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Matt Byrne's Wicked takes us to the magical Land of Oz
An illuminating set welcomes guests into the Land of Oz, instantly transporting us to Galinda the 'good witch' who exclaims the fall and demise of the wickedest witch of the west, Elphaba Thropp played by Dianne k. Lang. As the scene unfolds, the Citizens of Oz question Galinda's connection to Elphaba, which unravels a secret friendship and more than meets the eye.The story of Wicked originally written by Gregory Maguire, is an adaptation and spin off of the Wizard of Oz, which sees Elphaba as the enemy in a battle of good vs. evil. However, Wicked reintroduces Elphaba as the misunderstood, different, smart and genuinely good-hearted witch who grows up to be the 'Wicked Witch of the West', or does she? Viewing things from her perspective, we witness Elphaba's struggle to fit in, with her green tinged skin and unique powers that push away those closest to her, particularly her father, who blames Elphaba for his wife's death and wheelchair stricken daughter Nessarose.
Wicked is modernised to appeal to a large audience of all ages, with a contemporary take that sees both Glinda and Elphaba study at Shiz University. Ga - linda, as she prefers to be called, is morphed into a cliche popular sorority teen, similar to Regina George from Mean Girls. She may have golden blonde curls and a sprightly attitude, but Glinda is not the brightest of the bunch. Elphaba on the other hand has her head in the books and eyes on the prize, with a dream of meeting the wonderful Wizard who's inspired her to become something extraordinary, and to prove all the haters wrong. When these two very different students are placed in the same dormitory, a rivalry begins but soon after develops into a great friendship, which ends in both characters fulfilling completely different destinies than their original roles in the Wizard of Oz. This reinterpretation of a much loved tale mixed with Elphaba's not so evil 'facade' is what has given Wicked such a respected title, being one of the biggest shows to hit Broadway and theatres around the world.
Director and producer Matt Byrne stays true to the classic Broadway musical and incorporates a personalised touch to SA's first amateur production of Wicked, enhancing the characters' emotive energy and connection to each role. Immersed in the story from beginning to end, we learn that Wicked is not only a story about two polar opposite witches, but a heart-felt tale that brings about self-reflection and empathy for others.
With Americanised accents and personalities, comedy encompasses most of the scenes; from Beyonce style puns, a 'let it go' line from 'Frozen' that gets the crowd going, and many more giggle worthy moments in between scenes. Amongst the backdrop and set, dazzling costumes stand out to create an otherworldly and magical realm. Emerald frocks and costumes make up the Citizens of Oz; bright, sparkly, and futuristic gowns add a dynamic touch to the fantasy land of Emerald City.
From act one's initial scene "Noone Mourns the Wicked" Kat Sachse as Glinda has the audience eagerly watching in awe as she fills the room with her stunning vocals. Her personal touch and comedic flair to her role as Glinda emerge through each of her scenes, intensifying a dynamic stage presence that grips the audience. Kat studied a Certificate IV in Jazz at the Elder Conservatorium and Contemporary Music at Salisbury TAFE. Some of her musical roles include Sandy in Grease, Penny Pingleton in Hairspray and her appearance in the 2014 season of The Voice.
Likewise, Dianne k Lang's performance steals our hearts through her impressive interpretation of Elphaba. Act one's closing scene Defying Gravity ignites the audience, as she's elevated from stage to impersonate the illusion of flying on a broom. The visual effects and stage techniques of this sequence make a statement amongst viewers, with a black backdrop and vivid lighting focused on Elphaba as she rises from the stage floor. Her performance is heightened through passionate acting and vocal skills that make Elphaba an extremely likeable character, instigating questions of what it really means to be 'wicked'. Are some born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them? That is the question. Dianne's experience ranges over 20 years, which has landed her an impressive reputation in Adelaide. Dianne also performed alongside the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in the ENZO concert at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. Other eye-catching actors to brace the stage and to look out for are Lisa Simonetti as Madam Morrible, Michael Bates as Elphaba's love Fiyero, Rick Williams as the Wizard and Zac Vasiliou as Boq. Making their mark in SA's Amateur Production of Wicked, each actor singularly provides the audience with a thrilling and exuberant journey through the magical land of Oz.
Musical Director Paul Sinkinson makes his Musical Directing debut in Matt Byrne's Wicked. "I have enjoyed every minute working on Wicked and can't wait for audiences to see the hard work and commitment the Production Team, Cast, Orchestra and Crew have put into this show...I couldn't be happier" Paul said.
Paul's previous shows include The Little Mermaid and Into the Woods (Adelaide Youth Theatre), The Full Monty and Company (The Hills Musical Company) Evita and CATS (The Met) and the Addams Family (Matt Byrne Media). Alongside Paul is Musical Supervisor Gordon Combes, who's performed around Australia for the ABC and various other festivals. He also works as a freelance musician, which has enabled him to perform as a soloist with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Wicked features music and lyrics from renowned Stephen Schwartz, who's been awarded four Grammy Awards, three Academy Awards and has landed a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. William David Brohn, Alex Lacamoire and Stephen Oremus also play a role in the Orchestrations, Music Arrangements and Music Supervision.
Lighting accompanies the highlights and vivid moments of each scene, with dramatic colour used as a symbolic cue of every character. In charge of lighting, Mike Phillips and Ian Burge have had an extensive array of experience in the theatrical field. Mike has recently directed the comedy "I Bet Your Life" for Tea Tree Players, and last appeared onstage in the title role of the pantomime "Santa in Space". His productions with Matt Byrne Media include "My Favourite Year", "The Producers", "Avenue Q" and "Hairspray". Ian has also gained recognition working on operas, ballets and musicals for the Adelaide Festival Centre including "Singing in the Rain", "Spartacus" and "Jersey Boys" to name a few.
The wonderful dancing scenes of characters like the Wizard are thanks to Sue Pole, Wicked's Choreographer and Ensemble. Sue has acquired years of experience as an actor, singer and dancer with some of her favourite roles being Roxie (Chicago), Ann (Half a Sixpence), Anita (West Side Story) and Audrey (Little Shop of Horrors). She has choreographed over 30 shows, with Phantom of the Opera and Addams Family for Matt Byrne Media being two of her current productions.
Combining enthralling theatrical techniques and an impressive showcase of local talent, Wicked is a riveting must-see this July. Wicked is now playing at the Arts Theatre in Angas Street until July 16 and the Shedley Theatre July 20-23 and 27-30.