Book by Winnie Holzman
Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Shaun Rennie
Musical Director: Nick Griffin
Conductor: Ian McLean
Free Rain Theatre Company
Canberra Theatre Centre to October 28
Review by Len Power 15 October 2016
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that “Wicked” is a show most likely to appeal only to children. In spite of being an alternate telling of Frank L. Baum’s 1900 story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, with references to the 1939 film “The Wizard Of Oz”, this is a musical with adult themes of jealousy, rivalry, corruption and cruelty. From the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West”, it tells the story of two unlikely school friends, Elphaba and Galinda, who become the Wicked Witch and the Good Witch respectively. Set in the strange Land of Oz, we’re taken in unexpected directions as the absorbing story unfolds.
Shaun Rennie’s direction is tight and highly detailed and the entire cast perform at a very high level. Laura Murphy gives a great performance as Glinda, a pretty girl who knows how to use her charm to get what she wants. Her sense of comic timing is impeccable and she sings beautifully. Loren Hunter plays the very different character, Elphaba, and gets deep inside the psyche of this troubled girl. She is thoroughly convincing in her performance and has a magnificent voice, handling the high notes of “Defying Gravity”, her showstopper, with apparent ease. The girls’ big duet at the end of the show, “For Good”, was very well sung with the right level of emotion.
Drew Weston gives a fine performance as the handsome Fiyero and sings “Dancing Through Life” delightfully. Bronwyn Sullivan gives one of her best performances ever as the evil Madame Morrible and Steve Amosa is a great Wizard. His singing of “Wonderful” with Elphaba was one of the show’s highlights.
There was outstanding work also from Teya Duncan as Nessarose, Alexander Clubb as Boq and Fraser Findlay as the doomed Dr Dillamond. Dotted throughout the production there was especially nice work by individuals in the ensemble. Of particular note was Jamie Winbank’s fine dancing in the ballroom sequence and Philippa Murphy giving a very amusing and real portrayal as one of the students.
Ian McLean conducted the tricky musical score very well and musical director, Nick Griffin, has done fantastic work with the vocal work for the cast. Lyrics were clearly heard throughout the show and the sound balance between orchestra and singers was fine.
The settings and costumes are fabulous and have been provided by CLOC Musical Theatre in Melbourne. Lighting design by Phil Goodwin and sound design by Chris Neal were of a very high standard. Michelle Heine’s choreography was imaginative and well-danced by the company.
“Wicked” has been running on Broadway continuously since 2003. Don’t miss this opportunity to see a fine production of one of Broadway’s biggest hits.
Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Artcetera’ program from 9.00am on Saturdays.