Review Wicked at Leeds Grand Theatre

THE question is, “Was the infamous Wicked Witch of the West really wicked, or the innocent victim of a corrupt regime”?

When Dorothy famously triumphed over the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz productions, we only ever heard one side of the story. This musical tells the story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two young women who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University; the blonde and very popular Glinda and the misunderstood green girl called Elphaba. Following a meeting with The Wizard, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths.

This fabulous musical is on its national tour and is playing in Leeds at the Grand Theatre up until Saturday, July 7. Featuring a cast of 30 and a 16-piece orchestra it is certainly spectacular, both for its singing, acting and superb choreography and special effects.

The two principal parts of Glinda and Elphaba are the ones that stand out, and the performances by Helen Woolfe and Nikki Bentley on the night I attended could not be faulted. Helen has a superb soprano voice which was brought to the fore in her solo of “Popular”. Likewise, Nikki’s contralto voice was a delight in “I’m not that girl” and “No good deed” and they harmonised well together in their duet “For Good”. Nikki is normally the understudy for Amy Ross but one would never know as she performed the role of Elphaba superbly.

These two were well supported by Aaron Sidwell as Flyero who is probably best known for his role of Steven Beale in Eastenders. He too is a fine singer and his duet of “As long as you’re mine” with Nikki Bentley was one of the highlights of the show for me. Other major principals included Emily Shaw as Nessarose, Elphaba’s younger sister, Iddon Jones as Boq, one of the Munchkins, Kim Ismay as Madame Morrible, the principal of Shiz University and Steven Pinder as Doctor Dillamond, the History Professor, and also as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Steven will be known to soap aficionados as Max Farnham in Brookside. These four all acted and sang extremely well, particularly Steven in his duet “Wonderful” with Nikki.

Initially in the first couple of numbers I thought that the orchestra was a little overpowering for the singers but from Madam Morrible and Elphaba’s duet of “The Wizard and I” onwards they struck a much better balance and I thought the remainder of the songs were supported extremely well by Musical Director Dave Rose and his instrumentalists.

The whole production is very well directed by Joe Mantello and I must also give special mention to Eligine Lee for his superb scenic design of the show. This is a show full of life with its humour, acrobatics, special effects including flying sequences and superb costumes and was well worthy of the standing ovation by the capacity audience at the end of the evening.

If you have not seen Wicked before, I would highly recommend you get to the Grand in Leeds over the next couple of weeks to experience this amazing production. Due to overwhelming demand, an extra matinee performance has been added on Thursday 5 July at 2.30pm. Visit to book tickets.

John Burland