It has witches, monkeys, magic, dramatic songs, amazing costumes and some astonishing theatrical effects. It sounds like a perfect family show, yet there’s lots of online discussion about how old children should be to see it.
Wicked is certainly entertaining the crowds. It’s now the 10th longest running show in the West End (although the theatre is actually in Victoria – not quite London’s West End) and has just won the 2015 This Morning Audience Award.
Written as a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, it tells the back story of the Witches of Oz – Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West, asking the question, ‘Is someone born wicked, or is wickedness thrust upon them?’
This theme, along with prejudice, friendship ups-and-downs, bullying, the lure of power and doing what you believe in, are covered in a way that even younger children will understand and get involved in.
And it’s a visual feast – with spirited costumes, backdrops made of mechanical giant cogs and rousing choreography.
So what parts of the show might not be suitable?
The Wicked box office advises that the show isn’t suitable for children under the age of 7, and those under 3 will not be allowed in to the theatre.
There’s no bad language, stark violence or overt sexual activity. But there are some scary moments – and some sad moments.
A couple of the creatures – the winged dragon and flying monkey – might feel a bit threatening, while the Wizard of Oz’s head is powerfully overbearing. There are also upsetting moments when some of the animals are badly treated. Plus the ending has caused some audience members to get out the hankies.
If you know your child is sensitive and scared by loud, unexpected noises, then this is not the show for them.
At our performance, the children in the audience were clearly loving the theatrical spectacle. I did see several under 7s, including some who looked as young as 4. None of them cried or shrieked and while some did end up on their parents’ laps, they all managed to keep their attention on the performance.
Things to talk about with your kids after the show
With the storyline tackling so many big themes, there’s lots of ideas to talk through, such as popularity in class and discrimination against those who are a little different.
It’s also a great opportunity to watch the movie The Wizard of Oz with your child – it’s a U certificate. Let your child spot the characters from the show who become the cowardly lion, the scarecrow with no brains and the tin man with no heart. And let them see the movie’s baddies from a different perspective.
Our MFM verdict
You know your children best. To get the most out of Wicked (and to be fair to other members of the audience), your kids need to be comfortable with loud noises, surprise movements, a bit of menace and some sadness. If that’s the case, prepare yourself for an inspiring and flamboyant theatrical experience.