Today one of London’s most popular shows turned five years old – Wicked. It’s been five years since the Apollo Victoria theatre was turned back to its original green for the arrival of the Broadway smash. It also marked the arrival of Broadway Diva Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Helen Dallimore as Glinda and Adam Garcia as Winkie Prince Fiyero, along with an ensemble cast featuring Nigel Planer, Miriam Margoyles, James Gillan, Katie Rowley Jones and Martin Ball.
In 2010, theatregoers named Wicked “London’s ‘Most Popular Show” (Laurence Olivier Awards), ‘Best West End Show’ (Whatsonstage.com Awards) and’Best Long-Running West End Show’ (Broadwayworld.com UK Awards). The musical has won over 35 major awards around the world. Attaining £100,000 in the first hour on sale, Wicked also set the record for the biggest West End opening. In the week ending January 2, 2011, the London, Broadway, and both North American touring productions simultaneously broke the record for the highest weekly gross.
Truly, Wicked is a show of many achievements financially, but how has it resonated with fans and critics? On its West End opening, many critics panned the show. Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com said “For all its spectacular beauty, ingenious costumes, literate lyrics and well crafted songs, the show is curiously cold and often, unlike the original yellow brick road, quite hard to follow.”. Michael Billington in the Guardian wrote – “Friends of Dorothy may be diverted by this musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz. But, although it has been a hit in New York, it seems all too typical of the modern Broadway musical: efficient, knowing and highly professional but more like a piece of industrial product than something that genuinely touches the heart or mind.” So, critics were not so fond of the show.
With fans, however, the show was a hit. Many had seen the show on Broadway previously and most knew some of the cast recording or at least one of the songs. The “day seating” at Wicked became absolute madness, with fans arriving at 5am or camping overnight to secure one of just twenty four front row seats for each performance. One notable group of fans camped on the theatre steps for over a week to secure those front row tickets for Idina Menzel’s last show as Elphaba – Over Christmas! Many fans say they have met friends and even partners through the show, and it is certainly a fandom that has continued to grow and grow.
I remember the first night of the show, Glinda’s bubble broke, back of circle seats were only £5 and the theatre was electric with anticipation. Not much has changed, except for the £5 tickets being no more and the bubble usually working just fine! Here’s hoping it runs for many more years in the West End! Long may it reign!
I have written articles that mention Wicked previously – here they are if you want to have a look!
What Makes Wicked So Wicked? (August 2010)
West End Wendy Visits Wicked London (January 2011) – My visit to Wicked London!