Young Australian Broadway Chorus’ production of Wicked almost makes you see those bright onomatopoeic sound effects superimposed in the 60’s Batman series: POW! Young performers with sensational voices leading the show with gripping performances. ZOINK! Enormous ensembles milling controlled and compelling about the National Theatre stage. BAM! Terrific orchestration and production values making for some entertaining storytelling.
Wicked occupies an intriguing space in the Oz universe. Sitting astride the familiar story of The Wizard of Oz, it acts as both prequel and sequel. Admittedly, by the time we see Dorothy briefly in the final scenes, the story loses some of its focus, but this cast are too good to let it stray too far before pulling you right back in.
Emily Svarnias was incredible as Elphaba, the ‘Wicked’ witch, trying to survive in a world where not many want her in it. With sometimes over 100 bodies milling about on-stage and a surging orchestra blasting underneath her, Emily never let herself get lost in the mix, commanding the stage in a seemingly-effortless way, particularly as the action gets increasingly hectic at the end.
Jasmine Arthur gave a lovely performance as the ‘Good’ witch, Glinda. Even as the character finds herself slipping more into line with authority figures that more and more operate Oz like it were The Hunger Games (Emily Palmer’s devilishly delightful Madame Morrible bares more than a passing resemblance to Effie Trinket, for example), Jasmine kept a firm hand on Glinda’s heart as she struggles with the challenges to her good intentions. Through all that tricky character work, she still needs to sing some songs and Jasmine proved a fantastic counterpoint to Emily.
It may make you see the 1939 film of The Wizard of Oz in a different light, but the calibre of this production ensures they’re well clear of its shadow. This is a spectacular show, both visually and in the performances. Seeing such talent and sophistication from these performers may make you question your life choices, but may also make you examine your diary to find time to see it again.
Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz
The National Theatre, 20 Carlisle Street, St. Kilda
Performance: Saturday 20 January 2018 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 27 January 2018
Image: Emily Palmer as Madame Morrible and Jasmine Arthur as Glinda with Ensemble in Wicked – photo by © Kit Haselden Photography
Review: David Collins