REVIEW: Wicked, Sunderland Empire, until September 29

Amy Ross is outstanding as Elphaba in Wicked
Amy Ross is outstanding as Elphaba in Wicked

It's Wicked! But was she?

That's the question you're left asking after watching this spectacular musical show, an imaginative prequel to the iconic Wizard of Oz, forever a family favourite down the decades.

Helen Woolf stars as Glinda in Wicked

Helen Woolf stars as Glinda in Wicked

Based on Gregory Maguire's novel 'Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West' it tells the story of how Elphaba and Glinda, two sorcery students who turn from the best of enemies into firm friends before love and fate sees them go their separate paths. We know the characters best as the Wicked Witch of the West - memorably seen off by Judy Garland's Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz - and Glinda as the Good Witch of the South, helping restore happiness and harmony to Oz.

But was that really the case? Or was Elphaba, bullied for being born green and shunned at school, more of a kind soul at heart, misrepresented and misunderstood? Watch Wicked once and you'll never think of the Wizard of Oz in the same light again.

This is one of the greatest shows the Sunderland Empire has staged. First performed here in 2015, there is a buzz around the grand old theatre again with its return.

It's hardly surprising as the production is amazing.

Amy Ross is outstanding as Elphaba, her on-stage chemistry with Helen Woolf as Glinda is evident from the first time they encounter each other and builds throughout the show as we go from one musical exchange to another.

The audience is transfixed as the pair are torn romantically over the dashing Flyero, root for Elphaba as she realises the Wizard of Oz himself and sidekick Madame Morrible are not necessarily filled with good intentions.

You'll see how the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow come about and - just perhaps - just how Dorothy first came to arrive in Oz, setting off a chain of events that leads to a momentous climax.

And as for the finale - well, let's just say after seeing Wicked, you might never quite view the demise of the 'Wicked Witch' in the same light again!

With spectacular sets, stunning costumes, magic musical moments, Wicked is unmissable.

Go and see it. Fall under its spell...

ISOBEL OLIVER