Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wicked: Go for 'Defying Gravity in Act 1, stay for Act 2 Dialogue...

Emma Rix's 'Defying Gravity' could be one of the greatest musical moments ever.
Everyone is going gaga over 'Wicked', and fair enough, it's pretty good. James has been pimping it since '09, and everyone ensures me they'd sell off children in order to catch it, so I thought I'd better check it out. I'd say Wicked is an okay musical, but it'd be more accurate to say it's a great play with a good score. The only other experience I've had with Stephen Schwartz's music is 'Godspell', so this was far superior. Wicked has a quirky sense of humour, and with A grade technical aspects combined with a stellar cast, I totally recommend it.

The cast were amazing. Jenna Rix plays Elphaba, and she is probably the most talented musical theatre performer I've ever seen live. Her 'Defying Gravity' was the pinnacle of the show - it's soaring, powerful, breathtaking. There are not enough positive adjectives I van use to describe the piece. I would consider paying the whole price of the ticket again just to hear and see it again. Her other songs are excellent too - everytime she opens her mouth, out rolls melodies that are delivered with such conviction that it makes (almost) every scene she is in bearable. Her counterpart Glinda, player by Lucy Durack, is good too, but her upper soprano is drenched with vibrato overkill, which made me gasp with laughter during the opening. Her other fault is her acting, which gets in the way and compensates her singing. Only sometimes though, her 'Popular' is infectious and delightfully her own. She provides all kinds of dramatically and much needed comic relief, and she sounds lovely on her mezzo range. The rest of the cast I can't complain about, but special mention is needed for Bert Newton, who was downright charming and an absolute pleasure to see live. The cast is that they were under-utilised!

The music is pretty...chaotic? The score is a mixture of '90s retro synth, symphonic orchestration, and dreadful Schwartz guitars. Songs are catchy and punchy, but not all are immediately recognisable or memorable. The main Wicked theme is imposing and menacing, which is delicious to hear throughout the score in its various incarnations, and 'Defying Gravity' is an absolute show-stopper. One thing I think is important to apply to Wicked is that you need to see the show to 'get it'. The OBC recording is crammed full of songs which clock in just 2 minutes and seem sort of superfluous, but they work well in the show to set the mood or emphasise an important plot twist (and there are plenty in Wicked). Other songs are just made to be seen, such as 'Popular', 'Dancing Through Life', and 'Thank Goodness'. The worst song is the one I suspect is the most difficult to perform - 'No Good Deed' is utterly dreadful, there is nothing to it except for a bunch of anguished, albeit really impressive, belts from Elphaba. Très awful. Pretty much like listening to 'Now That I've Seen Her' from Miss Saigon. I actually turned to my Dad and grimly stated "That was fucking awful", and he solemnly agreed. think I'd need to see it again to wrap my head around the score.

The story is fun, and the set design and lighting was superb. The set has an amalgamation is various architecture, the most prominent is the steampunk clockwork which looks really cool. The sound design was pretty good but seemed tone a little muddy, but I suspect that was because I was sitting on the 2nd tier. The mixing and effects on the vocals were so good, especially on Defying Gravity (<3!).

So on a whole I really liked it, but the music was the weakest link (huh...). The production dies after Act 1 because the ending of it is flawless, you never reach an equivalent in Act 2. It's not as good as people made it out to be, but extremely entertaining and arguably the best thing on in Brisbane at the moment. Recommended, liked not loved, would go back again just to hear Rix's 'Defying Gravity'.

Tickets for Wicked range from $69.90 to $134.90, and is showing until April 2. Book by visiting QPAC's website or by calling 136 246.

(ETA: Book task up on Thursday I think).

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