Wicked Edinburgh Playhouse

Emerald fever has arrived in Edinburgh! As you pass the Playhouse you can be in no doubt about what’s taking place behind the floodlit green façade. The witches have even ousted the rugby players often to be seen on the front of the Omni centre.

‘Wicked, The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz’ is based on a book written in 1995, almost 100 years after the original book of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It tells the story from the witches’ point of view and is woven around the events in the Wizard of Oz.

The wife of the Governor of Munchkinland has a baby and ‘the baby is unnaturally green!’ Elphaba unsurprisingly, grows up to be an awkward teenager. In her own words ‘I clash with everything’, both because of her colour and personality. At college she meets Glinda the Good and the two become unlikely friends. Glinda, beautifully played by Emily Tierney, is pretty, sparkly (bound to appeal to little girls) and very used to getting her own way.

Emily Tierney brings the right amount of humour to the role and I can imagine lots of girls parodying the ‘toss, toss’ of her hair and she tries to give Elphaba a makeover. Elphaba, played by Ashleigh Gray, opposes the Wizard’s regime and becomes the notorious Wicked Witch of the West. Ashleigh Gray (who was brought up in Newtongrange) is outstanding as Elphaba and brings a sympathy to the role which raises the question of whether she is really evil, or whether her actions are taken for good reasons.

Through the course of the show we learn why the lion is cowardly, why the tin man has no heart and who the scarecrow was before he became the scarecrow. Elphaba’s sister is a wheelchair user and Elphaba enchants her ruby slippers to enable her to walk; ruby slippers, as worn by Dorothy in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Elphaba shuts a farm girl wearing ruby slippers in the cellar— the references are interwoven. Dorothy throws a bucket of water over Elphaba and supposedly kills her, but is she really dead?

This show is unusual for a musical in that none of the numbers are immediately recognisable (at least not to me) and I didn’t find any of the songs particularly memorable. However the two strong female leads are a delight to listen to. Both have remarkable talent and their voices complement each other beautifully. The show is light and funny (although very small children might find some bits scary), the costumes are marvellous, the set is huge, and the lighting and special effects are possibly the best I’ve seen. The end of Act 1 is truly spectacular.

‘Wicked’ is the perfect show for the Christmas market and, whether you go as a family or with a gang of friends, you will have an enjoyable evening out at a quality production.

Val Clark