Tuesday 23 January 2018

Wicked, Jan 20, 2018 ***1/2

Music & lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, by Young Australian Broadway Chorus 
At National Theatre, St Kilda until Jan 27, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Emily Svarnias as Elphaba,Jasmine Arthur as Glinda

With all the leads in this production of Wicked played by teenage actors, the unlikely relationship that evolves from loathing to intimacy between two young witches is almost identification theatre for young audiences.

The compelling, emotional core of the story is the secret girlhood friendship between the witches from The Wizard of Oz. Elphaba (Emily Svarnias), the sensitive, outcast, green-tinged child, becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, while her pretty, popular rival, Galinda (Jasmine Arthur), grows up to be Glinda the Good.

Svarnias compellingly portrays Elphaba’s emotional journey from shy child to young rebel to terrifyingly powerful witch, and, when she sings the challenging Gravity, her vocal control, thrilling tone and big voice belie her tender years. This 19-year old has a bright future in musical theatre.

Arthur has a charming voice and is suitably perky as the gleefully conceited, relentlessly cheerful, flirtatious teen witch, Galinda.

Robert Coates’ production, with its vibrant choreography (Jacqui Green), evocative design (Mike Fletcher) and lighting (Linda Hum), populates the stage with an overwhelmingly massive but enthusiastic ensemble aged 10 to 21 years, with a youth orchestra (musical director, Andy Coates) doing justice to Stephen Schwartz’s rich and diverse score. The total cast is 114!

The ensemble fills the stage, playing witch-hunting citizens of Oz, students, monkeys and denizens of Emerald City, and their chorus numbers are resounding and exhilarating.

Other featured actors include: Rishab Shrivastav as Fiyero, Emily Palmer as Madame Morrible, Taylor Troeth as Nessarose, Jackson Hurwood as The Wizard, Tristan Sicari as Doctor Dillamond and Darcy Harriss as Boq.

Winnie Holzman’s book strips away many of the complexities of Gregory Maguire’s original, fantasy novel, and the narrative is riddled with relevant, contemporary themes including bigotry, bullying, political manipulation and the persecution of those who are ‘different’.

This first, all-youth Australian production of Wicked is vivacious and enjoyable and brings youthful energy to a fantasy tale of friendship and corruption that echoes our modern world.

Kate Herbert
Jasmine Arthur as Glinda

Emily Svarnias as Elphaba

Orchestrations by William David Brohn
Musical arrangements by Alex Lacamoire and Stephen Oremus

Emily Svarnias as Elphaba
Jasmine Arthur as Glinda
Emily Palmer as Madame Morrible
Rishab Shrivastav as Fiyero
Taylor Troeth as Nessarose

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