The Wicked Witch of the West has flown back to Manila. Just after three years since the popu-u-lar musical hit the Philippine stage for the first time at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, “Wicked” has returned with a fantastimazing ensemble that just finished a successful UK tour. Staged this time at the Theatre at Solaire, the show is nothing short of spectacular, and you would never imagine how blessed I am to be able to see it on its second showing night, 3 February 2017.
“Wicked”, without a doubt, defies gravity. It tells the tale of complicated friendship between the crowd-loved blonde schoolgirl, Glinda (then known as Galinda with a ‘Gah’), and a girl with a very contrasting personality, Elphaba (later on called Elphie by Glinda). With her unusual green complexion, Elphie met jeers from people as soon as she was born, and later on grew to be an outcast.
When Elphie entered the school called Shiz, her fellow students, even Glinda, shied away from her. The two also initially loathed each other. Glinda’s dream was to be trained in sorcery, but Madame Morrible, headshiztress, did not see her to be blessed with such a gift. Instead, she saw it in Elphie. So, to Glinda’s envy, Madame Morrible personally offered to mentor Elphie so that one day, she would be able to meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
As the story went on, Glinda began to realize that Elphie had a good heart, and soon, they learned to settle their differences and became the best of friends. But that was just the beginning of their complex tale of friendship.
When at last, Elphie and Glinda came to see the Wizard face-to-face, it did not go well. They had to part ways, and that was the birth of Glinda, the Good, and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.
“Wicked” definitely thrillifies.
The show I was able to watch was a wondrous spectacle. The Solaire stage, albeit smaller than that in the Cultural Center of the Philippines, was a bit simple but it was adorned nicely. The dragon clock topping the stage surely intimidated the audience. The costumes were elaborately designed, especially the wardrobe used in the Emerald City. As a whole, the sight of the City was pleasing to the eye despite its all-green motif.
The musical was also equipped with upbeat songs that surely made one want to dance, and emotion-filled numbers that truly tugged at one’s heartstrings. The orchestra played superbly, and the orchestration itself was brilliant. Kudos, to this show’s conductor, Dave Rose, and to Solaire’s crystal acoustics! However, I think that the show did not have a goosebumps-inducing opening. It lacked the lustrous quality of the overtures from “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”, as well as the introductory song from “Les Miserables” (all of which I have seen live beforehand).
The cast and company were, in general, great. They had just finished an acclaimed UK tour, and what can we expect from that? Carly Anderson was exceptional as Glinda. The crowd all shared laughs at her crazy antics, especially the way she did the “toss-toss, aaaaahhhh.” Her voice was clear and powerful, and her phrasing and intonation were likewise commendable. Natasha Ferguson, an alternate for Elphaba, was splendid as well. She really knows how to be both good and wicked. Her much-anticipated rendition of “Defying Gravity” was golden, and the duo’s “For Good” totally gripped at everyone’s emotions. Alex Jordan Mills, a Fiyero alternate, had sick but smooth dance moves and suave singing prowess; and Kim Ismay, Madame Morrible, deserves a thumbs-up. However, I feel that Steven Pinder’s portrayal of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was not that wonderful (he also played Doctor Dillamond). Probably, it was really the way how his character was written, but his performance seemed quite dull.
The story is magnificent, and one could really learn a thing or two from it, especially from Glinda and Elphaba’s tale of friendship. However, it seems that there is something darker hidden deep within the musical’s story. It was set with what looks like utopia on the outside, but it was rotting in its core. The citizens admired a Wonderful Wizard but he was a fraud. Elphaba, who was good at heart, did everything she could to expel the Wizard. However, the Wizard, who was favored by the people, turned the table against her, branding Elphaba instead as Wicked. True enough, the musical seems to be a reflection of what is happening today in different parts of the world.
Overall, “Wicked” does thrillify. I would not agree however that it has surpassed the greatness of “The Phantom of the Opera” which, for me, retains the crown, followed by “Les Miserables”. Still, the second Manila run of “Wicked” has proved to be successful, so I am extending my congratulotions to every member of the team who made this tour possible. True enough, nobody in all of Oz, no wizard that there is or was, is ever going to bring the Wicked Witch of the West down. Oh-oh-ohhhhhh!