The Australian traveling cast of the musical Wicked blows magic onto Singapore shores.
Contributed By Yong Yung Shin
“Who would have thought…the Wicked Witch actually ran away with the Scarecrow?!”
My companion exclaimed this in approving amusement at the end of Wicked, the Broadway musical that has traveled to Marina Bay Sands Singapore—a show filled with glitter, laughter and lots of surprises.
Wicked purports to tell the real story behind The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, L. Frank Baum’s beloved classic that has been turned into countless movies, cartoons and the ilk. Based on Gregory Maguire’s subversive novel, Wicked tells the backstory of the characters from the Land of Oz, specifically that of the Wicked Witch of the West (who isn’t as wicked as you might think) and Glinda the Good (who isn’t as good as you think either).
When it opened on Broadway in 2003, it swept three Tony Awards, one Grammy, six Drama Desk Awards, one Laurence Olivier Award and six Helpmann Awards—hence its status as Broadway’s biggest blockbuster of the decade. Needless to say, it opened to strong anticipation from Singaporean fans in early December, the first time Wicked has ever been performed in South East Asia.
This high-energy musical—composed by Stephen Schwartz and written by Winnie Holz—tells of how two very different girls—the emerald-skinned Elphaba and the blonde Glinda—become unlikely friends at , and later grow up to be the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.
The Australian cast was led by Jemma Rix, who delivered a wonderfully feisty performance as the misunderstood Elphaba, and more than hit the money notes with her climatic performance of the signature tune “Defying Gravity”—no mean feat, considering she really was in a gravity-defying position, broomstick in hand, karabiners holding her up.
Suzie Mathers, who plays the good-hearted but ambitious Glinda in this Singapore leg, called in sick the night of the media premier but was ably replaced by Lucy Durack, who with every toss of her blonde curls had the role down pat. Durack, after all, garnered comparisons to the original Broadway Glinda, Kristin Chenoweth, when she starred in the Australian premiere in Melbourne in 2008.
The strong theme of friendship between the two girls forms the anchor for a story that must be said, is a bit messy and far-stretched—even forced, at times, as it tries to squeeze familiar characters such as Dorothy (the “brat” who steals the jeweled shoes), the Tin Man and the Cowardly somewhere into the storyline. But the sacrificial friendship of the BFFs hit home for many—for a moment, I even found myself assessing my own friendships as Elphaba and Glinda sang the finale number “For Good”.
With a plenty of laughs, a memorable score, spectacular sets and intricate costumes, Wicked is an enchanting watch while providing some timely food for thought through its subtext on activism and conformity.
Wicked plays at Marina Bay Sands’ Grand Theater. Tickets at S$55 to S$250 from Sistic.