Yes, this is technically not a film review, but in my Oz themed reviews it is actually a necessary pre-requisite to my review of the 1939 Victor Fleming film. Besides, this is a book that has become a stage musical. A film can’t be too far behind!!
All details refer to the current Australian production playing in Sydney
Director: Lisa Leguillou, Joe Mantello
Cast: Lucy Durack, Jemma Rix, Pippa Grandison, Rob Mills, Bert Newton, Maggie Kirkpatrick
Synopsis: As the tagline proclaims, this is the untold story of the witches of Oz. It is a musical adaptation of the book by Gregory Maguire, itself shifting the focus of the story to the Wicked Witch of the West. Rather than have her represent the epitome of evil, it introduces a certain level of moral ambiguity to each of her actions.
A review by Film Nerd
This is a review of a musical. As such, if the thought of people bursting into song with no apparent provocation turns you off immensely, don’t bother with the price of admission. For those of you who not only enjoy musicals, but also a live performance, this is well worth a look. I saw it with Bride of Film Nerd, so anticipate her review to soon follow this one.
The musical begins with the celebrations of the munchkin’s following Dorothy Gale’s defeat of the Wicked Witch of the West. It is soon revealed however, that at an earlier time, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, had once been friends having attended school together, and then we get a truer history of how she became the woman she apparently was at the time of her death.
Born green, Elphaba was a source of horror not only to her school mates, but to her own family as well. A series of unfortunate events lead to her landing Glinda as a room-mate at school, and their initial perception of each other is quite clearly defined as loathing. Eventually they show each other their own good qualities, and a friendship forms. However, all is not right in Oz, and Elphaba feels she must do something about it, putting her at odds with the doctrines of the established powers. Her attachment to Glinda is also tested as a result of them both loving the same man.
As with my Tin Man review, to reveal much more will ruin some very interesting twists that are developed in the story. So rather than take away these delicious elements, I will spend some time discussing the music. I think it is evidence of the quality of what is on offer when I reveal I bought the soundtrack at intermission, and after leaving at the final curtain, it has not left my car stereo since. The melodies are on the surface entertaining, but true joy comes from listening to the lyrics, which have an intelligence, and a play on words and rhyming that add another dimension. I picked up more elements on a second and third listen.
Being a stage show, I cannot comment on all of the above listed cast. Durack plays Glinda, and somehow manages to combine one of the most annoying character voices in the show with some truly moving solos. I cannot review Rix or Grandison, both of whom perform Elphaba’s role, as the performance I saw featured and understudy, Zoe Gertz. However, she was simply breath-taking, and I find it almost incomprehensible that the two ladies of the primary cast could have bettered her. Former Australian Idol talent Rob Mills impressed me immensely as love interest Fiyero, but in the end I don’t think any Australian can go past national icon Bert Newton’s Wizard. I can’t believe the man is still getting up and doing all this stuff, and with such energy, as he still does.
I love musicals, so my review is biased, but this version of Oz is one I could easily fork out for to see again.
5 stars (out of a possible 5)