Reviewed by Trish Francis
No amateur production in Adelaide has been more eagerly anticipated and, following the success of last years’ premiere of Mary Poppins, it was no surprise that Matt Byrne won the coup of bringing us the first nonprofessional version of Wicked. Opening night, though not sold out, had a large and enthusiastic audience; no doubt the first of many in an ambitious month long run. They were rewarded with a performance of great musical and visual appeal with moments of sheer brilliance.
Wicked for many is an escapism into a world of fantasy but the underlying story is a very relatable one: the trials of friendship between two young females, complete with all the modern day angst over appearance, insecurity, belonging and boyfriends. Coupled with more dramatic themes of freedom of speech, dictatorship and racism, not to mention the magnificent score, it is easy to see why the musical appeals to young and old alike.
Kat Jade is simply outstanding as Glinda. Her pure and soaring vocals are perfect for the role but so too is her comic timing. Byrne has coached great detail in the transformation from self-absorbed idealist to mature and responsible public figure. Her rendition of 'Popular' was simply hysterical and wonderfully entertaining. Dianne k Lang is equally impressive as Elphaba and mixes an impeccable cocktail of strength and vulnerability. She complements Jade perfectly and their duets are delightful. There is no underestimating the talent of Michael Bates with his powerful voice, subtle emotion and obvious stage presence but as Fiyero I felt he lacked the athleticism and physicality necessary for the role. His inability to dance was not well disguised in 'Dancing Through Life' and he also appeared an unlikely love interest to the petite and perky Glinda.
Sophia Bubner as Nessarose, Lisa SImonetti as Madamme Morrible and Zak Vasiliou as Boq are all worthy of individual mention with impressive performances. Vasiliou particularly delivered dazzling vocals and is one to watch.
Under the guidance of Musical Director Paul Sinkinson and Choreographer Sue Pole the ensemble deliver rousing numbers such as 'No One Mourns the Wicked' and 'One Short Day'. The choreography and harmonies are generally well executed with excellent energy although Sinkinson would do well to identify the one tuneless male voice that occasionally cuts through the joyous sound, marring an otherwise unified and glittering troupe. The orchestra were well rehearsed and successful in producing a resonant accompaniment, never drowning out the cast.
Where this production is particularly effective is the visual impact of stunning costumes, much of the simple but colourful set design and the evocative lighting design. Some technical difficulties on opening night will no doubt be quickly rectified but did not detract from the highlight, the moment when Elphaba ‘flies’. This is superbly handled within the limitations of the Arts theatre and the use of inky darkness and clever down lighting is terrific. Younger audience members could easily be left believing she was really flying and with Langs’ dramatic performance we are all transported to true fairy tale exhilaration, with whoops of delight and spontaneous applause. Very well done.
No it’s not Broadway but whether you are a Wicked diehard or new to the Emerald City of fantasy, new work to community theatre is always exciting and everyone should support this bold and entertaining production.