Musicals seem to be the order of the day right now, and last Monday Helen, Hilary, one of Helen's friends whose name escapes me, an uncharacteristically enthusiastic Richie, and I went along to see Wicked – the Broadway behemoth featuring the talented green chick.
End result: bloody amazing.
The storyline is effectively a prequel to The Wizard of Oz (although I'm told that you get less of it if you haven't read the book – I'm going to take the Year 10 homework defence, and say “but I saw the movie !!”: the “the book was WAY better” crowd can go jump), and I genuinely think that George Lucas should've had the author of this working on his prequels, because it wove lots of the threads into appropriate points. The cut & thrust of it is that Wicked is the story of how the Wicked Witch of the West came to be such a bitch, and universally hated by the denizens of the land of Oz. The story focuses around Elphaba (the witch's real name) and her relationships with various other story characters, such as her sister (ending up the Witch of the East), the Wizard, and Glinda (the Good Witch of the North), and others. It neatly explains a lot of things, although it doesn't explain why in the musical Elphaba has a tremendous singing voice, but in the film she sounds like she smoked 3 packs a day…
In terms of material, there weren't that many songs that would work played out of context, and some of them even bordered on that really tiring “Egads me lads, it's a real pea-souper !” sort of over-assertive group narrative thing. There were a couple of gems in there however, and some lyrical phrasing that was nothing short of, well, wicked !
What really got me though was the set and lighting design, and the talent of the cast. With my limited control of the English language I can't possibly hope to describe the set and do it justice, although the one thing about it that left me wondering was what in the hell was the point of the big dragon thing mounted above the stage in the centre of the arch – it thrashed about occasionally looking semi-menacing but probably a little more like Stevie Wonder with scales & horns, and as far as I could tell there was little or no mention in the story of any kind of dragon… hey ho, it looked funky anyway.
Talent-wise though the show was nothing short of amazing. The one we'd all gone to see was the girl who played the Wicked Witch – Idina Menzel – who had won the Tony award for the show when it was on Broadway. When Richie came back from New York having seen the show he waxed enthusiastic for this girl, and now having seen her in action I'd have to agree. One thing about non-comic musicals that displaces me a bit is that there's no sincerity or passion behind the singing, and if there is then it looks fake. However it didn't seem as tedious with her doing it. Maybe she was just a believable witch! One key element of her presentation was that she was born with green skin, and I've got to say, for a green chick she was amazing. Wouldn't it be grand if she started dating one of the Blue Man Group ?
Having been primed for the fact that she was awesome, I'd totally failed to do any further research into the show, and was pleasantly surprised when The Wizard of Oz took stage, and turned out to be Nigel Planer ! How cool is that ? I've now seen all of the members of Pink Floyd this year AND 50% of The Young Ones !!
There was a short, dumpy, commanding woman who played the principal of the university that Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) and her sister go to, about which I found myself thinking “That's the kind of role that Miriam Margoyles could play”. So colour me ignorant already, because whilst peeking into Helen's programme at half time it turned out that the actress playing that role was indeed Miriam Margoyles. Nice one, dickhead. For those who claim not to know who I'm talking about, Miriam Margoyles is a fairly serious looking actress who played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films, Queen Victoria/Lady Whiteadder/The Spanish Enfanta in Blackadder, and was the Capulets' housekeeper in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet. And she was under about 2 tonnes of makeup, and BLONDE, which is why I had no idea it was her. Additionally, whilst searching for that link above I discovered that I've been saying her name incorrectly for about the past 10 years – it's Margolyes.
There was quite a lot of Australian talent as well, with Aussies taking the roles of Glinda (Helen Dallimore) and Fiyero (Adam Garcia). The program could've done with a little “powered by NIDA sticker” on the front, or something.
Definitely an excellent production, and I expect that we'll probably go see it again at some stage. Oh ho ho ho, what an excellent pun that was.