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From Richard Howells

Has anybody else been to see “Wicked”? I ventured forth last night…

The original production was a smash on Broadway; this London version opened recently at the Apollo Victoria Theatre with the original Tony-winning star, Idina Menzel, in the leading role.

“Wicked” is a musical “prequel” that tells the story of the witches from the Wizard of Oz before Dorothy (and her little dog, too) came along. Essentially, it tries to explain why Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West was so –well- wicked.

You’ll be surprised to learn that Wicked Witch of the West was in fact a misunderstood “other”, who was unpopular at school because she was green. She then went on to become an outcast animal rights activist who was the victim of a media smear campaign in an increasingly Fascistic Munchkinland…

I’m still mulling over the socio-political implications of all this –to say nothing of the character’s cult appeal among adolescent girls on both sides of the Atlantic. But I was unhesitatingly impressed by Idina Menzel’s performance in the leading role. She has an incredible voice and a truly professional command of the stage. It was great to see a Tony-winning musical star at the very top of her game. Last night the audience whooped and hollered at the end of every number: Menzel got a standing ovation. She’s only playing here until the end of December, so if you want to see her get on with it. And it you want her autograph, there are crush barriers erected nightly outside the stage door. Apparently some people almost believe she is her character: it really is a cult phenomenon.

Meanwhile, I’m asking my students to ponder the ideology of even the (seemingly) silliest products of contemporary popular culture….

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