Friday, 9 May 2014

WICKED, Melbourne, May 10, 2014 ****1/2

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz; Book by Winnie Holzman; based on Gregory Maguire’s novel
Produced by Marc Platt, David Stone & John Frost, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt,
Regent Theatre, Melbourne, until September
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun in print on Sun May 11 in News pages and on line on Mon May 12 on Arts web page. KH
All photos by Joe Calleri
All photos by Joe Calleri 

The magical, hit musical, Wicked, is a collision of Legally Blonde and Harry Potter – with more music, less menace and a foolish, old Wizard instead of a threatening Dark Lord.

Wicked celebrates its 10th anniversary by greening the streets of Melbourne and transforming the Regent Theatre into the Emerald City and The Land of Oz.

Lisa Leguillou’s return production glitters with stellar performances by the effervescent Lucy Durack as Galinda/Glinda, and Jemma Rix as Elphaba.

Wicked traces the secret girlhood friendship between the two witches from The Wizard of Oz: Elphaba, the outcast, green-tinged child, becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, while her pretty, popular rival, Galinda, grows up to be Glinda the Good.

This unlikely relationship that evolves from loathing to intimacy, provides a firm, compelling and emotional core to the story, making it almost identification theatre for young teenage girls.

Winnie Holzman’s book strips away the complexities of Gregory Maguire’s original, fantasy novel, but the narrative remains convoluted and its numerous threads are not all satisfactorily resolved.

Contemporary themes permeate the story: bigotry, misdirected fear, bullying, political manipulation and the persecution of those who are different.

Durack once again proves herself a consummate musical theatre professional and, with her silvery, bright voice, is perfectly cast as the adorable, gleefully conceited and relentlessly cheerful Galinda, the capricious, flirtatious teen witch.

During her outstanding interpretation of the comical song, Popular, she capers goofily while enthusiastically attempting a makeover on her green pal, “Elphy”.

Rix’s voice is warmly resonant with a thrilling upper register, and her awkward, rebellious Elphaba elicits sympathy and solidarity as she fights for the rights of the marginalised in the bigoted Land of Oz.

She delivers The Wizard and I with youthful hope, and I’m Not That Girl with unrequited love, but the musical high point  – literally – is her passionate rendition of the breath-taking and memorable Defying Gravity that closes Act One.

Durack and Rix’s voices blend perfectly as they sing with relish, What Is This Feeling?, a duet that comically underlines the initial “unadulterated loathing” between the “unusually and exceedingly peculiar” Elphaba, and the dizzy blonde, Galinda.

Rix and Steve Danielsen, who plays Elphaba’s handsome love interest, Fiyero, win hearts with their sweet love duet, As Long As You Are Mine.

Reg Livermore enjoys himself as The Wizard, a cowardly charlatan who hides behind a frightening visage, and Maggie Kirkpatrick’s Madame Morrible is a suitably dour and overbearing headmistress.

A versatile chorus, playing the witch-hunting citizens of Oz, flying monkeys and denizens of the Emerald City, perform Wayne Cilento’s vibrant, pulsating choreography and deliver a rousing rendition of the opening song, No One Mourns The Wicked, and a host of other ensemble numbers.

Stephen Schwartz’s clever, witty lyrics tell the story clearly and flesh out the central characters, while his rousing music – impeccably interpreted by the orchestra – underscores Elphaba’s emotional journey from shy child to young rebel, and finally to terrifyingly powerful witch.

Although the songs are enjoyable, most are not groundbreaking or memorable as individual tunes, apart from Defying Gravity, What is This Feeling? and Popular.

Wicked is a visual masterpiece, thanks to an impressive set design that features a monstrous, animated dragon and giant clock face (Eugene Lee), spectacular, evocative lighting (Kenneth Posner), and splendidly colourful costumes (Susan Hilferty).

Wicked is in Melbourne until September when it will disappear in a puff of green smoke to Sydney and Brisbane. Wave your wand and get a ticket now.

By Kate Herbert

 All photos by Joe Calleri
All photos by Joe Calleri 
 Creative Team
Joe Mantello - Director of original production
Lisa Leguillou -Director Australian production
Wayne Cilento - Musical staging
Eugene Lee – Scenic designer
Susan Hilferty -Costume Designer
Kenneth Posner -Lighting Designer

Lucy Durak -Galinda/Glinda
Jemma Rix -Elphaba
Reg Livermore -The Wizard
Steve Danielsen -Fiyero
Maggie Kirkpatrick - Madame Morrible
Nessarose -Emily Cascarino
Edward Grey -Boq
 All photos by Joe Calleri

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