A Wicked comeback

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
A Wicked comeback
Wicked tells the untold story of an unlikely friendship between two sorcery students — the popular blonde girl Glinda and the misunderstood, green-skinned Elphaba. The Manila comeback of Wicked, which was first staged at the CCP in 2014, will happen at The Theatre of Solaire starting Feb. 2, 2017

MANILA, Philippines – The witches of Wicked are coming back. And when they land with the international tour production of the hit Broadway and West End musical in Manila again in February 2017, audiences can expect that — to borrow some lines from one of its songs — it’s been “changed” not just for good, but also for the better.

“It’s a real credit to the Filipino audience that we bring Wicked back,” said James Cundall, who heads Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, which has partnered with local producer Concertus Manila in the restaging of Wicked.

The STAR along with other media reps from Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines interviewed Cundall prior to the gala premiere of Wicked’s Singapore run.

“I was worried that it was too soon,” the British producer said, “but if we don’t do it now, it (might) come after 10 years.”

With Wicked celebrating its 10th anniversary on London’s West End, Cundall said that they don’t want to lose the opportunity to “swing the production through Asia and then back into Manila come February.”

 The first Wicked run in Manila in 2014 lasted for seven weeks and was watched by over 100,000 theatergoers, said Cundall.

“It was bigger, I think, than The Phantom of the Opera, it was bigger than Les Misérables. I think more audience, readers and listeners (in the world) understand Wicked. I still don’t quite understand why — whether it’s the story you identify with, or whether it’s the good-natured people (in the story) that you understand, or maybe the friendship. You all get it, which is superb. That’s why when Bambi — it was Bambi’s favorite musical — said let’s bring it back, I go really? (She said) ‘Yes!’ So we did,” fondly recalled Cundall of Bambi Verzo, the beloved late producer behind Concertus Manila. Her husband Joey Verzo has now taken over as the head of Concertus.

The returning Wicked show will run at The Theatre of Solaire for a special limited engagement starting on Feb. 2, 2017.

With music and lyrics by multi-Grammy and Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz, Wicked tells the untold story of the Oz witches Elphaba and Galinda/Glinda the “good,” unraveling before and after Dorothy with her ruby slippers enters the picture. It is inspired by the 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of West, the first volume in Gregory Maguire’s best-selling series that “re-imagined” the L. Frank Baum 1900 classic novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the subsequent 1939 Hollywood hit The Wizard of Oz.

Tickets are now on sale and available at ticketworld.com.ph and all TicketWorld outlets (with tel. no. 891-9999). 

“(The show is) selling very, very strongly, which is terrific,” said Cundall, who also heaped praises on the West End-powered cast led by Jacqueline Hughes as Elphaba and Carly Anderson as Glinda. “Everybody brings their own personality (to the show), but these two are incredibly good.”

According to Leigh Constantine, resident director for this international tour of Wicked, “Although Wicked has been going on for many years, this was specifically set up as a stand-alone production. Still the same with everything that people love about Wicked but within the company, since Day 1 of rehearsals, we created the show from scratch.”

She said that they were able to step back and look at the enduring production with fresh eyes. “You know, (finding out) what are those tiny, little changes that we can do to make the story even better… and not falling into the trap of doing something just because it works. The audience can tell when that happens. So, the hardest thing (to do) is to make every show fresh and new and like the first time.”

Asked how the upcoming Wicked will differ from the 2014 staging, Constantine said, “I’m hoping it’s going to be a very new and so fresh an experience for the audience in Manila.” She assured that there will be “more flying, more choreography and more magic.”

Meanwhile, Concertus Manila with Lunchbox (the leading producer of live events in Australasia) have been bringing international musicals to the country since 2010. After Wicked, they’re looking to mount West Side Story and Sound of Music also next year.

Asked how they choose the shows to bring to Manila, Cundall said that aside from selecting productions that have become massive brands, “We listen to people. We choose what people want.”


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