Wicked musical is heading for Glasgow

GREEN-skinned witches, a catalogue of memorable songs, a fantastical storyline that re-imagines the world of the Wizard Of Oz - and it is coming to Glasgow.

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Smash-hit musical featuring the witches of Oz gets the green light to head north to glasgow
Smash-hit musical featuring the witches of Oz gets the green light to head north to glasgow

Wicked, one of the most popular musicals ever produced, which has broken box office records around the world, earning £1.9million in the final week of 2012 in Broadway alone, hits the King's Theatre stage next year.

"We are delighted to be bringing the show to Glasgow," says executive producer Michael McCabe.

"We have been looking at our box office data and we can see that already we have had huge numbers come from Glasgow to see the show.

"Now, the city will get the chance to see it. And we anticipate the response will be fantastic."

There seems little doubt of that, if reaction to the show currently running at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, London, is anything to judge. A Saturday matinee saw all 2208 seats filled.

And right from the opening, when the Good Witch Glinda dropped on the stage the audience was transfixed.

"It's a great show," adds Michael, whose notable productions include Sweeney Todd and Spring Awakening.

"Audiences love the songs and the storyline. It has something for everybody."

Wicked, seen by more than 36m people worldwide and with six productions running concurrently, has been described as a prequel to The Wizard Of Oz. But that is not entirely correct.

Based on the novel Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West by Gregory Maguire, the story centres on the witches of Oz.

While the citizens of Oz celebrate the death of the Wicked Witch Of The West, Glinda descends to explain how her rival came to melt like ice cream on a hot day.

We are told the green-skinned Elphaba was conceived during an affair between the Munchkin Governor's wife and a mysterious stranger with a bottle of green elixir.

The baby grows up to be gorgeous, but rather minty in colour, and attends witchcraft university with her wheelchair-bound sister.

But Elphaba is an outcast, and the vitriol she suffers is heightened thanks to the awesome powers of witchcraft she displays.

As in every good teen drama, her rival appears in the form of Glinda, a twinkly blonde with a Valley Girl mentality who hates the fact Elphie is a Grade One witch and unleashes the green-eyed monster in the direction of the green-skinned student.

But then Glinda softens; the sorcery students become firm friends.

The songs they sing reflect this.

Yet, as is so often the case, the friendship is sorely tested when a handsome young man appears on the scene.

"It's a great story about discrimination," says Michael of how Elphaba has to cope. "We bring in education groups to see the show and it makes for great discussions."

There are many other strands to the story; politics, megalomania, jealousy, envy and pride are all woven into the tapestry.

But the mind of the audience is, for the most part, focused on fun and great songs by award-winning Stephen Schwartz, such as Defying Gravity and For Good.

"The songs are fantastic," says Michael of the show, which is in its 10th anniversary year. "And the performers give it their all."

Last week's matinee featured understudy Michelle Pentecost, who was appearing in place of Louise Dearman.

Both Louise and the first understudy were ill and could not perform.

"Such are the demands of the show," says Michael. "It really does stretch the performers to the limit."

But such is the depth of talent in the production, Michelle Pentecost proved to be little short of phenomenal.

"We will make sure we bring the very best cast to Glasgow," says Michael, pre-empting the question.

"We know what this show will mean to the city and we really want to make Wicked an experience audiences will never forget."

It is fair to say audience power has determined the success of the show.

The critics in New York sharpened their pencils and found faultlines in the show, mainly the plot.

"However, the audiences love it," says Michael, smiling. "And you have to remember the critics did not exactly rave about Les Miserables, but that has not done too badly either."

And Wicked raises the witchy stakes with the philosophical nature/nurture question: Are people born wicked - or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?

"That's the theme of the show," says Michael, grinning. "And it all makes for a great experience."

l Wicked will be at the King's Theatre from May 6-31, 2014. Tickets go on sale at box office on March 8 for personal callers. Online and telephone bookings can also be made.

The record-breaking London production continues its open-ended run with tickets on sale until April 26, 2014.

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