With the opportunity to be the very first non-replicated production of the block-buster musical Wicked, there was a mix of high expectation and nervousness from musical theatre fans in the lead up to CLOC’s opening night of Wicked. Anyone who has seen the professional production of Wicked would know the huge scale of this show – with a budget to match the extravagant costuming, sets and technical effects. The challenge for any non-professional theatre company is putting together the same show at a fraction of the budget. CLOC have succeeded.
From the opening refrains of ‘Noone Mourns the Wicked’, it was clear CLOC had found the very best community performers available, delivering an incredibly rich and full sound accompanied by a large, quality orchestra under the expert guidance of musical director Danny Forward. Credit must be given to Marcello Lo Ricco for the excellent sound design which ensured a perfect balance through the entire show, allowing every harmonious voice, every crisply articulated word and every instrument to be clearly heard.
Undoubtedly, the biggest pressure on any one performer rested squarely on the shoulders of Rosa McCarty in the role of Elphaba and, in particular, her ability to belt out ‘Defying Gravity’. McCarty’s superb and powerful singing was on par with any of the professional renditions, but where McCarty really succeeded was in finding the light and shade needed in the her performances to bring the character of Elphaba to life.
Emily McKenzie is delightful as Glinda and is beautifully matched to McCarty’s Elphaba. Her portrayal of Glinda is more self-absorbed and somewhat ambitious than simply dumb-blonde, making her journey and transformation believable.
Good looking Robbie Smith is well cast as Elphaba’s love interest. Smith oozes natural charm and there is lovely chemistry between the pair. Wicked fans will be pleased to see this Fiyero is rocking the trademark jodhpur pants.
Lee Threadgold as The Wizard of Oz, Carolyn Waddell as Madame Morrible, Grace Kingsford as Nessarose, Hamish Anderson as Boq and Jon Sebastian as Dr Dillamond round out the incredibly strong supporting cast.
Co-Directors Chris and Lynette White has found all the humour and heart of this well loved story then added their own touches. There is enough in CLOC’s production to be familiar for Wicked fans, but so many little differences to make this a unique and fresh production. Perhaps the most notable difference was the ‘Wizomania’ scene in ‘One Short Day’ which worked well.
Choreography by Lynette White is sharp and energetic and the large ensemble suitably fill the stage. An impressive lighting design by Brad Alcock adds great effect.
The quality set by Chris White is well constructed and incorporates all the key elements fans would expect. The only disappointment in the technical elements was the harness swaying behind Elphaba as she apparently elevated in ‘Defying Gravity’, which was an unfortunate and annoying distraction in this big act one finale.
The costumes, designed by Victoria Horne, are stunning, giving a unique and quirky stamp to this production with enough familiarity for the fans and some moments of bold individuality. Often where non-professional productions fall short in costuming is in the wig department, but David Wisken has ensured these match the high quality of the other elements of the production.
Wicked is a reasonably long show, but this production moves well from scene to scene, with some smart directorial decisions to ensure it flows. There were just a couple of moments when there were seemingly lengthy pauses in the action as cast awaited a music cue or were unbuckling a harness, breaking what had been nearly a seamless flow. There were a few other minor opening night problems related to costumes and props which have no doubt already been rectified and will improve with a few more performances.
Overall, this is a superb effort by the CLOC team to deliver such a high quality production of what is a massive show. In fact, you have to remind yourself that what you are watching is not a professional production. Fans of Wicked won’t be disappointed by this thrillifying non-replicated production and first time audience members will be truly entranced.
For more details and tickets: cloc.org.au
Photo credit: Ben Fon