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Review: Wicked at HOTA

By Tara Ramsay

Matt Ward Entertainment has brought Wicked to HOTA on The Gold Coast and don’t be green with envy that I was lucky enough to attend a sold-out opening night. It was certainly a ‘greenified’ affair with a ‘green carpet’ and sponsor wall featuring some wickedly dressed actors to ensure your Instagram feed was perfectly green the next day, green drinks, green popcorn and a night filled with reality stars in attendance for good measure.

Wicked is the story of what happened between Glinda-The Good Witch and Elphaba – The Wicked Witch Of The West before Dorothy’s darn house landed on Elphaba’s sister – The Wicked Witch Of the east in munchkin land, a prequel of sorts to The Wizard Of Oz. It takes us from when Elphaba was born, and explains her green hue, through to her meeting of Glinda – the popular, perky blonde and Elphaba – the misunderstood green girl at Shiz University. Though once friends despite their differences, Wicked chronicles the moment where their friendship reaches a crossroads and they are forced to take different paths.

I was lucky enough to see Wicked on Broadway in New York last year, its 15th anniversary year, and it was so amazing that I was excited to see what the new Australian Cast would bring to it. A few fun facts about Wicked before I tell you what I thought of the show:

- In 2018 it became Broadway’s 6th longest running show – having made it’s debut in October 2003

- It’s Broadways second highest grossing show – surpassing $1 billion in total revenue (one of only 3 shows to do so)

Although Wicked has toured multiple times in Australia before, this all new production still had lots to live up to and I am very happy that it exceeded my expectations instantly. The minute the scrim came up I was already impressed with the quality and detail in the set - the large cogs that framed the stage and use of digital design on the back scrim was nothing short of fantastic. Kudos to production designer – Maria-Rose Payne. The only time I was disappointed by the images on the back scrim was when we got to The Emerald City and I felt that the design was too futuristic or computer-game-esque and consequently, not very detailed. I also thought, whilst the hologram on the scrim of Oz, the Great and Powerful was perfection, I found that when this hologram spoke, the static in sound made it incredibly difficult to understand.

The lighting plays a huge part in this production and it was flawless. Used in various ways to indicate time and place, (lots of green) and even changes in the weather, lighting designer Wesley Bluff really captured every moment wonderfully.

I didn’t even notice the orchestra playing live until 15-20 minutes into the production because it was so flawless it could have easily been a pre-recorded soundtrack. Congratulations to Musical Director/Conductor - Craig Renshaw and his orchestra on bringing the music of Wicked to life so seamlessly.

The costumes were fantastic and extremely detailed and reflected the story and character’s personalities nicely, Glinda always in white or bright colours, Elphaba the opposite in Navy or Black. My favourite costumes were in the Emerald city, plenty of green sequins and stunning headpieces.

From the moment that Glinda and the Ensemble took to the stage, I was impressed by the unity of the Ensemble – a standard that this hard working group maintained from curtain up to curtain down. Choreographer Deanna Catellana and Director Tim Hill’s work is very clear and together they have led the cast to deliver a performance that, despite the complexity of Wicked, looked effortless.

Glinda’s (Emily Monsma) operettic voice instantly blew me away, and at times, was

piercing to my ears it was so powerful, she played the annoyingly perfect and perky Glinda with such conviction and had great comedic timing, cracking the audience up on multiple occasions.

Elphaba (Samantha Dodemaide), was the standout for me on the night, with The Wizard (James Shaw) a close second. When Elphaba sang ‘The Wizard and I’ and belted out a number of those lines I got chills, so much strength in her voice. It’s an extremely complex role to play and Samantha Dodemaide had me eating out of her hand, I was rooting for Elphaba the whole time. While Dodemaide’s ‘Defying Gravity’ fell flat in comparison to her other performances through the night (some oomph seemed lacking from this hit song), overall her power as a performer was clear and her chemistry with Monsma as Glinda was fabulous. When the ladies sang together, it was heaven.

As mentioned, the Wizard (James Shaw) whilst not on stage all that long left an impression on me. When he sang in falsetto my heart fluttered a little bit, his voice was so smooth and he was extremely charismatic. Elphaba’s sister, Nessarose (Antonia Marr) was also a delight and even though she spent most of the performance wheelchair bound, she floated across the stage and I loved when she sang ‘Dancing through life’.

Fiyero (Trent Owers) the love interest of both women, was a solid perfomer but I felt the chemistry was lacking between himself and Glinda and both of his witch love interests. I enjoyed watching Boq’s (Tim Carroll) emotional journey play out, and the fumbling teacher Dr Dillamond (Shannon Foley) really brought the g-g-g-goat to life. Madame Morrible (Kaye Tuckerman) was a force to be reckoned with.

Not only is Wicked a fantastic show with songs you will be humming for days, it’s a story that questions what it truly means to be Wicked, something that I think the Director Tim Hill truly captured.

It’s on until the 6th of July at HOTA on the Gold Coast, I highly recommend going to see this brilliant production before it leaves town.

Image Supplied

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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