Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wicked, Grand Theater Marina Bay Sands, 14 Jan 2012

Let me profess that Wicked is my most beloved musical ever. It's a wonderful portrait of the human spirit, and from that very first cut into intermission when Elphaba had completed her ascent and sung the last note of Defying Gravity, and I was sitting in the Gershwin Theatre blown away and with tears in my eyes -- ah, that's when I got irredeemably hooked.

I saw that first Wicked on Broadway in '06, saw the West End version in '08, and many repeats of the soundtrack later, I caught the Australian cast in their Singapore run a week ago. And delightfully true to form it was -- I could tell by the lump in my throat come intermission. The acting was on point, the music inspiring, and the whole ensemble infused with a wicked green energy.

This being my third viewing though, I couldn't get as much into the story as I had before, given that I knew everything that was coming. I don't know if that's a fault of my jadedness or of the cast's -- that there was nothing truly refreshing about the evening. Every joke was played out the same way I remembered, every line delivered exactly alike. Perhaps there simply isn't much leeway for interpretation in every iteration of Wicked, leaving merely a very entertaining sing-a-long session behind. (And that I did, to the chagrin of my neighbours.)

The only part which gave me renewed appreciation was the scene where Elphaba and Fiyero rescue the lion -- Jemma Rix truly gave quite a butterflies-in-stomach, 'hands touch, eyes meet' excitement of first love, which I don't remember to have moved me in Wickeds before. Susie Mathers as Glinda managed to squeeze some fresh laughs out of me as well during the ever-entertaining Popular.

In terms of singing, Mathers was spot on -- a delightfully slick soprano whose notes suitably glided and bounced over the accompaniment like bubbles. I found Rix to be quite disappointing though, simply because of her narrow range, meaning the parts of Defying Gravity that needed to pack a real punch were instead sung at almost a whisper. It wasn't harmful enough to threaten the emotion of the scene though. Apparently (I hadn't checked before, and now I have I wish I appreciated it more then...), the Elphaba I saw in London was none other than Kerry Ellis (and Eden Espinosa on Broadway) so I suppose my bar was set really high.

To nitpick the other actors: Bert Newton did not quite become the eccentric balloon-jetting Wizard I had in mind; Fiyero David Harris was not a good dancer and his singing merely passable; the rest of the main cast not particularly memorable. But as a group, their dancing and acting was filled with energy and pizzaz, turning Oz into a truly inviting and enrapturing place.

So on the whole, though in parts there was room for improvement, overall it truly was a Wicked as spectacular as any other (it seems Stephen Schwartz simply made an unassailable musical). I was transported right back into Broadway and for that I give this cast its chops. It was good enough that I've been chiming and whistling the soundtrack all week, and am plotting to go again.

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