Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman, based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, directed by Meg Day.
Long before Dorothy dropped in, two other girls meet in the land of Oz. Wicked tells the enthralling story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba (Tanya Boyle) and Galinda/Glinda (Jessica Farrell) and how they became the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.
Meg Day’s production delves deep into Wicked and brings out the most recognisable features of the show; a roaringly cohesive ensemble, the humanity and universality of the enduring friendships of its female leads, and show stopping numbers that take Alex Lacamoire’s musical arrangements to new heights – and yes, Day does somehow manage to make Elphaba fly!
Day’s direction utilised the flat staging of the Engadine Community Centre well, filling the stage with an inventive castle rise and bringing set pieces wickedly accurate to the original Broadway staging. Day relied too heavily on this in some scenes which made the setting cluttered and difficult to remove for stage manager Darren Hutchinson’s crew. The clever idea of a dropping banner at the beginning of the show failed to make an impact as the set was too bulky to remove in time to reveal the ensemble.
Audiences are in for a reliably entertaining production that has its standout moments that do justice to Shwartz’s lyrics.
Wicked lives and dies on the strength and bond of its two leads, here played with depth and joyous fun by Tanya Boyle and Jessica Farrell.
At first struggling to play on Elphaba’s naivety, optimism and vulnerability, Boyle found her footing throughout the show and produced a sharp character arc into the eventual antagonist of the production. Elphaba is one of the most vocally demanding roles in musical theatre and unfortunately some of the shows more rousing moments, including the iconicsong of the show ‘Defying Gravity’, defied Boyle’s range. Boyle was much better suited to the lower register of Elphaba’s songs; this was particularly evident in ‘No Good Deed’ when Boyle made up for the challenges she faced in Act One.
Farrell as Galinda/Glinda the Good, a sickly bubbly blonde witch-in-training constantly finding the balance between trying to ‘do good’ and falling for the allure of popularity, brought the giddiness that makes the character an enduring favourite. She managed to not break a sweat throughout the character’s multiple quick changes and capably executed the higher register required of Galinda. As with Boyle, Farrell produced another sharp character arc that highlighted the struggle choosing between her friendship with Elphaba, and her duties to the people of Oz. Galinda’s more humorously bubbly scenes, such as ‘Popular’, left us wanting more; Farrell felt too grounded. She shied away from those absurdly quirky moments, and these were never fully realised.
Embodying all the character’s charm, charisma, and laid-back attitude to life, Astill as Fiyero was clearly confident in his ability to sing and dance his way through the production. Sadly, I never fully believed his connection to either of the two leads, which resulted in a disconnect to the love story that was vital to Elphaba and Galinda’s ongoing journey.
Virginia Natoli’s Madame Morrible was superbly sinister and manipulative, producing a vocal ability that brought shivers when condemning Elphaba to the role of the wicked witch. If only the sound crew would have tested Natoli’s mic for her more vocally blasting moments.
As the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Brad Facey made a unique character choice to bring the Wizard’s southern drawl into his vocalisation. Playing upon the manipulative nature of the ‘Wonderful Wizard’, Facey brought a more realistic nature to the role not seen in prior productions.
Rounding out the featured cast were Ebony Black-Cooper as Nessarose, Stefan Jamal as Boq and Paul Oscuro as Dr. Dillamond. Jamal as the lovelorn student was by far the strongest of the supporting roles, bringing heart, humour, and depth to the eventual heartless character.
The standout of the performance was the ensemble. Moving as one body, they skilfully belted their harmonies under the musical direction of Clare Moroney. Choreographer Stephanie Westbrook integrated some exceptional ensemble choreography into numbers like ‘Loathing’ and ‘One Short Day’. There were empty gaps along the way that could have benefitted from a better arrangement of the cast, especially at the beginning where the large ensemble were crammed downstage.
Loki McCorquodale’s lighting relied heavily on the spots to light the faces of the characters. With most of the action taking place at the front of the stage the characters were sometimes hidden in darkness, especially during key moments. The exception to this was ‘Defying Gravity’; the lighting team absolutely nailed this last image before intermission.
Engadine Musical Society’s production of Wicked is currently sold out, which is a brilliant achievement for the company. Audiences are in for a reliably entertaining production that has its standout moments that do justice to Shwartz’s lyrics. EMS can add Wicked to their long list of productions that are crowd pleasers for the musical theatre scene.
Cast and Creatives
Director Meg Day
Musical Director Clare Moroney
Choreographer Stephanie Westbrook
Stage Manager Darren Hutchinson
Costumes James Worner
Lighting Loki McCorquodale
Set Design Darren Hutchinson
About the author
Justin is an actor, writer, teacher and European tour guide. Raised in Western Sydney, he always had an avid love for theatre and the spontaneous. Being a Drama and English trained teacher, Justin has developed his writing for publishers such as Theatre People and ArtsHub. Justin’s past theatre credits include directing Stiles and Drew’s Soho Cinders, the ‘brave’ Sir Robin in Spamalot for Arcadians Theatre and the French Taunter/Tim in Spamalot for Springers UK, and his debut role as Muldoon in Jurassic: That is One Big Pile of Musical. As the years have gone by, Justin has taken a great interest in swallowing as much theatre as he can and bringing it to the masses through the establishment of Theatre Thoughts.