Wicked has singing munchkins, a teaching goat, a green protagonist and a mechanical dragon, which may make the whole thing sound terribly silly. But I can honestly say that it is, well, wicked. And the reason for this prognosis? The outstanding quality of its two stars, Dianne Pilkington and Alexia Khadime, whose vocal skill easily matches those of their operatic counterparts. This is pure talent people, sit back and enjoy the ride because you really will be thrilled at this helter skelter of a show with its non-stop spectacle and panache.
What makes Wicked so damned impressive is the quality of its product; and it is impressive, whether you’re a musical fan or not. Not only are the leads fabulous (a very MT phrase), the design sits beautifully in between Tim Burtonesque expressionism and high camp and the choreography is modern and grotesquely stylish. Last but not least the story, though on the surface quite slight, has deeper echoes of the Nazi’s gradual segregation and attempted negation of the Jewish people. All in all it’s a bit like the bastard child of Cabaret and Disney, and all the better for it.
If only all musical producers were so concerned with maintaining such high standards. Audiences are being asked to part with over £50 for the best West End seats and should be given their money’s worth. Value for money is an old and seemingly obvious argument but it’s one which is backed up by an artistic need as well. As someone who works in the musical industry it’s vital to feel that you are working on a product that has genuine integrity. Sure money makes the world go round, but can’t we ensure it’s the best possible world we can show our paying public? It should be important to us to maintain the best standards whether we’re involved in the candy covered pink genius of Grease, or the hill like heavenly glory of The Sound Of Music; musical theatre producers need to remember that just because they can get away with mediocre standards doesn’t mean that they should. Moreover money and talent don’t have to be mutually exclusive; as Wicked proves; you spend money on quality and you make it back in spades.
We need to stop employing ‘stars’ (who never actually are that starry) and start going for artists who can, well gosh I don’t know, actually sing. We need to begin employing fresh designers and choreographers to breathe new life into old material. We need to be as spectacular as shows like Wicked, and as inspirational as the Billy Elliot’s of this West End world. Only then will the majority of musical theatre be taken seriously as the invigorating and enthralling art form it can be and only then will people really get their money’s worth.
Pilkington and Khadime were recently voted the winners of The Women of the Future’s Arts and Culture Award; if that doesn’t prove that talent is the way forward, I don’t know what will.