As a showtune queen, it’s expected that I know and can sing along to any Wicked song at the drop of a hat. And I do. I can belt “Defying Gravity” in my own weird way, and copy all of Glinda’s inflections in “Popular.” Sadly, I wasn’t able to catch Wicked in Manila in 2014, but I’m happy to let you know that I was able to watch it this year. Not only that, I got to go on a backstage tour and interview the cast!
It’s one thing to listen to the songs on Spotify and YouTube, and it’s a completely different experience when you watch the story unfold. I sat in my seat at The Theatre at Solaire, silently weeping as I watched Elphaba soar through the sky to say that everyone deserves the chance to fly. It’s a splendiferous and thrillifying show that will leave you spellbound. The casting, the songs, the set! It was a glorious experience.
For those who are not familiar with the story, Wicked is a Broadway musical that tells the “origin story” of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in Frank L. Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In turn, Wicked the musical is based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire.
In the book and the musical, we witness Elphaba’s childhood and school years at Shiz University, where she is taunted because of her green skin. She develops a friendship with Glinda, a beautiful and popular girl who later becomes Glinda the Good. Slowly, Elphaba grows disillusioned by the Wizard of Oz, who is using his powers to suppress Animals (with a capital A).
Since it premiered on Broadway in 2003, it has won 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.
Watching it for the first time proves that all the awards were well-deserved. I loved everything about the show, from its story to its music, set, costumes, and singing.
Natasha Ferguson as Elphaba was stunning, her voice towering over everyone else’s, especially during her performances of “The Wizard and I” and “No Good Deed.” She captures her character’s haughtiness yet balances it with her vulnerability in “I’m Not That Girl” and “As Long As You’re Mine.” However, I have to say that Carly Anderson as Glinda stole the show. She was funny, charming, and endearing, and most of the laughs were because of her. Anderson was the perfect foil to the earnest Elphaba, which I thought was a breath of fresh air. Listening to “Popular” on repeat doesn’t prepare you for the hijinks that is seeing the song unfold on stage.
I also enjoyed seeing Emily Shaw and Iddon Jones as Nessarose and Boq. The two were both so cute in their roles. Shaw filled the shoes of Nessa well, ably portraying the character’s melancholy and weakness, while Jones was delightful as the Munchkin boy. After my interview with Jacqueline Hughes (Elphaba) and Anderson, my interview with Shaw and Jones were my favorite because of their jolliness.
The costumes and set were equally breathtaking. I got to visit the Wardrobe Village during my backstage tour, where I saw how intricate the costumes were. No expense was clearly made in creating the wardrobe; fabrics were sourced from around the world just to create the outfits. As for the set, it will really take your breath away. My favorites were the set design for “No One Mourns the Wicked,” “One Short Day,” and the scene right before “Defying Gravity,” when Elphaba bargains with the Wizard.
A few people have said that the smaller stage of The Theatre at Solaire is less impressive compared to the vast tract of land at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). On the contrary, the more intimate space of Solaire draws your eye to the stage, allowing you to appreciate every single detail. And there’s plenty to appreciate.
If you love the songs but haven’t seen Wicked yet, I suggest you watch. No matter how many times you listen to the soundtrack, it’s an extraordinary experience to see it woven into a story on stage. Now, whenever I listen to “Dancing Through Life,” I can imagine Fiyero gliding through the stage, setting hearts aflutter – including mine. And because of this, I have been changed for good.
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 19, 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.