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Seeing the same musical nine times isn’t that impressive in the grand scheme of things. It’s certainly not going to get me into the Guinness Book of World Records. But, nine times in nine years feels like a good quota to me. Such is the charm of the untold story of the witches of Oz.
Here are nine things I’ve learnt from seeing Wicked that many times. Be warned, spoilers abound. So if you’re yet to see this show, stop reading, go book your tickets, and come back to this at a later date. Preferably at least after your second or third visit..
1. Boq is secretly the best character
Ah, Boq. He’s something of a tragic fellow, with much of his comedy coming from the fact he’s short, unpopular and desperate for Glinda to notice him. While Boq’s tragic demise and evolution into the Tin Man is essentially just a way to tie Wicked into its source material, the few scenes he is in are relatable, funny and hold the magical heart of Wicked at their core. He also gets (to set up, at least,) the best line in the show: when asked what’s in the punch he simply says, “Lemons and melons and pears”, before Nessa quips, “Oh my!”
2. The Ozdust Ballroom is definitely not the most swankified place in town
During Dancing Through Life, Fiyero asks Glinda (then Galinda) where the most swankified place in town is, to which she retorts, “Why that would be the Ozdust Ballroom”. Newsflash Glinda: it definitely is not. The Ozdust Ballroom has many issues, not least that Madame Morrible manages to get in, which is definitely NOT cool. What self-respecting partygoer wants to go to a club where they might run into their headmistress? What’s most frustrating of all though is that just a short time later, Glinda finds herself prancing around the Emerald City, which frankly makes the Ozdust Ballroom look like Blackpool out-of-season and out swankifies it 1,000-to-1.
3. Some bits do work better in the West End
Whether this says more about the truth of what UK audiences got up to at university or the savviness of producers dealing with a Broadway-to-West-End transfer is a tough call, but the line when Glinda apologises to the Wizard of Oz for the behaviour of Elphaba and Fiyero by simply stating “we all went to uni together” is priceless. There are several other British-centric switch-ups in the London production that work wonders, too: Madame Morrible is fantastic with a British accent, and playing Glinda like she’s fallen off the set of Made in Chelsea is pure perfection.
4. The cornfield scene is the best scene by far
For all the sumptuous songs in Wicked, it’s slightly ironic that the true highlight of the show isn’t a musical one. After much toing and froing between hatred and camaraderie, Glinda and Elphaba finally come to the blows in the cornfield next to the infamous Yellow Brick Road. Comprising of some serious baton-twirling action, a tremendous catfight and the show’s only nod to the Wicked Witch’s iconic cackle, it’s a remarkable pause in action before the show’s finale. In equal parts hilarious and touching, the scene perfectly encapsulates what’s at the heart of Wicked: friendship and forgiveness.
5. Broadway’s wonderful Wizard of Oz has gone down in history
The original Broadway cast gave us the incomparable Joel Gray as the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, so perhaps it’s unfair to expect a London Wizard to be quite as perfect. However, one of Gray’s highlights in the role came at the end of his number Wonderful, where he would treat audiences to a short but unforgettable tap routine.
6. There’s no bad seat in the house
Wicked really is a feast for the eyes from wherever you view it. The very front (literally) might be a bit much for many (the stage is ginormous, and there’s so much going on), but anywhere else in the stalls is sure to be a spectacle – not least for the dramatics at the end of act one. But similarly, there’s so many glorious flourishes with the lighting and choreography that are just not possible to see from the vantage point of the stalls, any seat is worth a punt.
7. The best song is No Good Deed
Hugely overlooked thanks to the love for the iconic Defying Gravity, No Good Deed is the song of choice for any self-confessed Wicked aficionado. It’s got it all: brilliant staging, perfect light and shade, and lyrics that work their way up to a dramatic, heart-stopping crescendo. More than this, it’s the pivotal moment in the show where Elphaba accepts her wickedness, and finally becomes the Wicked Witch of the West once and for all.
8. Elphaba goes West
When we first meet her, Elphaba is introduced as being from Munckinland – her father is governor there – which is in the south of Oz. Further to this, she doesn’t actually hole herself up out west until Fiyero offers her his abandoned castle in the second act. And yet, during Defying Gravity, she clearly states that if you want to find her, “look to the western sky.” Clever writing, or a quirk that happens to rhyme for the benefit of the song? Do we care? Wicked so vastly relies on its source material for its references that it’s easy to just shrug this off, but given the prophetic themes of the show, it’s nice to theorise that Elphaba knew where she’d end up and what would become of her all along…
9. Countless Easter eggs
There are countless Easter eggs that appear throughout Wicked. We’ve name-checked a few here already, but compare and contrast many of the seemingly throwaway lines from the show with what you know about the characters by the end (or, even, the end of the 1939 The Wizard of Oz movie) and the show demonstrates sheer ingenuity. From Fiyero singing that “life’s more painless for brainless”, to Elphaba’s vision that she’ll one day be so happy she could melt, to Madame Morrible’s seemingly innocent ability to control the weather… Wicked continues to pack out the Apollo Victoria because it just keeps giving more – even after nine viewings.
Wicked is showing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre until April 2016, book now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.