The Wizard of Oz vs. Wicked: Two Different Takes on the Land of Oz
Two of the most spectacular productions in London both take their inspiration from the land of Oz that L. Frank Baum created in his classic children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Whilst the heart-warming stage version of The Wizard of Oz stays true to the book’s vision of a magical land filled with loveable characters, Wicked provides an intriguing counterpoint in that its heroine is the supposedly Wicked Witch of the West from the original book and musical.
Baum’s book inspired one of the most beloved family films of all time, The Wizard of Oz, which was first released in 1939 and has been delighting audiences for generations. The stage version at the London Palladium takes the famous songs from the movie, including “Over the Rainbow”, “We’re Off to See the Wizard”, and “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”, and adds six new songs by award-winning song-writing duo Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production recreates the dazzling settings of the film, from the black-and-white opening scenes in Kansas to the sparkling Emerald City, with a superb set and innovative design.
The Wizard of Oz envisions a fantastical land where good and evil are clearly defined. Although the character of the Wizard is slightly questionable, for the most part the Wicked Witch represents everything bad, and her demise provokes the ultimate happy ending. Dorothy and her friends, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, are all genuine and loyal, and the audience roots for them throughout the show.
Wicked, on the other hand, presents a far more tumultuous, multi-dimensional Oz. Rather than being a villain, the Wicked Witch is a passionate, talented young sorceress named Elphaba who becomes a civil rights leader. The Wizard is a ruthless dictator, slowly taking away the rights of all the talking animals in Oz. Though she has her faults, Elphaba is sympathetic and heroic, a far cry from her presentation in The Wizard of Oz. There are clever references to its predecessor, including explanations for how Dorothy’s companions came into being. Based on Gregory Maguire’s fantastic novel, this stunning story is compelling and interesting.
The production values of Wicked certainly match those of The Wizard of Oz, creating the vibrant Emerald City and with a set that weaves itself around the proscenium arch of the Apollo Victoria Theatre. The costumes are dazzling, and ably convey the various factions of Oz, including its animal inhabitants.
See The Wizard of Oz if…you haven’t seen the film, if you love the film and want to see a solid stage version of it, or you’re a family with children under the age of 10.
See Wicked if…you’d like a clever, more grown-up version of Oz that still retains its magic, you have children who’ve seen the film and are a bit older now, or if you like modern musicals.
See both if…you love big budget, spectacular musicals, or, of course, you’re an Oz fanatic.