Review: Wicked Soars with Standing Ovation

With over ninety international awards, Wicked is the jewel in the crowning glory of composer Stephen Schwartz’ musical canon, which includes other commercial musical hits for the stage such as Godspell, Pippin, and movie musicals such as Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Prince of Egypt, and Enchanted amongst others.

wicked popular Jemma Rix and Suzie Mathers
Jemma Rix and Suzie Mathers as Elphaba and Glinda. Image by Andrew Ritchie

On a side note, Winnie Holzman who is often overlooked should be commended for penning the book musical for Wicked, which was originally based on a novel by Gregory Maguire.

Brisbane city was ’greenified’ to celebrate the arrival of this phenomenal musical by lighting up our major landmarks in a wash of green light. It also marks the triumphant return of the musical which was abruptly washed away with the 2011 floods, cutting the season short.

So why all the hoopla over this magical musical? As Wicked is the prequel to The Wizard of Oz, not only does it start with a universally known concept embedded into our childhood psyche, but follows through with a great script and catchy popular songs with soaring show-off pieces for leading ladies. Add to that, the spectacular scenery (Eugene Lee), stunning costuming (Susan Hilferty), and high energy dancing, the show is a sure-fire box office hit, all packaged up in a sparkly green bow.

The cast of WICKED, Melbourne 2014. Image by Belinda Strodder
The cast of WICKED, Melbourne 2014. Image by Belinda Strodder

Wicked not only captures the heart and imagination of its audience, but is a totally thrillifying experience for all ages. For me, it not only evoked emotional reactions, but my whole physicality was arrested. There were moments which were spent with my heart in my mouth, tears welling in my eyes, jaw dropped in awe, and my heart pounding with child-like anticipation. It was such a total kinesthetic experience, I think I could have skipped the gym that day.

Having seen the original Australian premiere opening night in Melbourne, one can make a few comparisons between the changes in cast, but I decline to play favorites’ as each person brought a different quality to the roles, which serves to keep the show fresh for a return audience.

Suzie Mathers as the bubbly ‘popular’ girl Glinda, played the role with a little more calculated self-awareness than the more innocent, cutesy version of Lucy Durack. However, her vocals were sublime as her more classical voice glistened like the sparkle on her diamond tiara.

Defying Gravity! Image by Belinda Strodder
Defying Gravity! Image by Belinda Strodder

As for Jemma Rix, playing the magically gifted, green girl outcast Elphaba, I was spell-bound. Rix was faultless in her dry wit characterisation and transcendent vocals. It is very rare that when one enters a theatre (or anything really), with high expectations, they are rarely met with the anticipation we have built up for it. But when Rix hit the money note (the highlight of the show), she did not disappoint. I cannot compare Rix against the original Amanda Harrison as they were both remarkable.

Steve Danielsen was just as charming as the original Fiyero played by Rob Mills. Both had to put in a little extra time in the rehearsal room to get their dancing feet, and both pull the choreography well for the general public, although a little more flow in the movement will make the chore seem more relaxed and organic.

Simon Gallaher is new to the role of the Wizard, taking over from Reg Livermore. With all of the previous Wizards being wonderful character actors and well-loved names in the industry, it was especially welcoming to see this role being inhabited by an accomplished singer.

Wicked is one of the great musicals of our time (it’s definitely in my Top 5), and the perfect show to introduce to a new generation of musical theatre lovers (my eleven-year-old niece has now been listening to it on YouTube non-stop ever since opening night).

Wicked is now playing in the Lyric Theatre at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre until April.

For more details, visit the website – Wicked at QPAC.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

Bobbi-Lea is's QLD Co-ordinator, writer, reviewer, and reporter. She is also an actor, presenter, and theatre/film producer for Drama Queen Productions in Brisbane. Bobbi-Lea holds a Degree in Music Theatre as well as a Degree in Film & TV, and is currently doing her Masters in Screen Production.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

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