If you’ve ever watched The Wizard of Oz and sat there wondering how Glinda became the good witch and The Wicked Witch of the West became evil, go see Wicked and all your questions will be answered.
The show returned to Australia mid May this year for a second run – the first being performed in 2008 – to celebrate 10 years of the award-winning show since it’s humble beginnings in San Francisco (pre-Broadway), and in New York’s Broadway district in 2003. The production has won over 90 international awards in the meantime. After Melbourne, the production will move onto Sydney in September and Brisbane on Valentines Day in 2015.
Wicked has turned this lovable fairy tale into a relatable modern tale; heavily exploring issues of bullying, sibling rivalry, keeping deep dark secrets from those closest to you and taking advantage of the weak for ones own gain. Kicking the show off Glinda ‘the good witch’ enters the stage in a bubble proclaiming to the Oz city residents that the Wicked Witch (the green skinned Elphaba) is dead. Original Australian cast members Jemma Rix and Lucy Durack have returned to reprise their roles as Elphaba and Glinda respectively.
This introduction sets the audience up for a near three-hour peek into the history of how their friendship came about when an Oz resident asks Glinda if she personally knew the witch. Flashback to the day Elphaba was born and fast forward to when Elphaba and her younger, wheelchair-bound sister Nessarose (Emily Cascarino) are sent to boarding school, where Elphaba rooms with and becomes close friends with Glinda. As the story chugs along we see a progression of Elphaba’s transformation from kindness to wickedness and Glinda’s transformation from snob to doing good for others. Just as Dorothy did, Elphaba visits emerald city and becomes a helper of Oz in return for something she wants.
The sets are extravagant and emerald green featured heavily; not just on stage, but also in the clothes some of the audience members were wearing on the night I attended. The most stunning set was the Ozdust ballroom where the students attended at one night with its softly glowing fairy light decor.
The production ties in well with links to the original movie with various characters on stage turning into the scarecrow, tin man, flying monkeys and invisibly incorporating the cowardly lion, Dorothy and Toto. This stage production surpasses the musical genius of 1978’s Motown-y The Wiz production featuring Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor and Diana Ross. Can you believe the classic film is celebrating its 75th year since release this year? And 114 since the original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Lyman Frank Baum was first published!
Despite the length of the 2 acts, (Act 1 is approx. 1 1/2 hours and Act 2 approx. 1 hour), the show did not drag on and is a family friendly show. The singing, dancing and the acting were flawless. During a rehearsal video filmed back in 2013 Rix said that she is motivated by the audience; to play the best she possibly can, to prepare herself for shows she imagines that each audience member is seeing the show for the first time and that encourages her to play her character as truthful as possible. This attitude is seen throughout the entire cast and you can truly tell that each and every one of them, whether they play a main character, or an ensemble role, truly love to perform.
As the cast took a final bow, they remained on stage and Rix and Durack did a spiel to the audience about donating money to the ANZ Trustees Foundation: Rob Guest Endowment. The fund provides financial assistance to theatre performers, creators and musicians. Guest was the original Oz, however, he passed away during the 2008 season, which saw TV legend Bert Newton filling in his shoes for the remainder of the season. Reg Livermore plays the wonderful Oz this time around.
If you’re sucker for classics put on your red shoes, close your eyes, tap your hells three times and follow the yellow brick road to the emerald city to ‘Wicked’ at Regent Theatre.