If you’ve ever
…. wondered about how the Wicked Witch of the West became so wicked, or if Glinda the Good was really … well, good….
…. felt like the odd one out in the crowd and struggled to find your place in the world….
…. experienced friendship that seemed against the odds and been changed for the better by knowing someone else….
…. and isn’t that everybody?
There are some principles of good storytelling that can be broken and others that must never be. One such rule is that every character, in order to be convincing on the page, screen or stage must be somehow flawed. Every hero must have a flaw, every villain some quirk of goodness if we are to love them. Wicked is perhaps, the best and most characterizing musical I’ve seen since Cats, or My Fair Lady.
Without giving away the twists and turns, suffice to say that plenty had already happened in Oz before Dorothy departed down the Yellow Brick Road. Jemma Rix is breathtaking and utterly enchanting as Elphaba, a girl who struggles to find her place in the world without losing her voice – and has to make some pretty tough choices along the way. She’s an inspiring lead and one that every strong-willed and hero-hopeful girl should see in full flight!
Suzie Mathers ‘Glinda’ strikes the perfect note of ‘mean girl’ – a popular princess type used to getting her way, slowly realizing that beauty and friendship is more than just skin deep. The ensemble of characters that support Elphaba and Glinda’s journey of discovery play out the complexities of power, popularity, ego and conviction.
As far as musicals go; if you haven’t heard the soundtrack featured on Glee – you’re about to discover stunning thematic arrangements and soaring melodies that will stick in your head in just the right way. Well-executed stage acrobatics, simple but truly effective staging and costumes make Oz a place of wonder and magic, with a surprisingly small company of players. This show is the full event – 20kg crystal studded costumes, container loads of set pieces and a magnificent Clockwork Dragon.
The Clockwork Dragon features more prominently in the book the musical is based on “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” written by Gregory Maguire. Maguire’s novel, written in 1995, explores much more adult themes of political power, ethics, good and evil against a backdrop of the Land of Oz, a revision of the history that was. Here, Jay Laga’aia opens up the many layers of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz in front of a home audience; a thrill for those of us that remember him from 80s television.
The musical draws on some political and social themes, poised on exemplars like animal welfare; but the true power is it’s effortless ability to highlight the pricks and pangs of human nature with humor and grace. Each character is shown, flaws and flawless, each one made loveable or at least, admirable. It’s this, and those crescends in ‘Defying Gravity’, that has made Wicked such an iconic new musical. Still a teenager in comparison to some of the great musicals you know by heart, Wicked will be a new classic – and incomparable for quite some time.