Woohoo our first review is in! Last night was unreal 🤩 Were you there? What did you think?
Invercargill Musical Theatre
Civic Theatre, July 12-27
Director: Doug Kamo. Musical director: Michael Buick. Choreographer: Emma Holloway.
It’s not easy being green. Ask Kermit the Frog, or Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. Elphaba’s not really wicked, she’s just misunderstood.
In contemporary terms, Elphaba would be labelled a freedom fighter and an animal rights activist. She’s the most empathetic, morally upright figure in this epic, swirling production, which is a famous Broadway flip on the Wizard of Oz story, told from the perspective of the witches.
You wouldn’t want to get on Elphaba’s dark side, though, because she does have a righteous temper, along with a gift for sorcery that she’s barely in control of. Injustice ignites her rage. She’s my kind of witch.
Homegrown star Libby Fraser is a revelation in this demanding, complex role, and on opening night she was roared on by a partisan, appreciative crowd who put wind beneath her wings.
This is a stage career-defining role for Fraser, who has the acting range and the voice to bring Elphaba’s many facets to life. Her performance is truly magnificent, worthy of wider industry recognition.
While Fraser’s Elphaba seethes with intensity, Rebekah Head sparkles as the perky, blonde good witch Glinda, whose character arcs from ditzy, shallow and vain at the beginning to a fair and just leader of Oz by the end. Head is a magnetic presence on the stage and a luminous foil for Elphaba.
The leads are all terrific – in particular Luke Butson as Fiyero, Craig Waddell as the Wizard, Ilana Edlin as Madame Morrible and Ashleigh Reid as Elphaba’s disabled sister Nessarose. All are on point and significant players in an excellent supporting cast.
The ensemble is tight and energised, superbly drilled by director Kamo. Amidst the sweeping choreography and stunning costumes and makeup, Jeromy Tiatia and Devin Ledington somehow conjure up moments to catch the eye.
The music is far from straightforward. It’s an edgy score rife with tension created through syncopation and melodic counterpoint. On opening night the orchestra handled the extremely technical charts smoothly and with precision. BounceNZ’s sound mix is clean, but in the circle at least the lead vocals could have been pushed forward a fraction more.
The biggest set pieces in the production all make powerful lyrical statements – “no-one mourns the wicked”, “there’s a girl I know, he loves her so, I’m not that girl’’, “no good deed will I do again”, and, ultimately, “because I knew you I have been changed for good.”
I like that this is a story about good prevailing in the face of discrimination and ignorance, and I’m in awe of the stellar production values that help to tell it with such razzle-dazzle. The lighting propels the action and the stage set, despite its simplicity, implies Gothic gravitas.
Invercargill Musical Theatre continues its golden groove of the past five or so years with this superb production of Wicked. It does feel like having Broadway brought to Invercargill. See it, support it, appreciate it. It’s a great show.