Wicked weaves its magic in spectacular night at the Mayflower

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Wicked, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, June 5-16

A genuine sense of spectacle, an ingenious riff on an absolute classic, some cracking songs and a whole host of scene-stealing performances… Once again, as always, Wicked is a show which ticks all the boxes on its return to the Mayflower.

There’s always something a little mind-bending about the way this modern masterpiece weaves its way into, behind, under and all around the great Wizard of Oz saga. You feel there are times when you are clinging on to comprehension by your fingertips, but then again, that’s probably just another sign of its richness – not least in the two great central characters, the deeply unlikely university mates who go on to become Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

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Their mutual suspicion and antipathy giving way to a strange and burgeoning friendship is the essence of the first half, all set against the weirdest of teaching establishments. What emerges is the complex relationship between two complex characters, rivals for sure, but friends too – until the love interest rips them apart.

Wicked (contributed pic)Wicked (contributed pic)
Wicked (contributed pic)

Casey Al-Shaqsy is superb as an Elphaba struggling with her differences, struggling with her destiny, never short of an opinion and passionate in her sense of justice. Megan Gardiner is dumb-blonde spoilt Glinda who is of course so much more besides. There’s a genuine spell between them as they find their way amid all their conflicting emotions.

The second half is, as ever, the stronger as a convoluted tale holds together and then pulls in the bits of the story that we think we know already. Punctuating it all throughout, of course, are the songs – several outstanding and hugely poignant. It’s a weird and wonderful story – and it’s also a cracking night out at the theatre.

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