Wicked

WICKED UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Credit Matt Crockett (2)

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Global sensation Wicked flew into Manchester this week for the final stop on a mega UK and international tour which has travelled over 27,000 miles taking in destinations far and wide from Singapore to Switzerland. This final leg brings it back to Manchester’s Palace theatre offering audience’s one final chance to catch the smash-hit musical outside of the capital.

Based on the international best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked has now been seen by over 60 million people worldwide with an incredible 73,000 tickets being sold here in Manchester for this current production.

Wicked - The Emerald City. Photo credit Matt Crockett

Telling the untold story of the Witches of Oz before, during and after Dorothy so rudely landed on top of one of them, Maguire turns the well-known characters created by L. Frank Baum in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz upside down as we soon begin to realise there are most definitely two sides to every story. We follow the unconventional and unexpected friendship of Elphaba and Glinda who meet on their first day of University and the journey which leads them to ultimately become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda The Good.

The familiar becomes unfamiliar, as everything we thought we knew about the magical land of Oz doesn’t seem quite so clean-cut anymore, even questioning the morality of Dorothy at one point, I mean seriously though who does steal a dead woman’s shoes?

WICKED UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Credit Matt Crockett (4)

Amy Ross is truly magical as Elphaba, one of the best performers I’ve seen. She is mesmerising in the role giving a masterclass in stortytelling. Her delivery of the iconic Defying Gravity note perfect and packing a powerful punch, she convinces entirely, nailing every goose bump inducing moment to perfection.

Helen Woolf is superb as Glinda, she portrays the ditsy blonde with real heart and joyful conviction bringing light and sparkle to the piece. She is flamboyant, funny and totally fabulous, her strong characterisation and comic timing ensuring she perfectly embodies Glinda the Good.

WICKED UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Credit Matt Crockett 1

The chemistry between Ross and Woolf is a delight to watch, their friendship entirely believable. Together they are funny, fascinating and at times deeply moving, their powerful duet For Good a real stand out moment which leaves the majority of the audience reaching for the tissues.

Audience favourite Aaron Sidwell is laid-back and suave as Fiyero while the ensemble make dancing in Susan Hilferty’s exceptional costumes look impressively easy.

Wicked - Defying Gravity. Photo credit Matt Crockett

Wicked recently celebrated 15 years on Broadway and is currently one of the longest running productions on the West End and after tonight it’s easy to see why, as a show it never fails to thrill. It’s an outstanding piece of musical theatre which loses none of the wow factor of its West End counterpart. From Eugene Lee’s big, bold set to Stephen Schwartz’s sensational music and lyrics, Wicked delivers everything you could wish for from the magical land of Oz.

The standing ovations will no doubt continue night after night of the 5 week run, the pleasure this perfect production brings is difficult to rival. A spellbinding show which enchants every time.

Wicked is on at the Palace theatre until Saturday 5th January, tickets available here.

Pippin

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First premiered on Broadway an incredible 45 years ago, Katy Lipson, Guy James and Hope Mill Theatre’s revival of Tony award winning Pippin shows no signs of age and is as magical and enchanting as we hoped it would be.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson, Pippin tells the tale of a young man in search of something to believe in, a path to follow, ultimately, he is in search of himself. Loosely based on ‘Pepin’ the son of 8th Century King Charlemange, Pippin sets about trying out life and all it has to offer via different careers and different directions in order to find his corner of the sky. Maeve Black’s stunning Victorian Vaudeville setting paired with stunning lighting design from Aaron J. Dootson allows the players to truly tell this tale in the most theatrical and immersive of ways, making Pippin a remarkably bold and striking production.

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Pippin’s search and the different paths it leads him down illustrates clearly that with all its craziness and drama the world is indeed a stage, as the players perform and indulge Pippin his desires, we realise everything we see is an act. Leading player Genevieve Nicole is a wholly commanding presence, she steers and controls her fellow players who perform beautifully on her instruction, she shines in the role and bursts with sass and dangerous charisma as she steers Pippin through his search for fulfilment.

Jonathan Carlton is brilliantly cast as Pippin, he perfectly portrays the young Prince’s naivety and frustrations, the development in his character is wonderful to see as each experience leaves its mark and changes his outlook on life. Carlton’s delivery of Corner Of The Sky is especially beautiful, full of emotion and wonderfully displays the hopelesness he feels with his inability to fit in and understand his path in life.

The whole ensemble are superb, hardworking and utterly captivating. Director Jonathan O’Boyle has created a tight and incredibly slick team who are entirely in sync with each other. William Whelton’s choreography is sharp and precise and really adds to the beauty of this special piece while musical director Zach Flis delivers the sublime score to perfection.

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High praise must also go to Mari Barclay who plays both Fastrada and Berthe, her characterisation is exceptional, with brilliant comic timing and larger than life delivery she excels in both roles and also as a member of the superb ensemble.

The quality and delivery of Pippin is top class, the pairing of Katy Lipson and Hope Mill Theatre is a true gift to Manchester. Engaging, captivating and entirely magical, Pippin convincingly worked its magic and enchanted completely. A real gem of a show delivered with real style and sass.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until 23rd September tickets£20, concessions £18 available via the following link http://www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk/whats-on/

Pippin