Ok, so in hindsight, maybe I was a little harsh on Wicked in my initial opinion. Probably being kinda ill on that first day in London didn’t help any. But I’m still not going to shift it any higher on my list of favourite musicals.
First, have a Youtube vid – the “trailer” for Wicked. Not the cast that I saw, but it’s still pretty much what I saw anyway in terms of costume, set and song:
(All the sparkly magic effects in the trailer were not present in the actual stage version. I don’t get why they bothered to do that in the trailer. It feels deceptive…)
Wicked is based loosely on Gregory Maguire’s book of the same name. It’s about Elphaba, a girl who was born green all over, and her unlikely friend, the beautiful and popular Galinda. Elphaba later becomes the Wicked Witch of the West and Galinda becomes Glinda, the Good Witch (of the South). I have the original book back home in Penang but I didn’t like it that much though I do think that the premise was really interesting to begin with. The first half of the book was fine but the second half seemed to get too caught up in politics, and that bores me. The musical adaptation was much lighter in tone though, and much easier to follow. I did like how they tied in the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion to the story. Thumbs up there.
Musically, it was good fun. I didn’t exactly fall in love with the music instantly though (unlike Les Mis and Oliver). My favourites songs are probably I’m Not That Girl, One Short Day and Defying Gravity. What is This Feeling and Popular aren’t too bad either though.
I think what really bugged me was the costume design. It just felt uneven. I know Oz is supposed to be a land different from ours and all, but the costumes felt confused to me. Like, what era is this based on? There were some that looked almost 1950s Grease, a few that looked rather19th century, some that looked like extrapolations from My Fair Lady‘s Ascot races (only green and be-sequinned rather than stark black and white), and a couple gave me a rather Dr. Seuss-ish impression. Elphaba (the “Witch”) had plain black outfits most of the time, and Galinda’s were fluffy, frothy, princess-y. That does suit the characters, but the overall picture just jarred. If you set them all out in a line, Elphaba and Galinda would look like they came from a different world from the other characters. Madam Morrible looked like a cross between Cinderella’s stepmother in the Disney film and some Dr. Seuss character with about a million sequins added. Fiyero’s costumes were all very… hmm… kind of what the guy in the upcoming Rapunzel film (“Tangled“) dresses like.
But I’m sure this wouldn’t bug 99.5% of people who see Wicked. It’s just me being (characteristically) fussy over costume design. hahah
Lighting, set design, effects, all good. Not mind-blowing, but still good. How they made Elphaba “fly” during Defying Gravity was pretty smart – and remarkably simple. Kudos on that! The one thing that did jump out at me was the projection design. They had a few scenes with projected animations in the background – like for magical effects and such. Those worked quite well. The rain during the I’m Not That Girl scene was maybe the best usage of projected animation in it. Though now that I think about it, the projection in the sewer scene in Les Mis which made it look like Valjean was really moving through the sewers with Marius still topped Wicked‘s projections. 8D
Judging from the set design, it would’ve been kinda fun if they’d taken a more steampunk direction with the whole thing – would’ve definitely been more complicated in terms of costumes though.
Actually, the little jokes that linked into the Wizard of Oz story were pretty smart. The part where Elphaba has Dorothy imprisoned, for instance, and is complaining about how Dorothy won’t give her sister’s red slippers back to her. Who drops a house on a woman then takes her shoes, Elphaba asked? “Must’ve been raised in a barn!” she muttered. hahah
They do take the whole “green” theme all the way. The theatre’s foyer has green lights and though I can’t remember it in detail, I’m convinced that the carpet was green as well. And of course, all merchandise is green (or black and green). Francis would like the place – green everywhere. lol