Wicked - The Musical at Capitol Theatre, Haymarket (11th October 2014)

After a successful 2014 return season in Melbourne, the internationally acclaimed Wicked - The Musical is finally in Sydney! 

Most of you would have read L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or watched the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz as a kid, following Dorothy, a young girl from Kansas in her adventurous in the Land of Oz. Wicked - The Musical however is an adaptation based on Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West which tells the story of two unlikely friends - Elphaba (Wicked Witch of the West) and Galinda/Glinda (Good Witch of the South) - during the time before and after Dorothy's arrival in Oz. Reading the book prior to the show is not necessary though probably helps to give more context to the story (FYI: the book is not suitable for children). 

Source: Wicked The Musical Australia and NZ

Jono and I bought pre-sale tickets when it was released in April this year, splurging a hefty $143.46 per person for front-row seats in the dress circle. We've never sat in the dress circle at Capitol Theatre to date so I wasn't certain it was wise to pay this much but when we arrived at our seats, I was delighted - it was in the exact middle of the row and the view couldn't have been more perfect! The stage set had a steampunk theme with plenty of wheels and cogs depicting the inner workings of machinery. A giant mechanical dragon towered the stage, and the stage curtain was a map of the Land of Oz with Emerald City softly glowing in the centre. There was much excitement in the air as the theatre fills up with eager patrons - I've been looking forward to the musical for many months so was pretty excited myself :)

Steampunk-themed stage set with a giant mechanical dragon

The show promptly began at 8pm with the giant dragon coming to life and the curtains drawn back to reveal a huge clock face (references the painted clock and tik-tok dragon of the Clock of the Time Dragon in the book). The citizens of Oz were celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the West when Glinda arrives. She recalls the tale of how green-skinned Elphaba was conceived from an affair between the Munchkin governer's wife and a mysterious stranger with a bottle of green elixir. Act I continues with an extended flashback of the witches' lives starting with their meeting at Shiz University, their mutual loathing and Madame Morrible (Shiz's headmistress) making them roommates, to how the snobby and sometimes mean Glinda and the smart but often misunderstood Elphaba developed a close friendship, both falling for the same Wilkie prince Fiyero, and the young witches visiting the Emerald City together to meet with the Wizard. Realising the Wizard plans to use Elphaba to 'create a really good enemy' for the people of Oz, Elphaba runs away with Grimmerie (a book of spells) and used her newly learned powers to escape Madame Morrible and the Wizard's guards by flying away on a broomstick, a public defiance act seen as 'wicked' by the Ozians; Glinda, on the other hand chose to stay, becoming a respected public figure in Oz.

In Act II, Elphaba visits her wheelchair-bound sister Nessarose who has now become the governor of Munchkinland and notoriously known as the Wicked Witch of the East having stripped the Munchkins off their rights to leave Munchkinland (in order to keep Boq with her). Criticised for not using her powers to help Nessarose, Elphaba enchants Nessarose's ruby slippers enabling her sister to walk. Learning that Nessarose is no longer disabled, Boq attempts to leave Munchkinland in pursuit of Glinda upsetting Nessarose who then casts a spell from the Grimmerie to make Boq fall in love with her but the spell backfired and shrunk Boq's heart instead. To save Boq, Elphaba transforms him into the Tin Man so he could live without a heart (much to Boq's horror) and she leaves Nessarose for good.

Whilst escaping the palace for a second time after failing to treat with the Wizard, Elphaba bumps into Fiyero who confirms his love for her and runs away with Elphaba. Glinda, feeling betrayed and crestfallen tells Madame Morrible to spread a rumour that Nessarose is in danger to lure Elphaba. Instead, Madame Morrible creates a cyclone which brought Dorothy's house to Oz and crushes Nessarose to death. Elphaba arrives too late to save her sister, falls for the trap and is captured by the palace guards when Fiyero intervenes, allowing Elphaba to escape making himself captive. To prevent Fiyero from feeling the pains of torture, Elphaba turns him into the Scarecrow.

The Wizard sends Dorothy and her friends (Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion) to kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Elphaba captures Dorothy, refusing to release her until she gives up Nessarose's ruby slippers. Glinda travels to Elphaba's castle and persuades her to release Dorothy. Although Elphaba refuses, the two witches forgives one another for their mistakes and acknowledges that they became who they are because of each other. Elphaba gives Grimmerie to Glinda, and shortly after, Dorothy throws a bucket of water at Elphaba who appears to have melted leaving Glinda to find the black hat and a green elixir bottle to be all that remains of her old friend. Back in Emerald City, it was revealed that the Wizard was Elphaba's biological father (the Wizard has the same green bottle). Glinda orders the Wizard to leave Oz, puts Madame Morrible into prison for murdering Nessarose and announces the death of the Wicked Witch of the West to the public. Meanwhile, back at the castle, the Scarecrow comes to the spot where Elphaba was melted and knocks on the floor. A trapdoor opens revealing a much alive Elphaba and the two leave Oz, never to see Glinda again.

The musical was 2 hours and 45 minutes long with a 20-minute intermission between acts. Lucy Durack and Jemma Rix were fantastic in their roles as Glinda and Elphaba respectively wowing the audience with their amazing vocals and musical theatre repertoire. The energy and ditziness portrayed by Lucy in the song Popular was wickedly hilarious, cheerfully vain and adorable all rolled into one, and you cannot help but be blown away by Jemma's memorable solo Defying Gravity closing off Act I. Their duet - What is this Feeling? - with its comical lyrics of the witches' mutual loathing definitely got the audience laughing in stitches. Overall the cast, singing, set and costumes were great though Jono and I both felt the music could have been better - a reduced orchestra was used in this production and we couldn't see any strings in the pit... 

Jemma Riz as Elphaba and Lucy Durack as Glinda. Source: Wicked The Musical Australia and NZ

We had a rather special end to the performance tonight - the audience were applauding away at the cast when Lucy called the music and clapping to a halt, delivering two important announcements: the 2014 
Rob Guest Endowment Gala Concert which was happening on Monday 13th October at Capitol Theatre showcasing performances of six young musical theatre performers alongside some of Australia's leading theatre stars including the cast of Wicked, and Jemma Rix celebrating 1000 performances in the show which the audience under Lucy's guidance joined in to sing a modified version of the 'Happy Birthday' song to Jemma. 

The award-winning Broadway musical commences its Sydney season at Capitol Theatre from 20th September before bringing all its 'wickedness' to Brisbane in 2015. Hurry and get your tickets from ticketmaster while the show is in town - you'll be spellbound!


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