This Tony Award-winning musical is a complex and thought-provoking production that we don't mind watching again
First published on 20 Dec 2011. Updated on 14 Mar 2012.
After Time Out broke the news in August that Wicked was coming to Singapore, we were deluged with messages on Twitter and Facebook asking for more details. When is it being staged? (The show premiered on 6 Dec). Who’s producing it? (Base Entertainment Asia). Where’s the cast from? (Australia). We had no idea that the Tony-nominated musical – first staged on Broadway in 2003 – had so many local fans. After all, it features just four memorable songs, only one of which – ‘Defying Gravity’ – has achieved mainstream success. Nevertheless, tickets sold out during the first week of sales, prompting the organisers to extend the musical’s run for another month (until 26 Feb).
What makes Wicked so appealing? The musical, adapted by Winnie Holzman from Gregory Maguire’s novel and featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, has many things going for it, including a Tony Award-winning set design and costumes that wouldn’t look out of place in a book by Dr Seuss. There are flying monkeys, a giant dragon and a blonde witch floating in a cloud of bubbles. But ultimately, it’s the story and the complexity of the characters that prove to be the winning ingredients.
‘Are people born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?’ is the question posed as the musical opens. A local reviewer complained that the characters are ‘morally ambiguous’. They’re not. But they are complex. What’s most surprising about Wicked is its intelligence and ambition. It’s a powerful, buoyantly entertaining show that tends to resonate with teenage girls, in particular.
Wicked traces the relationship between green-skinned outcast Elphaba (Jemma Rix) and popular blonde Glinda (Suzie Mathers), both students at Oz’s elite Shiz University. Though the musical’s main hook is its exploration of the school-yard ostracism of the unconventional and unpretty, dig a little deeper and you’ll find that it’s actually concerned with more pernicious kinds of prejudice.
For the distaste for Elphaba’s skin colour, read racism; and it’s her protests against an oppressive regime that see her defamed as the Wicked Witch of the West. There’s also, in an Oz ruled by a despotic Wizard (played by lovable Aussie TV personality Bert Newton), an underclass of animals with high-level intelligence – forbidden, like dangerous dissidents, to use their power of human speech. Wicked’s Yellow Brick Road is meandering, yet it’s exhilarating to see hefty themes tackled in a barnstorming piece of popular entertainment. And the parallels to the far less rewarding original story of Dorothy and her friends are handled with sparkling wit. Yes, this is glossy and bombastic; but there’s more than a sprinkling of magic here, too.
We caught Wicked on its second night, when Lucy Durack was filling in for Mathers, who was ill. Durack was the original Glinda in the Australian production and she was fun to watch as a bubbly, perky blonde who sounded a lot like spoiled socialite Karen Walker from Will & Grace. When Mathers offered a belated preview of her performance days later at a media conference that had been rescheduled from an earlier date, she sang ‘Popular’. Her tentative delivery was a bit disappointing.
Jemma Rix, who first tackled the role of Elphaba in 2006 when Wicked was staged in Japan and was part of both the Sydney and Melbourne productions, captures the character perfectly. Many in the Singapore audience seemed close to tears near the end of Act I, when her goofy character discovers her inner strength and sings ‘Defying Gravity’ while floating in mid-air. Many theatregoers coming to Wicked for the first time may think they’ll be passing a light-hearted couple of hours, but don’t let the bright lights and eye-catching costumes fool you. This is a complex and thought-provoking musical that we don't mind watching again.
It was an outstanding show by the whole cast...Jemma and Suzie were totally brilliant actresses and singers...Suzie's role as Glinda was incomparable with the others who portrayed the same role in my opinion as I have watched the others performances ...she was really into Glinda's character...as well as Jemma ....they are both awesome..Jemma's voice was stunningly superb...love Defying Gravity so much.... The whole cast and the whole play was brilliant.....really outstanding.....
Posted on Thu 23 Feb 2012 23:19:19
Agnes said: “Love Wicked Singapore!”
Great show. I will watch it again. Got my tickets from sistic.com right after it went on sale!
Posted on Wed 01 Feb 2012 10:54:05
MK said: “WICKED!”
It was wonderful. Entirely, and completely. The script was brilliant, and the actors/actresses' singing was simply.... indescribably, and heartbreakingly beautiful :')
Posted on Sun 29 Jan 2012 19:51:01
KS said: “Great show sub standard sound system”
The show was brilliant but I was disappointed with the lack of quality sound at mbs theatre which handicapped the full potential of the songs. Someone needs to look into this.
Posted on Sat 14 Jan 2012 14:25:51
Lily said: “Wicked Witch from the West”
I love the green witch... and I love the solo's from both witches... My favorite moment was when they sang "For Good"... bittersweet...
Posted on Sun 08 Jan 2012 15:35:53
Ani Africa said: “WICKED!!!”
I love Wicked!!! I was in Singapore for a week and I watched Wicked twice! From what i've seen, I like the Australian version way better than the American one. And for this page, I would recommend all the songs. And for what I've been desperate of, THE WHOLE PLAY!
I love Wicked so much and Suzie Mathers is my number one idol!!!
Please try to make a video of the whole play! No skipping anything if you can! Even if it's bad quality, (it's better if it was good quality), as long as I can see and hear!