Reviews, News and Commentary

Wicked: Fun-filled Greenery

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder


Music & Lyrics Stephen Schwartz

Book Winnie Holzman

North Shore Music Theatre

Director Alex McKellar

Musical Director Andrew Christie

Skycity Theatre

Until April 30, 2023

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder

It’s not easy being green. Or blonde, for that matter.  Come to think of it, it’s not all that easy being a reviewer either.  Especially one who remains totally flumoxxed as to why Wicked is the second highest grossing musical theatre show of all time.  Yes, that’s right.  Second, sitting behind only The Lion King and just ahead of Phantom of the Opera!

How is that so?  After all, Wicked is merely a prequel to a classic, it has only a flimsy storyline and some of its scene-jumps are illogical.  There are really only a couple of semi-memorable songs, there is no great philosophical message and many of its values are really just a sketchy outline to show off lots of froth and bubble.

I mused on this while walking down the street afterwards.  Yes, ‘Defying Gravity’ sticks, as does ‘One Short Day’ and snatches of a few other tunes.  Then I suddenly heard a couple of Stephen Schwartz’s  musical themes that recur throughout the show and somehow serve to integrate whole. That’s it I thought – this is simply a happy celebratory show that doesn’t pose too many questions. It has strong family appeal, is geared towards younger people and it gets everyone toe-tapping and humming.  Put simply, it is a good night out.

In keeping with this, director Alex McKellar kept things tight and moving along while musically this would have been a dream for musical director Andrew Christie.  He had vocal strength available right across the stage.  

Tina Cross’s truly scary Miss Morrible initially established the tone of things pretty well and quickly led us to the two principal protagonists – the deadly serious and slightly intimidating Elphaba (Heather Wilcock) and the frothy, giggly Glinda (Teresa Wojtowicz).  These two experienced performers bounced off each other well, gave excellent voice and provided a key focus for the whole tale.  Elphaba’s flyaway ‘Defying Gravity’ is a role anyone would die for and Heather delivers it with due majesty.  Teresa’s ‘Popular’ rapidly establishes her character and serves to clearly differentiate her from Elphaba.  The highlight of their relationship is undoubtedly the duet ‘For Good’.  

Offsetting them is a strong performance by Caitie Houghton as Nessarose, although the love interest, Fyiero (Skyler Jed), may have strutted around well and looked every inch the part but he failed to establish any real presence, while the cameo professor (George Keenan) also failed to inspire.  There are a myriad of minor characters and a chorus that transmorgrifies into many things.  To her credit, Alex Mckellar ensures focus is shared amongst them from time to time. 

Worthy of particular mention, however, are the production values of this show.  The traditional clock-like set is excellent, and the Tess Hemming’s team have done a wonderful job of costume wrangling.  The lighting is tricksy, evocative and deftly handled –  Elphaba’s flyaway finale to Act1 and the tightly focussed spell book scene in particular.

The highlight for me however, was the crystal clarity of sound.  It is rare that I miss not a single word, and Glen Ruske and his audio crew are worthy of singling out.

So, there you have it.  In summary, an ideal family night out.  Lots of glam and glitz, a bit of scary stuff and, above all, don’t take it too seriously and it will leave you happy.

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By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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