class music, costumes, props and special effects. If you plan to go and watch, see if you can spot the prop that puts you in mind of the Duke of Edinburgh. Or maybe that was just me...

The first half of Wicked builds steadily from a fairly slow start and ends with a rousing number that is apt in its title of Defying Gravity.

The story continues with clever twists and turns, but in asking you to judge what's wicked and what's not, who's good and who's bad, can it possibly have a happy ending? It's all enough to make you want to go home and watch The Wizard of Oz (again).

Supporting characters such as Fiyero (Aaron Sidwell - who tellingly got one of the biggest cheers in the press-night curtain call), Madame Morrible (Kim Ismay), The Wizard (Steven Pinder), Nessarose (Emily Shaw) and Iddon Jones (Boq) all play full parts in making this production a big hit. It would be wicked to call it anything other than a success.

Wicked runs at the Mayflower until October 27 - see mayflower.org.uk for ticket availability.

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