Wickedly fantastic!!
SUNDRY STROKES (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2014 - 12:00am

The gala music, dance and theater presentation of “Wicked” drew a full house to the CCP main auditorium. Viewers were admonished to come in green attire; some responded by donning weird costumes in consonance with the nature of the show.

The atmosphere was festive as the curtains opened with the vast rotating head of a dragon above the stage, its lighted eyes furiously gazing at the audience.

In view of the countless international praises and rave reviews from critics worldwide, and after some 38 million theater-goers in five continents have seen “Wicked”, it would seem a supererogation to comment further on the presentation. However, its producers would certainly like to know the Filipinos’ reception to it.

Based on Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful  Wizard of Oz”, “Wicked” combines fantasy, fairytale and fiction, with wizardry, witchcraft and magic thrown in. Basically, the story revolves around Elphaba the wicked and Glinda the good. But from the extensive flashback through their lives ensue weird characters, some of them animals with the power of speech; e.g., Doctor Dillamond, a history professor at Shiz University, is a goat appropriately fitted with horns.

Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch, is green-skinned, having been conceived during an affair involving the governor’s wife with a bottle of green elixir. Madame Morrible, head mistress of Shiz U. puts Elphaba, the ugly, in the same room with Glinda, the beautiful, at a crucial point of their relationship as rivals. In the complicated plot, Nessarose, Elphaba’s sister, is wheel-chair bound but with Elphaba’s magical power, she gets to walk, although she was originally a cripple, her mother having been fed with milk flowers. As in a fairy tale, Nessarose becomes, incredibly, the “Wicked Witch of the East”!

Love pairs surface: Glinda and Fiyero, Boq and Nessarose; later, it is Elphaba and Fiyero, Boq is turned into a Tin Man by Elphaba through her magical talent, she turning further Fiyero into a scarecrow.

Somewhere along the way, there is a reversal of roles: Glinda chooses to live with the Wizard while Elphaba admonishes her to go against the Wizard and do what she thinks is right.

The foregoing gives the barest idea of the labyrinthian story. But one must point out why “Wicked” has had and continues to have tremendous success through its international tours.

“Wicked” is the compleat musical, with love, hatred, friendship, jealousy, revenge, intrigue, betrayal, humor, sarcasm expressed by a huge cast, each acting, singing, dancing in outstanding fashion. One episode will suffice to illustrate this. In the bedroom scene wherein Glinda tries to make over Elphaba, finally succeeding and saying, “You are beautiful!”, Glinda compels attention by accenting every word with arresting gesture and movement, thus magnetizing the audience.

The solo and ensemble dances are electrifyingly vivid, cohesive, unified, and vibrant. The singing, rather, the belting out in today’s admired fashion, reaches and shakes the rafters. The sets, stage effects, props and lighting design are spectacular, stunning — indeed, awesome, enhancing and providing the overwhelming ambience for the pompous splendor of the costumes.

The opening scene alone takes one’s breath away, with Glinda, in a white glamorous gown, high up in the air, levitating in a bubble, the spirited ensemble below enveloped by dazzling lights. What a prelude to the tremendous over-all auditory and visual impression never yet experienced on the local stage!

There was a consistent change of cast members for the London, Broadway, L.A., Germany, Japan, etc. appearances, but a few at the gala were identifiable: Jemma Rix (Elphaba), Suzie Mathers (Glinda), Maggie Kirkpatrick (Madame Morrible), Steve Danielson (Fiyero).

Directed by Joe Mantello, “Wicked” has musical staging by Wayne Cilento, music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman.

With confetti falling all over the stage and the auditorium at the end of the show, thunderous, prolonged applause accompanied the standing ovation.


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