amy ross as elphaba, wearing all black and standing looking up at stage right with hands together

Expectations: 5/5

Reality: 5/5

Chronic illness friendly: 4/5

Let me begin this review by admitting a huge bias: you’d be hard pushed to find me saying a bad word about Wicked. It was younger Pippa’s obsession, resulting in it being the first West End show I ever saw, and the one that’s consistently stayed my favourite all these years later. There’s something utterly magical about Wicked, and this production at Leeds Grand Theatre certainly didn’t disappoint.

elphaba on broomstick elevated above stage with hands in air, surrounded by smoke and lights

Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel following the untold story of the witches of Oz, the production sees two unlikely roommates at college learn to love the other, and how their subsequent paths result in one being known as good, and the other as wicked. Humorous, thought-provoking and above all completely moving, the story had the audience hooked from the moment that all-so-powerful overture began.

Firstly, we have to talk about standby Elphaba Nikki Bentley. Although this is my first time reviewing Wicked, it’s actually the fourth time I’ve seen the show, and I have to say: Bentley has been my favourite Elphaba to date. It was her performance of The Wizard and I that was most notable, simply for the fact that she really put her own stamp on it. Her portrayal of Elphaba was just the right amount of nuanced, and gave the character a more animated, almost playful side, whilst still not being out of place with the more sombre, serious elements of the character. Of course, all of those renowned moments of Wicked, including Defying Gravity and For Good, were also outstanding, but it was this one performance early in Act One that made me sit up and take notice.

Helen Woolf made for an incredible Glinda too, really nailing the comedic aspects of the character and immediately winning the hearts of the audience, yet also delivering in some of the most heart-wrenching moments of the show. Kim Ismay made an enchantingly evil Madame Morrible, and Emily Shaw’s emotive performance of The Wicked Witch Of The East as Nessarose was another standout moment for me too.

helen woolf as glinda, wearing a blue sparkly ballgown holding a wand, stood in her bubble

In a production like Wicked, the ensemble portray such a diverse range of characters: from mutant monkeys one moment to flamboyant citizens of the Emerald City the next, and this ensemble certainly delivered. These diverse parts meant diverse choreography, and the dance and staging elements of James Lynn Abbott and Wayne Cliento were nailed during the performance. As a dancer, I always look forward to the ballroom choreography and altercation between Fiyero, Glinda and Boq during Dancing Through Life, and I wasn’t disappointed. I also had a particular appreciation for the cleverly thought-out staging and choreography during (spoiler) Fiyero’s eventual capture, too.

wicked programme (a5) hel up by hand with stage in backgroundBasically, it was an extremely talented cast. They would have shone even without the technical elements of the show, but it just so happens that thanks to scenic designer Eugene Lee and lighting designer Kenneth Posner, these components were so impressive too. In particular, that moment when the Emerald City quite literally lights up in front of the audience’s very eyes really is visually stunning. Complemented also by the vividly extravagant costuming of Susan Hilferty and hair and wigs of Tom Watson, the overall aesthetic of One Short Day is all grand, all green, and nothing short of magical.

And finally, I think it goes without saying that if you’ve heard Stephen Schwartz’ musical score of Wicked once, you need to hear it again. Iconic and emotional, yet humorous and witty, it shines a light on the underlying themes of Wicked: how our paths can influence how we’re perceived by others, and questioning the subtle crossovers between ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

I just love this musical so much. I was doing such a good job of holding it together and after we’d made it to the end of For Good and I hadn’t cried, I really thought this would be the first time I made it through without going to pieces. However, I was mistaken. It was actually the gasps of the audience around me when those final plot twists of the show became apparent that tugged a heartstring this time, and I’m not ashamed to say I had a little weep right up until the curtain fell after the standing ovation. I’m not even sorry.

pippa standing in front of green wicked backdrop, wearing floral dress with pink clutch bag

Chronic Illness Friendly Review

I’m pleased to report that I found the production to be pretty safe and comfortable for me, with only infrequent moments that may be of concern. There’s a potentially jumpy moment where confetti barrels are fired into the audience in celebration very near the beginning of act one, and another particular moment I’d be aware of is an early moment during One Short Day. There’s a quick transition where the stage very suddenly becomes alight with bright green bulbs and, although visually stunning, I can imagine this moment to be difficult on those with light or cognitive sensitivities.

Now, a thought on the content. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how disabled characters are portrayed in the theatre industry and I’m going to save these thoughts for another time. But for now, do be aware that wheelchair-user Nessarose is referred to as ‘tragically beautiful’, uses ableist language about being confined to ‘this hideous chair with wheels’, and the lyrics of The Wicked Witch Of The East make reference to being dependent on others and needing to be rescued. As much as it pains me to say anything negative about a show that I love so dearly, I recognise how these remarks might be inflammatory or upsetting to others. But let’s have a proper talk about this another time.

I’ve been a frequent visitor at Leeds Grand ever since I was tiny (and dancing on that stage myself!) and have always found it to be an accessible and accommodating venue. The facilities are great, the staff are super friendly and go out of their way to ensure your comfort, and listen up guys: in our seats, row O in the stalls, the leg-room was AMAZING. The seats were so roomy and comfortable, so if you struggle with cramped spaces or claustrophobia due to a medical condition, I couldn’t recommend them enough. Cracking view of the stage too.

wicked set and backdrop on stage at leeds grand theatre

Thank you SO much To Leeds Grand Theatre for inviting me to such a special press event, and to Wicked UK for just being the wonderful thing that it is. Tickets are limited, but you can get your hands on some on the Leeds Grand Theatre website, and find out if the Wicked UK and Ireland Tour is coming to a venue near you. After all, we can’t all come and go by bubble…

Have you seen Wicked before? How did YOU find it?

Production Images by Matt Crockett

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pippa sitting in theatre seat, holding up hamilton programme and smiling

Expectations: 5/5

Reality: 5/5

Chronic illness friendly: 4.5/5 (keep scrolling for my review!)

When a show is so critically acclaimed and adored by so many, there’s always the worry that when you see it for yourself, you’re going to be disappointed. HOWEVER, I’m relieved to say that my ambitiously high expectations of Hamilton were most definitely met when I finally got to witness the spectacle for myself. I’m writing this review a mere 48 hours after seeing the show and it feels like I’m still processing what I saw- the emotional impact seems to be hitting me harder now, as I’m reflecting on the performance, than during the performance itself. And in my opinion, that’s what makes for a great musical: something that completely consumes you, even after you exit the theatre. View Post

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poster advert reading 'throwback at sea' on the left, and 'stages at sea' on the right, with an image of a cruise ship

The UK musical theatre scene is truly leading the pack at the moment. We have a thriving West End, wonderful UK tours, heightened interest in community and inclusive theatre, and now… a musical theatre cruise. Yes, you did hear that right.

Later this year, Floating Festivals are premiering two cruises onboard Royal Caribbean’s luxurious Navigator of the Seas – Throwback: a party-fuelled three-night cruise celebrating all things 80s, and Stages: a four-night immersive cruise experience with musical theatre appreciation at its’ core. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE.   View Post

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full length image of girl in pink formal dress stood on red carpet in front of olivier awards photo board

This year, I was nominated and chosen as a winner for the Olivier Awards’ #BeInspired Award 2018. I had the opportunity to attend the Oliviers to walk the red carpet and collect my award, as well as party with the stars and be treated like a princess for the night with a stay at a five-star hotel. As you can imagine, it really was a once in a lifetime weekend, so I hope you don’t mind me telling you all about it…

Back when my best friend Izzy nominated me for the 2018 #BeInspired awards, we literally had a conversation about how unlikely it was that I would win. We looked back at last year’s winners, mutually agreed that “well… it was worth a try”, and went for a McDonalds. When, a few weeks later, my phone madly started vibrating with calls, texts and WhatsApps from Iz, naturally I assumed that either something terrible had happened, or that she’d just found a particularly good baby goat video on the internet.

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