There’s been plenty of hype since the licensing has been available for Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked for community theatre groups in Australia. Seeing how theatre-lovers will bring one of their favourite shows to life is an exhilarating concept. PLOS Musical Production’s Wicked exceeds expectations with soaring, emotional numbers and exceptional talent.

Based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Wicked expands on the familiar story of The Wizard of Oz. Since its opening on Broadway in 2003, Wicked has experienced record-breaking numbers of attendees. With PLOS’s season mostly sold out before opening night, it’s clear this season will follow suit, drawing large, excited crowds.

Walking into the Frankston Arts Centre’s theatre is immediately exciting. Audiences are welcomed by Mike Fletcher’s incredible set. It’s more impressive than some sets offered in professional productions. With projections and screens used to further enhance the setting, it’s instantly clear that this is going to be a thrilling piece of theatre.

Photo credit: Mike Fletcher

Photo credit: Mike Fletcher

The striking set uses two revolves in a multi-levelled staging, allowing for dynamic visuals, exciting choreography and a clever use of the space. Steven Rostron’s choreography is sharp, slick and sensational. There’s lots of movement and excitement as necessary, and stripped back with detail as needed. Brad Alcock’s lighting is dramatic and smooth, executed with finesse. Marcello Lo Ricco’s sound mix was perfect, building up and enhancing the jaw-dropping moments as necessary.

Brett Wingfield’s colourful and eccentric costumes are exactly what this production calls for. There’s a wide variety of shapes and colour, with the structure adding a wonderful amount of movement. There’s a few tiny touch-ups that could be done to make some of the costumes fit better or look more polished, but those are probably only visible from the first few rows. The wacky wigs for the entire cast must be a huge undertaking for Trent Whitmore and team, and while most look fantastic, some need a little more help to stay in the styled positions. It’s not overly noticeable and doubtful most attendees would notice: it’s most likely some affixes may have been knocked during the many successful costume changes,

Nadia Gianinotti as Elphaba steals this show. Gianinotti’s vocals will give you goosebumps, bring you to tears and make you believe in Elphaba’s heartbreaking journey. Gianinotti breathes fresh air into a mammoth role with beautiful nuance. Britni Leslie plays Glinda, the perky, peppy, image-obsessed “good” witch. Leslie’s Glinda is Lucy Durack meets Kristin Chenoweth with her own flair and humour mixed in for good measure. Leslie shines particularly during “Popular”, giving Leslie space to explore her fine comedic chops. Gianinotti and Leslie have a delightful chemistry together, bringing boundless emotion to show-stopping “For Good”.

Charming John Tacey supports the leads as The Wizard, presenting a perfectly confused yet well-meaning man. Jennie Kellaway ensures that Madame Morrible is as believably bureaucratic as possible, giving a dominating presence on stage. Blake Testro as Fiyero delivers a touching character arch and is another favourite on stage according to audience reactions. Sage Pahos as Nessarose and Tom Green as Boq bring a beautiful almost-love story, both allowing each other the space to shine in their relevant moments. Aidan Niarros’ Doctor Dillamond is simultaneously heartbreaking and heart-warming. Lauren Stewart and James Terry as Melena and Frex (and various other smaller, ensemble roles) bring their expertise in theatre to round out the key characters superbly.

Photo credit: Mike Fletcher

Photo credit: Mike Fletcher

This is an extraordinarily talented cast of leads supported by a large and sharp ensemble. It’s remarkable how well they all move around and with each other. The passion to deliver exceptional theatre is palpable, and this cast delivers a strong and memorable performance, supported by the technical elements.

Wicked’s renowned songs are magnificently delivered by musical director Sue Fletcher’s near-20-piece orchestra. Stephen Schwartz’s well-known music creates such a powerful atmosphere for this exceptional creative team to explore.

The highlight of PLOS’s Wicked is “Defying Gravity”. Elphaba flying is the key moment always spoken about when leaving this show. PLOS pulls off this dramatic and emotional crescendo with apparent ease, giving a high-impact, breathtaking scene. Gianinotti brings endless energy to Elphaba here, delivering a difficult song in precarious circumstances flawlessly. This moment really is spectacular and Gianinotti cannot be praised enough for her performance.

You could only be insufferably fastidious if you’re going to pick on anything that needs significant work in this production. It’s beautifully rehearsed and expertly executed. PLOS’s Wicked, as directed by the clever Danny Ginsberg, is an extraordinary triumph and continues to prove that community theatre can happily stand side-by-side with professional theatre in terms of delivery.

Wicked fans will be happy to see their favourite moments included here, as well as interesting new flair. PLOS are continuing to stage incredible theatre. We’re immensely lucky to have so many talented, passionate people involved in community theatre in Victoria. All involved in this production have every right to enormously proud.

Current ticket-holders should be very happy as this strictly limited season is sold out. It’s no surprise though, given how impressive PLOS are proving to be. PLOS’s Wicked is on at Frankston Arts Centre until 7 January 2017.

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