Upon taking your seat in the Regent Theatre it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the size of the setting and huge dragon towering above the stage. Wicked is a theme park ride of a mega-musical that weaves us through an exhilarating and heart rending journey.
Wicked offers a new and ingenious back-story to the Wizard of Oz, answering questions and mysteries affecting the original narrative. But don’t scrutinize the parallelism of both stories too closely or flaws may start to show. Just sit back and delight in this girl’s own adventure about the relationship between the witches in the tale.
Right from the spectacular opening number, our complacency is rocked. What we know as the fight between Good and Wicked is too naïve. The explication of things not proving as they seem reoccurs throughout this fairy tale. But the writers don’t let this serious allegory get in the way of a timeless story of friendship tested by jealousy and insecurities.
Two young girls from very different backgrounds collide at the exclusive Shiz University over the benefits of privilege, and the lure of popularity over principles.
Amanda Harrison is exquisite as the spirited and quick-tempered Elphaba. Soaring vocally, whether as a cry for acceptance or defiantly rejecting the way of the Wizard, Harrison excels in this role. She layers her performance with genuine warmth (shared with Dillamond) and a passionate intensity with Fiyero. Lucy Durack is a perky and self-absorbed Galinda, who is a feisty adversary cum best friend for Elphaba. Durack sparkles in Popular, insensitively eager to convert her roommate to the realms of the cool and accepted. Her flawless comic contributions relieve many tense scenes with impeccable timing.
The Ensemble are energetic and impressive in their supporting roles. Rob Guest charms as the showy Wizard of Oz, whose parental good nature hides his true motives. Maggie Kirkpatrick relishes her role as the quietly powerful Madame Morrible. Her dismissive manner thinly disguises her ambition and Kirkpatrick uses true venom to attack those in her path. Rob Mills is cheeky as the flunk out student Fiyero, who later reveals himself to be a responsible and righteous young man. Penny McNamee convinces as the tragically beautiful Nessarose, spoilt and needy witch. Anthony Callea is gentle and winsome as the Munchkin Boq, who finally takes a stand after being walked over by his fellow students. And Rodney Dobson gives a spirited and earnest performance as the victimised teacher Doctor Dillamond.
Wicked is a celebration of the creativity of composer Stephen Schwartz, librettist Winnie Holzman and novelist Gregory Maguire.
Wicked is at times like a tornado, it whips you into a fast paced, surreal experience with tenacious music driving the danger and unpredictability. The closing of the first Act soars to dizzying heights, not only musically but also with an exhilarating sense of fear and anticipation.
Schwartz’s score also thrills when Elphaba is distraught about trying to save her love in No Good Deed. He skillfully captures the euphoria of his characters in the passionate As Long As You’re Mine and The Wizard and I.
Winnie Holzman has written a very witty and imaginative book, no more fanciful than the original novel by L. Frank Baum. She draws characters that develop through the relationships and are influenced by their amazing journey.
The striking costumes by Susan Hilferty add much to create the fantastical imagery of the Oz. These dazzling designs are influenced by the illustrations of Dr Seuss and original "pictures" from The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by W. W. Denslow.
Within the remarkable settings, Eugene Lee has succeeded in creating fresh images that yet have a familarity with Oz.
The enchanting lighting design by Kenneth Posner bathes the stage with a magical glow and intensifies the actors fervent emotions. It is refreshing to hear sound designed and executed so well that vocals are clear and lyrics decipherable. Kellie Dickerson's excellent orchestra supports the actors, never overpowering them
Musicals don’t get any more exhilarating or extraordinary than Wicked.
The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz
Venue: The Regent Theatre | 191 Collins Street, Melbourne
Dates: From 27 June 2008
Times: Wed – Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 6.30pm
Matinees: Wed @ 1pm, Sat @ 2pm & Sun @ 1pm