Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review of WICKED in Manila: The Artichoke is Steaming!

January 27, 2014

Wicked is adapted from the 1995 “revisionist” Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) and Winnie Holzman (book).  Since its Broadway debut back in 2003, it always enjoyed full houses everywhere it was staged.

This is already the second time I am watching Wicked.  The first time I watched this very popular musical was in Sydney a few years back.  This was what I wrote about the show back then.

"October 22, 2009

I had always heard of how fantastic "Wicked the Musical" is, but I had only known but two songs from it:  "Defying Gravity" and "For Good."  So when I found out that "Wicked" was showing in the Capitol Theater right beside our hotel in Sydney the weekend we will be there, I plunked down AU$103 over the internet to Ticketmaster even before we left the country!

The Capitol Theater was a full house that night.  The interior of the theater was very plush and classy.  The ceiling was painted like the night sky, very nice effect.  Before the show, I looked around the souvenir shop, but the things there were so expensive!  A souvenir programme cost AU$20 (I did not buy.)  I was curious about this green icy drink they had there, but I did not feel like queuing.   So, I just went in to look for my seat.  Turns out my seat was at the very top of the auditorium already, row YY!  The people around me, who bought last minute tickets like me, all had a good chuckle when they saw how high up their seats were.

The stage was framed by elaborate decor and lighting.  There was a huge metal dragon poised at the very top and center, which was very imposing.  With these set pieces alone, I realized why this musical would be very difficult to stage in Manila (like "Phantom of the Opera").  Later in the play, we would see other complex sets and lighting effects.  The talking "Wizard" robot alone was a very impressive set piece.  The technical precision required for this show must really be something else.  Really amazing and enchanting.

As the musical unfolded, I immediately saw why people loved it.  The songs were all very good, delightful and catchy, and easy to like, even the dramatic ones.  The script was very funny.  There were so many witty one-liners scattered all over the play.  I enjoyed the way this story of two witches Elphaba and G(a)linda interweaves so neatly with the well-known classic tale of "The Wizard of Oz", and you do not even really see Dorothy!  It was very funny how they speculate the origins of the flying monkeys, the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and the Scarecrow. 

And of course, the singer/actresses who played Elphie and Glinda were so good. Amanda Harrison was certainly a showstopper the way she sang green witchElphaba's desperate paeans and dreams.  Her voice was so clear, strong and resoundingly dramatic.  On the other hand, Lucy Durack plays good witch Glinda ala "Legally Blonde" which made it hilarious.  Her soprano was also strong and soaring, yet lilting and crisp.  The third angle of the love triangle Prince Fiyero was played by Australian Idol 2003 finalist Rob Mills.  There were several respected Australian actors also who played the more senior characters like the Wizard and the School Mistress, and they elicited applause when they first appeared on stage."


The cast in this touring production is supposedly the same cast many Filipinos caught in Singapore a couple of years back.  There was a different cast from the show I saw in Sydney.  Glinda is now played by Suzie Mathers, and Elphaba by Jemma Rix.  The rest of the cast include: Maggie Kirkpatrick (Madame Morrible), Glen Hogstrom (Dr. Dillamond), Emily Cascarino (Nessarose), Edward Grey (Boq), and Steve Danielsen (Fiyero).  In an innovative bit of casting, they have a Polynesian actor Jay Laga’aia playing the Wizard. 

They have obviously done this so many times, and mastered the show completely.  Everything was flawless. However, the passion and the joy of performing were still all there. Suzie Mathers was so cute as the gleeful Glinda, with her hair tossing and snickering. Her soprano can really soar!  Jenna was likewise excellent as the forlorn green girl who discovered her powers and her calling in life.  Her "Defying Gravity" brought the house down!

If you read my past review above, at that time I was doubting how any local stage can support this production.  Well, since that review was written, we know how the CCP had already been the venue for big musicals with huge sets like "Cats" and just a year or so back "Phantom of the Opera."  When they did "Phantom" here and pulled it off so well, I knew "Wicked" would not be impossible.  And here it is!  The stage and the complex sets were as magical as I remember it.

I felt like I was watching the show for the first time since I vaguely recall the full details of the story, and I felt that joyous excitement all over again as the story unfolded this time.  The first act was really so much more fun to watch than the second act when the heavy drama comes in.  All the famous songs were in Act 1, namely "No One Mourns for the Wicked", "The Wizard and I", "Popular" (recently sampled in a radio hit song by Mika ftrg. Ariana Grande), and of course the big show-stopper "Defying Gravity."  There was only one famous song in Act 2, and that was the beautiful ballad "For Good."  For this watching, I have discovered better the poetry in "I'm Not that Girl" sung in Act 1 by Elphaba, and reprised in Act 2 by Glinda, very touching indeed.

This is a must-see show for all musical theater fans and their families.  I am sure they have already bought all their tickets well in advance as I have maybe six months ago.  All the weekends are sold-out already, but weekday performances are still available as of now via Ticketworld.  Do not miss this show!  



Going to the CCP tonight was not really pleasant experience.  I had been informed that there would be a Sto. Nino Parade which would cause traffic on January 26.  We left the house early and was at the Harrison Plaza area by 6pm.  However it turned out the whole CCP Complex had been blocked off.  So I parked at the Traders Hotel across the boulevard and everyone walked to the CCP.  We made it to our seats in time, though barely. Should remember to steer clear of this last Sunday of January date for future CCP show bookings.


  1. All the time I buy my tickets at the very top of the auditoium. I'm quite small and only form there I can enjoy the show. Anyway, you make me really curious to find out more about this show :) I'm curious especially to hear the songs :)

  2. My friend watched this and highly recommended me to watch wicked. I hope to catch while it's still available.