Since my esteemed colleague Charles Spencer pronounced Billy Elliot the best British musical he'd ever seen it seems tantamount to blasphemy to suggest that it could possibly have a rival. Wicked is an American musical – it's just swooped into the Apollo Victoria, fresh from Broadway.
A 'prequel' to The Wizard of Oz, it tells of how the Wicked Witch of the West came to be wicked and how her life long friend Glinda turned out to be whiter than white.
Joe Mantello's production works on a number of levels – as blockbuster family entertainment, and, thanks to Stephen Schwartz's Sondheimian lyrics, sophisticated comedy and even thought-provoking drama. It's sexy, sassy and sensational, and, better still, it has absolutely nothing to do with Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Glinda's beau Fiyero may assert that "life's more painless for the brainless," but, by golly, it is still a magnificent thing to see a musical that manages to be both populist and intelligent at the same time.
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