Time to get Wicked! Opening date: Jan. 22, 2014

Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - August 15, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - It’s time to get wicked. The smash musical Wicked is flying to Manila to weave its magic, beginning on Jan. 22, 2014, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). 

Touted as “Broadway’s biggest blockbuster” — being the winner of 50 awards including several Tonys and a Grammy — Wicked is the newest spectacle that Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, together with local partners Concertus Manila, Hi Definition Radio, Inc., David Atkins Enterprises and TicketWorld, is bringing to Manila. Its previous major productions in the country included Cats, Mamma Mia! and last year’s The Phantom of the Opera. 

“I thought Phantom of the Opera was big until I started to work on Wicked,” said James Cundall, the big boss of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, during the grand press launch yesterday of Wicked at the Diamond Hotel.

“I suppose it’s a nightmare to work on truthfully,” mused Cundall, adding: “It’s the most complicated, the most sophisticated…It’s the mother of all shows. Now nearing its 10th year on Broadway, (Wicked) is one of the mega-musicals of the new generation.”

The limited season of Wicked, which is presented with corporate sponsors Visa and Smart Infinity, is expected to draw huge crowds yet again to CCP.

Bambi Rivera-Verzo of Concertus Manila noted that “when Wicked premiered in Singapore in 2011, a lot of Filipinos flew there to catch the show, and that’s a good indicator of how ready local theater audiences are for Wicked.”

With the show’s 50-plus scenes and locations as well as breath-taking flying effects, according to Cundall, the production will come with more than 20, 45-ft. containers of equipment and lighting, sets, costumes and props to recreate the exact grandeur of the Wicked show that’s staged on Broadway in New York and West End in London. 

Cundall added that they’re thankful that the CCP has, as in the past, accommodated their “myriad of requirements.”

CCP president Raul Sunico, for his part, recalled that there were, indeed, set and stage concerns what with the massive production that went into last year’s The Phantom but that it had a “happy ending.” They are looking forward to the same for Wicked. “We learned that Wicked has more sets than Phantom of the Opera. Nevertheless, we are sure this blockbuster will bring the house down (not literally). And the fact that this will be the fourth major production, if I’m not mistaken, with the CCP, it means that there’s something good coming out for the both of us.”

Sunico added, “More than just the revenue that we can generate for Lunchbox and CCP, we are thankful and we acknowledge the contribution of Lunchbox not only in bringing this global show here, but also in generating audiences. The shows have generated enough people into our venues, and shocking as it may seem, many of the audiences that come to Phantom, Cats, Mamma Mia! and now Wicked are people who probably have never been to CCP, and because of this, many of these people have discovered that CCP is, after all, not an intimidating venue, but a venue where they can enjoy wonderful shows beyond theatrical productions.” 

According to the media release, Wicked is the re-imagining of the stories and characters dreamed up by L. Frank Baum in his The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, The Prince of Egypt) and a book by Winnie Holzman (My So-Called Life, Once and Again).

Wicked unravels the untold story of the Witches of Oz — long before Dorothy and her shiny red shoes entered the picture. Once upon a time in the Land of Oz, two girls — one fiery, misunderstood and born with emerald-green skin, the other beautiful, ambitious and popular — cross paths and form an unlikely bond as they journey to become Elphaba a.k.a. Wicked Witch of West and Glinda the Good.

The award-winning Australian cast members Jemma Rix and Suzie Mathers, who portray Elphaba and Glinda, respectively, as well as musical director David Young, were also flown in for yesterday’s presscon. The female leads, who both have clocked in hundreds of appearances essaying their roles in productions in Australia and Asia, described their characters as “dream roles.”

Rix said, “Every day, we get to sing the most amazing music. The songs are so wonderful. We get to have fun together onstage.”

For Mathers, “Going on a journey like this (Wicked) is really magical not just for our characters but for us as people.”

Mathers is a first-timer in the Philippines, while Rix was here just recently because her husband participated in the Ironman in Cebu. Both expressed excitement at performing before Filipino audiences, with Jemma saying that “I know Filipinos are a musical people which I’ve also observed while we were in Cebu.”

Meanwhile, Young, who has worked on such musicals as Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys and Hairspray, also announced that they will be tapping Filipino musicians for the orchestra. 

Sponsors Smart Infinity, Visa and Diamond Hotel, meanwhile, are offering special privileges, treats and discounts for Wicked watchers and ticket-buyers. For details, log on to www.wickedthemusical.com.ph, www.facebook.com/wickedmanila, www.ticketworld.com.ph. and www.facebook.com/ConcertusManila.

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