Saturday, 11 September 2010


Now in the third year of it's run in Australia, Wicked is clearly very successful and highly regarded. It takes the most popular of shows to achieve a run of that length with our comparatively small population and whilst my friends have commented favourably after seeing it, I have not felt motivated to go...until  two nights ago.

I'm wary of musicals where only one tune, 'Defying Gravity' is used in their marketing campaign. In addition, the Australian production features Bert Newton as the Wizard and a little bit of Bert can go a long way...too long...with me.

As I expected, Wicked was slick, colourful and peppered with theatrical tricks. I was pleased to hear a number of reasonable tunes in the musical although the only one that stuck in my mind afterwards was the ubiquitous Defying Gravity which provides the obligatory Act 1 musical hum dinger ending and that recollection was no doubt the product of brainwashing marketing.
Defying Gravity

Thankfully, Bert was restrained and not his often dominating self. It may have helped that his character doesn't appear until about an hour into the show although that must be a temptation for him to go for broke once he makes it on stage. I did find his accent strangely uneven with occasional southern twang amongst a mostly Australian lilt. The performances of the other cast members were pretty impressive.

All in all I quite enjoyed the evening but there was an aspect of the show that bemused me.

I was intrigued by the number of staging references to earlier musicals that I noticed in this production; so many that I can't believe I was imagining it. Are these references deliberate?

I noticed at least four references to Phantom of the Opera (POTO). Early on a character seamlessly disappears into the stage just as in the ball scene that opens Act 2 of POTO. Later Elphaba appears magically behind a mirror, Elphaba and Fiyero slide across a fog filled stage and Elphaba's witch's hat sits on stage as the sole trace of her after she has melted away; all images reminiscent of moments from POTO.

Then there is the scene where Galinda delivers a speech from a podium on high with her arms raised in front of her, palms turned inwards at eye level. This is virtually identical to the moments in Evita when Eva Peron speaks to the masses from the Casa Rosada. Other references reminded me of The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and even Jesus Christ Superstar.


  1. I am sooo jealous. Nathan promised to take me when it was still showing in Melbourne. It never happened (and is still a sore point in conversation).

  2. Well the Evita reference is certainly on purpose, so the others likely deliberate too.

    I had high expectations when I saw Wicked, and it couldn't live up to those. However I then saw it three more times and continue to love the show and the soundtrack.

    Lucy Durack is wonderful as Galinda but the original Emma Harrison was a better Elphaba, just as the late Rob Guest was better as the Wizard.

    The Sydney audience I saw it with seemed to be less enthusiastic than my three Melbourne viewings. I stood up to applaud Lucy but seemed to be a lone figure doing so.

  3. Paul - maybe we Sydneysiders are not as demonstrative as you Melbournites. In fact there were a few standees at the performance last week and I had the impression that quite a chunk of that night's audience knew the show very well indeed and had seen it before, probably many times.