I didn’t think I would be writing this post until late January, when Ravi and I have tickets to see Wicked as a joint holiday present. But about a month ago, I was playing around on the Wicked Singapore homepage, and found the “Shiz Quiz,” a trivia quiz where winners would receive a pair of tickets to opening night here in Singapore and entry to the black tie gala after the show. I shrugged and said “what the hell?” and entered, as I know my Wicked trivia. Then I didn’t give it a second thought, because really, who wins these things?
Image my total shock on November 24th when I got an email congratulating me as a Shiz Quiz winner. I actually almost sent it to the spam folder! Lucky for me, I checked the return email address and once I realized it was legit, I was jumping for joy.
Ravi does not do black tie. He wore a tux for our wedding, and that is the last tux he wants to wear this decade (at least). So I asked my friend Kirsten (if you don’t know her blog, you should) to join me. On Friday I picked up our tickets and our passes. We each got dolled up, and were off to the show!
We “attended” the “green carpet” beforehand, and the gala after, but I’ll talk about our lack of social skills and ease in a black tie environment in another post.
I love seeing stage musicals multiple times…every actor has their own spin on their character or their songs, the set or staging will be changed, and so forth…I’m enough of a theater geek that I’ve seen “Rent” and “Phantom of the Opera” more than ten times each. I first saw Wicked in previews in New York City in October of 2003 with the original Broadway cast that you hear on the soundtrack. I next saw it with Ravi in Boston in September of 2007. This was my third viewing.
Our seats were in the dress circle (or what we call the mezzanine in the US). Relatively good seats, and something I would have been happy to pay full price for.
I found out over the weekend that the Glinda we saw was not the Glinda starring in the Singapore production (Suzie Mathers), who was ill…they flew in a former Glinda from Australia (Lucy Durack) specifically to do opening night. (source) I’m looking forward to seeing Mathers perform in January.
Wicked tells the story of Elphaba (who you would know as the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz”) and Galinda (later Glinda the Good from “The Wizard of Oz”) from their first meeting at Shiz University, how their initial loathing of each other blossoms into real friendship, and how one fateful day in the Emerald City and a meeting with the Wizard changes everything. They also have the misfortune of being in love with the same man. We see WHY events unfolded the way they did in the Wizard of Oz (much of act 2 plays against the same timeline as the movie, but from an entirely different perspective–Glinda and Elphaba’s as opposed to Dorothy’s). You learn the origin stories for the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow, as well as the origins of that twister that pulled Dorothy into Oz.
The story of Wicked in the cast’s words
The first of the two witches that we meet is Glinda the Good. Glinda is born beautiful and popular and nothing more is ever expected of her than to be that…until she chooses to become more than just a pretty popular girl.
Durack put in a solid performance as Galinda (she changes it to Glinda mid act 1). She was at turns hysterically funny, ditzy, and eventually as the role requires, serious. She nailed all the highlights of the role–“Popular,” “I’m not that girl (reprise)” and her half of “For good.” My only complaint was that at times it felt like she was trying to recreate Kristin Chenoweth’s performance rather than her own interpretation of the role. I’m looking forward to seeing Mathers in January.
Jemma Rix enters the show after the second number (“Dear old Shiz”) as Elphaba. While she has a tough exterior (having been harassed about her skin color and very obviously NOT her father’s beloved child–that’s her sister, Nessarose, who you might remember as the Wicked Witch of the East from “The Wizard of Oz”) she is an idealist. She believes in the Wizard and all that he represents. Her story is one of disillusionment as she learns that the Wizard and his government are not what she believed them to be. Thing after thing she loves is stripped from her, until she declares “Enough/Alright/So be it then/Let all Oz be agreed/I’m wicked through and through” (“No Good Deed”).
Rix puts her own spin vocally on Elphaba, but still blew the house away, earning her thunderous applause after her major numbers. She played Elphaba in Australia and Japan previously, with many years of experience in the role. If she’s wicked, you don’t want to be good in Oz, as you cheer her on.
The rest of the cast was also solid. Anne Wood was deliciously evil as Madame Morrible, Bert Newton seems affable at first meeting as the Wizard which makes his true nature all that more shocking, David Harris’ Fiyero is by turns feckless and heroic as the role demands, and Elisa Colla’s Nessarose is both self-absorbed and heartbreaking. The chorus hit a home run both in terms of vocal talent and dancing.
The staging flowed seamlessly from scene to scene, and I can’t think of a point where I was bored or disengaged from the story. I loved some of the changes from the last time I’d seen the show (they use some projected images on the back screen during the opening number that were not in either version I’d seen previously, and the staging during “No Good Deed” really nailed Elphaba’s descent into despair in a truly sinister way, as well as just using lighting and the proscenium better than previous productions.)
Obviously, prior knowledge of the movie “The Wizard of Oz” enhances your enjoyment of the musical, but it’s not necessary.
The music is hummable, and the lyrics are clever. I remember how frustrating the 3-4 month wait between seeing the show in previews and when the soundtrack was released was because I was humming the songs, but didn’t have the lyrics down after only one viewing.
The story is multilayered…you can enjoy the love and friendship story, or you can enjoy the deeper political questions the show raises (what is truth? how do you gain/consolidate power?…as the wizard himself says “people are often ill at ease with moral ambiguities/so we act as if they don’t exist”).
Children as young as 7 or 8 would love it…I can’t wait for Ellie and Rhi to be old enough to bring. There’s nothing graphic in the show. The most “racy” thing is an onstage kiss, although younger children might find certain things (the monkeys, certain numbers) scary or above their comprehension level. Use your judgment.
TV spot for Wicked, Singapore
Was the Singapore cast/show the strongest I’ve ever seen? I will admit that the original cast holds a very special place in my heart, and no cast is ever going to dislodge them, so it’s an unfair comparison. A more fair analysis is that I could have paid for my ticket last Friday and still think my second viewing in January was money well spent.
Buy tickets for Wicked here. Wicked is scheduled to play through February 26, 2012 at the Marina Bay Sands theater.
EDITED TO ADD
Ravi and I went to Wicked on January 29th. After a month and a half in Singapore, the show was much tighter.
As I noted above, Suzie Mathers was ill for opening night, so I had not seen her as Glinda before. She takes the show to an entirely different level, playing Glinda as the incredibly complex character she is. We were close enough to see every facial expression (especially when she’s clearly struggling with her emotions in the opening song) and she brought tremendous depth to the portrayal. I would go so far as to say she is the best Glinda since Kristen Chenoweth originated the role…if I were less a Chenoweth fan, I might even venture to say she did the best Glinda I have seen, hands down. I hope they bring her to B’way or the West End and soon.
Perhaps it was the addition of Mathers, and maybe it’s the cast getting used to each other/the show running more smoothly, but the performance in January blew the December performance out of the water…and I’d been really happy with the December performance.
Wicked has also extended its run in Singapore through April 1rst, so you still have many chances left to see it!