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Star2, Sunday 13 november 2011

Great music, a superb set and a talented cast are what viewers can look forward to when witches make their way to Singapore.
By NIKI CHEONG entertainment@thestar.com.my
HEN Gregory McGuire wrote his hit book Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West, he probably never imagined that the story would be retold in musical form. Neither could he have expected that the stage performance that is Wicked The Musical would be the hit that it is today. With shows around the world eight years in New Yorks Broadway where it first opened, five years in Londons West End and a massive tour around the world, including one that will kick off in Singapore in December Wicked is arguably the biggest and most successful contemporary musical of its generation. The numbers associated with it are staggering. The show has grossed over US$2.2bil (RM6.82bil) across the world, and has been watched by nearly 28 million people (some numerous times). Wicked has been nominated for 63 different awards and won 32, including three Tonys. For many fans of the performing arts, it has long become a must-watch. However, despite the fact that the musical is based on McGuires book, one would be quite disappointed if one expected to see the exact story on the stage. McGuire published his book in 1995 as a parallel novel, a form of fiction that derives its characters or frameworks from the works of other authors. Wicked: The Life And Times borrows from L. Frank Baums 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. Wicked stands alone in its own right as a show, explained Australian musical star David Harris, who will reprise his role of Fiyero in Singapore. It just adds if you know the story of the Wizard Of Oz, which is really only a tiny timeline within Wicked The Musical another element to your understanding of the show. Wicked is essentially about the life of the two witches we got to know in Baums original story the Wicked Witch of West and the Good Witch of the North set before, and at times parallel to, the timeline of the Wizard Of Oz. Those familiar with the story would appreciate the popular tagline from the musical, So much happened before Dorothy dropped in. It takes readers (and audiences) back to a time before the cyclone took Dorothy away from Kansas, when the two witches first met in school. But while the storyline remains relatively similar, Wicked The Musical is significantly different from McGuires book. People who enjoy literature will find the book much more fascinating and its characters more complex, compared to the musical, which comes across as more (for a lack of a better term) Hollywoodised. However, this takes nothing away from the show. Indeed, there is a reason why Wicked The Musical has been so successful. Taking away its association with

Wickedly magical

Emerald City: Wicked The musical will take viewers through a journey of highs and lows, and give them lots to think about. Broadway stars Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, the first to star in the two roles, became international superstars after the musical. (They got recurring roles in the popular TV show, Glee.) They perform most of the more popular songs from the show, including Defying Gravity, Popular and Changed For Good. Jemma Rix, who will reprise her role as Elphaba in Singapore, also alluded to the strength of these female characters, when talking about the rollercoaster emotional journey hers goes through throughout the show. This is why one of her favourite parts is when she sings No Good Deed, towards the end of the musical. (Its where Elphaba has) basically given up on everything and theres nothing else she can give. Thats a really powerful moment for me on stage, and I really feel what Elphaba is going through, she explained. Wicked also pays tribute to Baums original work. Fans of his book, or the movie made popular by Judy Garland in 1939, will enjoy looking for little nods to the original works. Look out for Glindas bubble dress at the start of the show (it weighs 20kg); the appearance of the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion; the yellow brick road as well as the death of the Wicked Witch of the East, from whom Dorothy took those shiny red shoes. What is arguably Wickeds greatest asset as a musical is the complexity of McGuires book he created a work that speaks to diverse people on many levels, and has different stories to share. Even the Australian cast members, who have performed the show Jemma rix will reprise her role as elphaba seen here with the Wizard in Singapore next month. Jeff busby hundreds of times, identify differently with the messages from the show based on their own values, beliefs and experiences. For Harris, it is Because I knew you, Ive been changed for good, a line from the the last song before the finale, For Good. I believe everyone Ive come in contact with gives me a gift of some description, either to learn about myself or others. So I consider myself the sum of everyone Ive come into contact with, he said, referring to Elphaba and Glindas relationship. Rix pointed to the message of not judging a book by its cover. I think people are always so quick to judge others before getting to know them, said the actress who plays a character that is born green and faces discrimination for much of her life. Friendship and prejudice may form the core of the story, but the lessons we can learn from abuse of power, even in the original stories, are important, Kirkpatrick said. People put their trust in leaders who betray them. That goes on every day. The best way to bring people together is to give them a really good enemy, the 70-year-old shared, referring to her favourite line in the show. Its about accepting people for what they are, and not how they look or whatever their beliefs. With that in mind, Wicked is truly a show for everyone. This musical extravaganza will take the audience on a journey of highs and lows, and give them lots to ponder on. Having watched the show three times, Ill say that viewers can expect it to be simply magical, with its great music, talented performers and a spellbinding set. n Wicked The Musical will be staged at the Grand Theatre of Singapores Marina Bay Sands from Dec 7. Tickets from S$55 (RM135) to S$250 (RM617) are available via the Net (marinabaysands.com/ticketing) or by phone (+65-6688 8826). For details, go to marinabaysands.com.

elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West (left) and Glinda the Good lend their strength to most of the popular songs in the show. andrew ritchie a book, the show has all the necessary ingredients for success great music by the Academy and Grammy award winner Stephen Schwartz, brilliant witty writing by Tony Award nominee Winnie Holzman, and a touch of camp by its original director, Joe Mantello. There is little doubt that Wicked is a musical blockbuster like weve not seen in a very long time. Like many other successful shows, it is essentially a love story. What makes this one different, however, is that it features two females in a lead role Elphaba, who becomes the wicked witch and Galinda, who becomes the good witch. The story takes us on a journey from when the two meet on the first day of school to when they both head to Emerald City to meet the wizard, and to many years later, when they eventually become known as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good (Galinda changes the spelling of her name midway through the show). Its rather wonderful to be in a musical where the female characters arent twodimensional, not airy fairy, said Maggie Kirkpatrick, the Australian TV star who plays both Galinda and Elphabas headmistress in Wicked. Theyre very grounded characters, be it good or evil. Along the way, these two characters go through many trials and tribulations teenage angst, peer pressure, life-changing decisions, love and betrayal, among others. Indeed, they are behind the success of Wicked.