‘Wicked – the Musical; the untold story of the witches of Oz’ is based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 book ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’. Stephen Schwartz found the book whilst on holiday and had Winnie Holzman adapt it for the stage. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, the show Premiered in 2003 in San Francisco. It won three Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical, a Grammy and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Broadway Musical. The show has been seen by millions and broken numerous box office records.
This amazing three-hour show is at the Regal Theatre in Subiaco is a Mercedes College’s joint venture with five boys from other Perth schools. The College has won the Catholic Performing Arts Festival’s Award for the Best Secondary School musical for the past two years.
I was having a chat to Frank Murphy on his popular Fremantle Radio 107.9 Irish programme when the two leads for this show arrived. Keely and Jayda gave the most exquisite rendition of one the songs from ‘Wizard’; they wore headphones for the backing music and so Frank and I experienced their singing unaccompanied. Crystal voices with perfect pitch.
With a cast of more than 80 students and a further 40 others as stage crew and important helpers this is a massive show. ‘Wicked’ will be performing at The Regal Theatre, Subiaco until 4th August.
The Scene: the sorcery University, Shiz about 80 years ago.
The Set: considering that the show’s season was only a handful of performances, the amount of work by the design and costume crews was enormous. Three massive wooden structures designed and built by Performing Arts Link, acted as homes for the monkeys and then – clipped together to form a bridge – for romantic encounters.
The audio balance and design were perfect thanks to Dave Keys and his assistant Rosie Antonas.
Kerrie Wilshusen’s lighting design covered all situations with plenty of colour for the dance routines and crowd scenes, to the dark ominous scenes with the witches. Luke Simpson controlled the complex lighting programme with feeling. The domes – or spotlights – were accurately operated by Peter Young and Dillan Kuiper.
Radek Rubinski and Tom Janes added their magic with the Flys and the mechanics.
With such a huge cast, holding the show together was a major challenge for the Stage Manager (Brianna Lea), however, props moved in and out quickly and efficiently; then, at the end of every scene, the packed stage would empty silently. Superb organisation.
The Munchkin citizens of Oz are in the streets celebrating, when from the sky a silver ring descends carrying the much-loved dim blonde, the beautiful Glinda (Keely McMillan) in an attractive pale blue petal gown. Glinda just loves to tell everyone how good she is. Even the monkeys are excited, as they do their aerial tricks (fantastic acrobatics).
Glinda tells the Ozians how a mother gave birth to a green-skinned baby, Elphaba (Jayda D’Agostino). Elphaba’s father, the Governor of Munchkinland loathed her giving all his affection to her disabled sister, Nessarose (Stephanie Shaw). The girls are sent to Shiz University where the cruel Principal, Madame Morrible (Charlotte Kiely) rules with a stern hand and harsh sorcery.
Elphaba’s favourite lecturer is the history teacher, Dr. Dillamond (Abbey Breust), a goat-like animal professor who is discriminated against and sacked by Madame Morrible. When the unscrupulous Prince, Fiyero (Rhys Agnihotri) arrives, Glinda is immediately in love with him. Unfortunately, when a poor Munchkin Boq (Anton Coomblas) then declares his love for Glinda, she suggests that he should love Nessarose instead. Boq ends up guiding Nessarose’s wheelchair whilst still desperately yearning after Glinda.
Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself
Having no friends, Elphaba is taught by Glinda how to attract men, with Fiyero then showing interest. The two rescue a caged lion cub. Soon, the famous Wizard (Mackenzie Brown) asks Elphaba to visit him at the Emerald City. Madame Morrible, who now works as the Wizard’s Press Secretary, gives Elphaba the ‘Grimmerie’ – an ancient and priceless spell book.
When the Wizard’s acrobatic monkey servant, Chistery (Daisy Holder) sprouts wings, Elphaba realises it is the Wizard who has been cruelly controlling the Animals’ freedom. Not only that, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz cannot even read the special codes in the Grimmerie, he is in fact a fraud. Elphaba, now known as ‘The Wicked Witch of the West’ grabs a broomstick and flies off to sanity. Meanwhile, ‘Glinda the Good’ foolishly starts working for the Wizard and Morrible, against Elphaba.
On hearing Elphaba is to be ‘melted down’, Fiyero goes to Elphaba’s rescue. On the death of her father, Nessarose becomes the Governor of Munchkinland, but still she cannot capture Boq’s heart. Elphaba tries to help Nessarose by giving her sister special, magical shoes and the power to walk. When Boq still shows no interest, Nessarose tries the Grimmerie, but accidentally shrinks Boq’s heart and he turns into the ‘Tin Man’.
Who will win Fiyero heart? Will Elphaba remain forever cursed?
Other major players included: Guards (Aliyah Fedec, Tiandra Seal), Witch’s mother (Bianca Metcalf), Lover (Scarlett Mills), Shen Shen (Jada Rattray) and the Governor (Gabe Sharra).
The huge Orchestra was conducted by Harry Oliff. His musicians were Bethany Hunt, Alexandra Del Casale, Anna Rodger, Claire Glendinning, Grace Kay and Joseph Pinto (on Reed). The brass section, Riley Byfield (on Horn), Adrian Kelly, Charlie Teakle (on Trumpet), Peter Chan (on Trombone), Leanna de Souza, Anika Collins, Lili Bogoyev and Hannah Brockway – WASO (Violins), Djuna Lee, Charlotte Greenway (on Bass), Adrian Soares, Chris Milbourne, Tim How and Mitchell Price-Norgaard (on Keyboards), Jeremy Thomson (on Guitars), Paul Waterhouse (on Drums), Martha Bird, Brooke Cumming, Laura Saxon, Tayla Rattray (on Percussion) and on keyboard programming Nathan Firmin. With four percussionist the balance could have been difficult to control, but with the skill of the Musical Director the balance of the whole orchestra was perfect. Thankfully, there were no ‘self-appointed soloists’ desperately trying to make themselves noticed. The orchestration was sensitive and accompanied the vocalists rather than forcing the singers out of their comfort zones to keep up with the music. A three-hour show is a marathon for a musician – well done. There were some lovely touches as the instrumentalists gave the odd magical notes for various actions.
As the Vocal Director, Harry Oliff has selected a wonderful range of singers, all of whom had great voices and could act well whilst singing. Sadly, so often many youngsters can both act and sing, but sadly not at the same time.
The cast were very well rehearsed and sang in unison.
Then comes the result of months of sewing. Head Costumier, Jo Driscoll and her magnificent team had to design several changes of costumes, many with hours of work in each dress, for the cast of 80. Then, in combination with the inspiration of a talented makeup team the characters of Madame Morrible, Dr Dillamond, the monkeys and Chistery came alive. Superb work.
The choreography by Emily Hunt was inventive, with several different styles on the stage at one time. The Choreographer faced with 60 extras to train still managed to squeeze every ounce of strength and enthusiasm. They smiled, danced, sang in perfect harmony. The routines were not simply leg movements, but every joint of the dancers’ bodies had a full workout. The acrobats managed vertical splits, back flips, cartwheels and still came up smiling. This is the kind of visual magic that the younger audience members loved and will remember for ever.
‘Glinda’ is said to have come from Gee Linda – ‘Linda’ being the Spanish word for beautiful. Keely’s speaking voice was like TV’s ‘The Nanny’ breathing helium. Absolutely wonderful, it could clear blocked eardrums at 20 metres. The voice came complete with a bubbly hysterical giggle and a frivolous personality. However, when Keely started to sing her soprano voice was magnificent, a pleasure to listen to.
Jayda has been a finalist in a national singing contest – twice! And again, as a finalist in a national song writing competition. With her clear voice and the ability to hold a note for ever, she has a huge future.
The show’s Director was Kathleen Cocks, Head of Learning Area. She was backed by Production Assistant Gill Lugton; they gave the cast drive, enthusiasm and confidence. Along with Harry Oliff as the Vocal Coach and Musical Director the cast smiled their way through the tricky numbers.
I am sorry this space does not allow me to list everyone that worked on this show, there were dozens of artists, costume crew, makeup artists and the front of house. ALL were valuable pieces that went into this truly magnificent performance. Most professional on all levels. Brilliant.