Wicked Promises a More Spectacular Show This 2017 + Exclusive Interview

One of my favorite musicals is Wicked, the story of a green-skinned witch who stands up for what she believes in, despite the odds. Her struggles are immortalized in the song “Defying Gravity,” which has become an anthemic hit, recognizable even to people averse to showtunes. I wasn’t able to see it when Wicked first came to Manila in 2014, but I’m happy to report that the musical is coming back and I’m going to see it! And the best part is that this run promises to be more spectacular than the last.

For those who are not familiar, Wicked is the “origin story” of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in Frank L. Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The musical is adapted from the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked, which examines the nature of good and evil, and how the events in our lives shape our personality. The book is known for its strong political, social, and ethical commentary.

In 2003, it was adapted into a Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman. The production went on to win more than 100 awards, including three Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards, two Olivier Awards, nine WhatsOnStage Awards in London, six Helpmann Awards in Australia, and a Grammy Award.

Since then, it has been seen by over 50 million people in 15 countries around the world. The Philippines joined the list in 2014, when it had a sold-out seven-week run to rave reviews, many of which noted what the New York Times called “an ingeniously arranged technoscape of wheels and cogs.”

Wicked is returning to Manila this 2017, and they’re bringing more of the razzle dazzle. Lunchbox Theatrical Productions CEO James Cundall and resident director Leigh Contantine promised that the 2017 run of Wicked in Manila will be more spectacular than the last, with changes that haven’t been seen before. This time, they will be using the most updated sound system for a more superior and immersive viewing experience, and more flying.

In terms of casting, over 3,000 actors applied (a third of all the actors registered to the UK casting agency Spotlight). Leading the musical as Elphaba is Jacqueline Hughes, who performed as Elphaba and Madame Morrible in the UK. She also played roles in Mary Poppins and Cinderella. The role of Glinda will be essayed by Carly Anderson, who joined the cast of Sunset Boulevard, Xanadu, Avenue Q, My Fair Lady, and The Sound of Music.

I watched the two perform “One Short Day” and the iconic “For Good,” and I fell in love with how good they are. All my worries about them not being able to live up to my expectations—after listening to the soundtrack featuring Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith countless times—were put to rest. Their favorite songs? Hughes’ favorite is “No Good Deed” because it’s Elphaba’s breaking point, while Anderson’s is “Defying Gravity” because of its exciting scene and explosive ending. In terms of difficulty, the hardest song for Hughes varies. Sometimes it’s “The Wizard and I,” and sometimes it’s “Defying Gravity.” For Anderson, it’s “Popular” and “Thank Goodness.”

Fiyero will be portrayed by Bradley Jaden, who was part of the 30th anniversary cast of Les Miserables, the 60th anniversary celebration of My Fair Lady, Ghost the Musical, Shrek the Musical, The Blues Brothers, and Peter Pan. Surprisingly, Jaden considers this the biggest challenge he’s had as an actor, a feat considering he played Enjolras in Les Mis, a demanding role that requires great passion and vocal prowess. To prepare, he told me that he had to go the gym every day to maintain his weight.

They will be joined by the award-winning and record-breaking UK and Ireland tour cast, composed of Steven Pinder (The Wizard and Doctor Dillamond), Kim Ismay (Madame Morrible), Iddon Jones (Boq), Emily Shaw (Nessarose), and Jodie Steele (alternate Elphaba).

OfficialLondonTheatre.com describes Wicked as a “magical story of friendship, love, and growing up,” but it’s a story deeper than the origin story of the infamous Wicked Witch of the West. Hughes told me, “Telling Elphaba’s story is very important because it tells you to be proud of who you are. You may have different-colored skin, you may look different, you are a different shape, a different size, but you are you.”

As someone who was bullied growing up because I was different, it’s no surprise that I’m incredibly excited to see this musical. And oh, I was able to go backstage, too!

Wicked in Manila is made possible thanks to Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Concertus Manila, and is presented by Globe LIVE. Shows are extended until March 12, with Tuesday to Friday shows at 8PM, and Saturday and Sunday shows at 2PM and 8PM. For tickets, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph. For more information on Lunchbox Productions and Concertus Manila, visit www.lunchbox-productions.com and Concertus Manila on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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