by Amanda Woodbine
I’m not going to lie, I went into the recent production of Wicked at The Regent Theatre as a bit of a veteran. This is my third time seeing it since it first came to Australia in 2008 and I loved it just as much as I did the first time I saw it. The show is amazingly consistent, it doesn’t matter who is in what show, whether it be a stand-by, cover or swing, you’re going to get a good show. I recently saw a show in Sydney (it need not be named) that a few stand-bys were playing the leads and I walked away disappointed and explaining to the people I saw it with that “it was much better the last time I saw it”. Wicked is a show this has not happened on the three separate occasions.
Wicked has set the the standard for strong casts across the board!
The production as a whole is so tight and all elements work together so well that it’s hard to believe that several people contributed to it’s production. Stephen Schwartz has created music and lyrics that will stay in your head for weeks afterwards. The score is so magical that it’s easy to be swept away the world of Oz with just the music alone. The book by Winnie Holzman has simplified Gregory Maguire’s book to something that the masses can enjoy and follow easily. With sets by Eugene Lee and costumes by Susan Hilferty putting the perfect finishing touches on this production it puts the right amount of nostalgia in for Wizard of Oz enthusiasts.
Lucy Durack in the role of ditzy blonde witch Galinda is a true delight. She plays this role so well and I honestly believe that this is her best role she has played to date. The highlight of her performance is definitely the catchy song “Popular” which she performs with such pizazz and comedic prowess that it will be a song you walk away remembering.
Unfortunately the vivacious Jemma Rix was not performing the show I watched, but I have seen her play Elphaba and all I can say is that she is a tour de force within Australian theatre. I truly believe she could walk into the Broadway production and be one of the best Elphaba’s the great white way has ever seen. Alternatively, I was treated with Ali Calder and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did she carry the show with both the fiery and timid sides of the character, she absolutely nailed the vocals. Every song she sang just got better and better, from showing incredible range in “The Wizard And I”, to showcasing her softer side in “I’m Not That Girl”, and of course blowing the audience away with the show’s signature song “Defying Gravity”. I’ve heard many versions of this song from many different singers and I must say, Calder’s is right up there with one of the best. She’s a name to watch in musical theatre!
All the supporting leads did an incredible job. Reg Livermore as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of, if not the best Wizard’s I have seen. He demands the stage from the moment he steps on to the moment he steps off and doesn’t miss a beat vocally, it was an absolute delight seeing him in this role. Steve Danielsen playing Fiyero did a fine job of showing a character that goes through many transitions throughout the show and had great chemistry with Calder’s Elphaba. Maggie Kirkpatrick is back again as the foreboding Madame Morrible and does a fantastic job of going from motherly to menacing in a flash. Emily Cascarino as Nessarose, Edward Grey as Boq and Nathan Carter as Doctor Dillamondare so strong and only bring more talent and depth to this stellar cast.
As I mentioned before, the ensemble are just exquisite. They perform every piece of song with such energy and pizazz. You can just see that they are putting everything they have into the show whether they are the citizens of Oz or flying monkeys; they are always at their best. All the cast is also blessed to have some of the most incredible and intricate choreography to be seen in a musical for sometime. I can’t get enough of the truly ‘Oz-ian’ style which looks as though it’s paying homage to The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz at times.
There’s nothing more to say except that Wicked has it all and if you are attempting to take someone who is generally not a fan of musical theatre, this is the show for you. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and with the current cast, you are fortunate to be seeing one of the strongest casts amongst the current plethora of shows in Australia.
Wicked is playing at The Regent Theatre, Melbourne until September 7th before moving to The Capitol Theatre, Sydney from September 20th – November 16th.