When I first went to see Wicked the Musical, I pulled out my notebook and wrote a review during intermission. I have no idea what I did with that notebook, but I know I enjoyed the experience.
I remain extremely glad that I experienced Wicked when the show first moved to Sydney and the original cast was intact. It's given me a great base to compare the subsequent changes and evolution since then. The production has been polished up considerably as of my last visit, presumably in preparation for the move to Brisbane. The dancers have new costumes, the set has been spruced up, and there is a renewed energy in the performances. From the moment the map starts to glisten and the dragon roars, the production springs into life and I was mesmerized.
This was without a doubt the best overall experience. The audience were fantastic - nobody arrived late, there was not a single noise or word out of place, and everybody clapped and laughed heartily at the appropriate points. We were all in this together and hanging off every moment.
Our reward came at the end of curtain call when Lucy Durack signaled for the orchestra to stop, and Bert Newton addressed the audience. He thanked us all and relayed that they had commented backstage that we were the best audience they have had so far. He also took the opportunity to speak about the Rob Guest foundation and ask for donations.
As I headed across the street amongst the crowd I heard a girl saying to her parents "But do they say that everytime?" I couldn't resist setting her straight. "I've been three times, and this is the first time they've ever said anything." “Oh! Do they always say that it’s the best audience?” “Nope, just this time.” She seemed pretty happy about that.
So, after my 3 trips to Wicked, here's the verdict:
Best Elphaba: Amanda Harrison. Jemma Rix does an admirable job but doesn’t quite nail the characterisation. Amanda got laughs out of some of the throwaway lines which Jemma missed, and she had a great rapport with Rob Mills.
Pippa Grandiose played a very different Elphaba, more of the loner geek than the prickly witch, but while interesting it just wasn’t as effective. I’m sure there’s a reason why her contract wasn’t renewed and she was just a “temp” after Amanda left.
Best Fiyero: Rob Mills. I know, I know, Australia Idol wannabe who hooked up with Paris Hilton, I'm as surprised as you are. While I believe Tim Campbell is the superior performer, he just wasn't right for this role. For one thing, he’s too tall and towers over all of his costars. He is also a little bit older and doesn’t pull off the transition from high-school student to adult. Having said that, both were great and got the cheekiness and charm down pat.
Highlights: The clever social commentary woven into a visually spectacular and humorous story based on the Wizard of Oz. What's not to love?
Lowlights: Bert Newton. Seriously, that guy sucks, and the Australians *adore* him. They cheer whenever they see him. Honestly, it's ridiculous. I found his role irritating, and not sure if it's just him or if it's the character itself. But I'm sure the Wizard can't be that annoying in every production of this show. I think it's the way he delivers his lines and his general inability to act.
This show: 10/10
This production: 9/10 (they lose a point for Bert Newton, but fortunately his scenes are limited).
See it if you can!!!
A massive thank you to Ticketmaster NZ, Ticketmaster Australia, Capitol Theatre and the Wicked production team for being so accommodating. My ticket was for Wednesday 22nd, but I was unexpectedly in New Zealand for my grandmother's funeral. On the Tuesday I flicked a quick email to the NZ customer service address as I couldn't find any contact details for Australia. I honestly didn't think of it any further, being somewhat preoccuped. But they contacted customer service in Australia who contacted the theatre. When I got back to Australia I had an email saying that if I wanted to show up at the theatre that night there would be a ticket waiting for me. Not only was it a ticket, it was the best seat in the house, dead centre. I was impressed by the service and very happy that I was able to see the production one final time before they moved on.