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Six Reasons 'Wicked' Is Still One of the West End's Greatest Offerings

22/12/2014 09:55 GMT | Updated 20/02/2015 10:59 GMT

When Wicked first tornadoed its way into the West End in 2006, it was credited with breathing new life into London's theatre scene, with people flocking to catch it in their droves, at a time when it looked as though public interest in live theatre had waned.

Since then, eight years have passed, and a string of new shows have created a similar buzz, with current offerings like Book Of Mormon and Matilda both receiving critical acclaim and catering to very different theatre-goers' interests.

But does Wicked still hold its own alongside the new kids on the block? Well, after seeing the show for myself, I can confirm that it definitely does - and here are six things that help keep the current production so great after all these years...

1. Jennifer DiNoia

The show's leading role, Elphaba - better known to most as the Wicked Witch of the West - is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most recognisable parts on the West End, and with star names like Kerry Ellis and Idina Menzel having played the role in the past, there's no question that the star of the show, Jennifer DiNoia, had some big shoes to fill.

Luckily for her, she is more than capable of living up to her predecessors, playing the multi-layered Elphaba as well as anyone who's gone before her, while also managing to add certain quirks that helped make the part feel more unique to her (which, speaking as someone who's seen Wicked a few times over the years, was very much welcome).

There was no faulting Jennifer's comic timing or acting in the more serious moments of the musical, but where she really excelled was with her vocals, belting out No Good Deed and Defying Gravity like the best of them.

2. Niche 'Wizard of Oz' References

For those not in the know, Wicked acts as a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, allowing the audience to discover the origins of the Wicked Witch Of The West, and giving them the chance to find out that not everything is as it seems, with a story everyone thinks they know so well.

While the musical is largely based on Frank L. Baum's original stories, there are plenty of nods to the much-loved 1939 film adaptation, and its iconic characters.

Lyrics earlier in the show alluding to being "brainless" or "empty-headed" give you a clue about certain character's fates, while there are also nods to classic lines from the film - with "Lemons and melons and pears - oh my!" raising a particular smirk.

3. The 'Ozmopolitan' Vocabulary

It isn't all about relying on niche references to The Wizard of Oz, though - Wicked ensures that it stands up on its own thanks to some of the made-up words thrown in to the script for good measure.

Whether Glinda is worrying that her love interest has become "moodified", she's looking to "discoverate" something, or the two leading characters are in awe of the "Ozmopolitan" Emerald City, you'll leave the theatre with a hefty new vernacular.

Entertaining and educational (sort of) - what more could you ask for?

4. The Humour

Sample line: "Yes, it's dreadful to have a house fall on you. But accidents will happen."

5. Savannah Stevenson

Because Elphaba spends the entire show painted bright green, it can be tempting to overlook the importance of Wicked's other leading role, Glinda, 'The Good Witch', particularly as she's actually a far less sympathetic character than Elphaba.

However, while her superficial side is a crucial component to Glinda (or Galinda, "with a 'ga'", as she's known for most of the first half), actress Savannah Stevenson does a great job of making her more well-rounded, and shows there's a lot more going on with the character than first meets the eye.

Particularly in the second act's opening number, 'Thank Goodness', Savannah lets the audience see a much more fragile and sensitive side of Glinda, which makes it a lot easier to overlook some of the character's more shallow or selfish traits.

6. The Songs

Let's face it, a musical is only ever as good as its songs, and Wicked is not short on show-stoppers by any means. While songs like Defying Gravity and Popular have become the show's staples over time, it's actually some of the lesser known numbers that pack the biggest punch.

What I particularly love about 'Wicked' is that its most emotional duet, For Good, isn't performed by a pair of lovers, or even enemies, like so many other shows on the West End. Instead, it's an exchange between two best friends, both thanking the other for making such a difference in their life, which is something most people can relate to.

In fact, despite it being set in a fantastical world of talking animals and sorcery, Stephen Schwartz's emotional lyrics help make 'Wicked' one of the most relatable shows on the West End.

'Wicked' is currently playing at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre.