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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A Wicked Experience

I saw Wicked for the first time 4 or 5 years ago in London. I was pretty excited until I got into the theatre...then I was CRAZY excited. I'm pretty sure my friend Alan was black and blue by the time we left, the amount of times I hit him squealing 'look at this' and 'oh, did you see that?' I fell in love with the story and the soundtrack and vowed to see it again someday. Lo and behold, it comes to Ireland when I return, opening 3 weeks after I get back. Fate? Maybe. My friends had already booked tickets and I wasn't in a financial position at the time to join them so it wasn't until Christmas Day when speaking to my friend Bruce (who had gotten a ticket as a present) that I checked the and there was ONE TICKET LEFT IN THE ENTIRE THEATRE  for that same night. Fate? Couldn't deny it. It did mean that I was sitting on my own but I didn't care.

The night started off perfectly with seeing Bruce and Eugene for the first time in 18 months, a delight only heightened by my building anticipation for the show. I took my seat and allowed myself to feel that same magic I felt the first time, studying the map of the land of Oz and keeping an eye on the giant dragon suspended at the front of the stage. When the overture kicked in, I had goosebumps before a character had appeared or a word been spoken or sung. For anyone living under a rock for the last 10 years, Wicked is the back story of the Wicked Witch of the West, originally appearing in the Wizard of Oz as the evil one who kidnaps poor Dorothy and her friends in Oz. But what led poor Elpheba to become so wicked? Sometimes sad, often funny and uplifting all at the same time, we follow her journey through school up to the magical moment when she finally gets to Oz to meet the 'wonderful' wizard and her whole perspective on life changes. With witty dialogue that frequently references events in the Wizard of Oz (sometimes very subtly, catching them all is a bonus), the story moves along at a great pace with plenty of action and drama throughout.

The chorus were phenomenal I have to say; as an ensemble, they gelled together perfectly and were ample support to the principals. Their harmonies were on point, the routines were tight and they covered the stage well. I must admit, I was somewhat disappointed by each of the main characters at some point or another during the show. But just when I was shaking my head at a weak moment, they would pull it back with a burst of energy that had shivers down my spine. Most notably was Nikki Davis-Jones as Elpheba; I found her vocals weak at times and then suddenly she would hit a note that literally made me the hairs on my arms stand up. Her duets with Emily Tierney (as the high-pitched and girlishly annoying and shallow Galinda) were great - they complemented each other very well. I was a little disappointed with my favourite song 'As Long As You're Mine' between Elpheba and Fiyero - it did not have the romance or the impact that it should, although I blame this more on the staging than on the actors themselves. 'No Good Deed' alternatively, displayed Elpheba's desperation perfectly.

Having worked in amateur theatre for nearly 10 years now (wow, just realised that!), going to the theatre presents some new challenges. On the one hand, I have this extra level of appreciation for what's happening and it makes me dizzy to imagine the logisitics of putting on a show like this from a backstage perspective. But it also means that I sometimes notice things no one else would, like the fact that the guys running the moving spotlights didn't seem to care what was going on at times. The choice to use English accents was interesting but didn't really work for me, although Boq was perfect as a Scot. The costumes were inventive, the dance routines polished, the scene changes were FLAWLESS.

Despite my slight misgivings above, there is nothing quite like the first time you see Elpheba 'Defying Gravity' and Wicked is essentially an amazing story of overcoming adversity, love and above all, friendship that is always worth a watch.

Moral of the Story - Unfortunately, tickets are sold out for the rest of the run at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre but it would be a crime not to take a quick trip to London to see the resident West End production at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. A great show that leaves you with the feeling that everyone deserves the chance to fly...

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