The musical production Wicked is an interesting spin on Lyman Baum's fantasy classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). Initially popularised by the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz—where Dorothy follows the yellow-brick road, meets a bizarre cast of characters and meanders her way home—Wicked tells a parallel story that focuses on what really happened between Elphaba (Wicked Witch of the West) and Glinda (Good Witch of the North).
As we took our seats in the Regent Theatre the stage sparked our imaginations. Our eyes were immediately drawn above to a mechanical-looking dragon with blazing red eyes. To the left and right of the stage were ladders and balconies that shared a steampunk aesthetic complete with cogs and gears—some set pieces had moving parts when they moved too! At the back of the stage was a large map of the Land of OZ with Emerald City in the centre.
The opening of the first act was simply spectacular. The ensemble cast of munchkins rejoiced in the streets proclaiming that the Wicked Witch of the West (Jemma Rix) was dead.
One of the munchkins shouted: 'It's Glinda!' and so an ornate pendulum (on-stage interpretation of a magical bubble that blew bubbles) descended.
It's good to see me, isn't it?' Glinda (Lucy Durack) said, setting the comical tone of the play. 'No need to respond that was rhetorical.'
As Glinda revealed to the masses that she was once a friend of the Wicked Witch her thoughts turned inward and the narrative rewound to when Glinda and Elphaba went to school together.
Dancing through life
Where Glinda was the blonde and prissy drama queen Elphaba was the outcast and misunderstood green-skinned girl that was meant to look after her wheelchair bound sister Nessarose (Emily Cascarino).
The juxtaposition worked well by forcing both main characters to interact in a socialite setting—by introducing the love interest, Fiyero (Steve Danielsen), and the adorable munchkin Boq (Edward Grey) they not only heightened the tension but they also foreshadowed impending dramas.
There are a lot of funny moments in Wicked. This part of the story about being popular would appeal to teenage girls and those who enjoy pampering.
Simple mannerisms like when Glinda tried to teach Elphaba how to tussle her hair 'tuss-tuss' was a bit of a running gag that fortunately ended before it was overused. Glinda's la-la-la attitude was infectious, quirky and amusing.
One of my favourite characters during the performance was Doctor Dillamond (Nathan Carter), the token goat.
He is the personification of what is to be the odd one out and serves as an important mentor to Elphaba. Doctor Dillamond also likes to eat paper.
A sentimental man
Elphaba embarked on an exciting journey to meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Red Livermore) in Emerald City. The Wizard's contraption was an impressive set piece that really looked like a floating skull in front of a mirror.
Elphaba's inevitable, and literal, rise as the Wicked Witch of the West was an emotional shift in the character's experience and this is demonstrated with an awesome performance of 'Defying Gravity', which was definitely a highlight and favourite moment in Wicked for many as evidenced by those within earshot that were singing along and clapping loudly at the end of the song.
One criticism reaching this point, however, was the slow pace, which could pose a problem if you are not familiar with the story or if you have a short attention span. As the first act came to a close I raced to the cocktail bar to fetch an Emerald City Fizz.
The second act brings all of the introduced elements together and makes more overt connections with the source material. The origins of certain well-known characters like the scarecrow and the lion are teased so that the audience come to their own conclusions about continuity and the truth of events that unfolded in the Land of Oz.
Satisfying revelations wrap up the play right to the very end. Everything from the lighting to the orchestral score to the brilliant acting made Wicked a delight and a memorable musical worthy of its accolades and successful worldwide tour. The high school themes of bullying, being different and so on should appeal to a young teenage girl audience however judging by the audience at the Regent Theatre this production seems to have something for everybody.