It’s been a few days since I’ve seen Wicked, and I cannot stop humming the songs. (Apologies to my colleagues for the umpteenth rendition of Defying Gravity.)
The Broadway and West End phenomenon – acclaimed as “one of the greatest musicals of our time” (Daily Mail, UK) – is now playing at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) in Singapore till Nov 20.
So, if you’re headed to the Lion City, you might want to check out this production. (This is actually Wicked’s second run in Singapore; it first premiered at MBS in 2011 for three months, attracting sell-out audiences.)
Since its debut in the United States in 2003, it has enchanted millions of theatregoers all over the world and won three Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy.
Set in a fantasy world of wizards, witches and magic, it is an ingenious re-imagining of the characters created by L. Frank Baum in The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz.
Wicked tells the story of an unlikely friendship between popular girl Glinda (Carly Anderson) and misunderstood, green-skinned outcast Elphaba (Jacqueline Hughes).
Their adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfill their respective destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.
At the evening show I attended, I noticed many families with young children. No doubt, this is the same audience who appreciates Harry Potter and Frozen; one of the lines that got the biggest laughs was when Glinda uttered “Let it go.”
Tony Award–winning designer Eugene Lee created the set and visual style for the production based on original illustrations for Baum’s novels while lighting designer Kenneth Posner used more than 800 individual lights to give each of the 54 distinct scenes and locations its own mood.
The show-stopping numbers (Popular, I’m Not That Girl, No Good Deed, For Good) are by Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz (of Disney’s Pocahontas and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame).
And since Wicked is set in the world of Oz, you can bet your wizard’s wand that the stage costumes are colourful and over the top.
Costume designer Susan Hilferty created a “twisted Edwardian” style through more than 200 outfits.
The most elaborately-dressed character is meddling sorcery teacher Madame Morrible (Kim Ismay).
With a tornado of blond curls teetering on her head and ghoulish white make-up, she moves across the stage in heavily upholstered costumes, which make her look like an animated couch with throw pillows attached.
In an interview with the National Museum of American History, Hilferty said the process of designing Wicked took two years.
“Costumes like these are actually haute couture. They’re one-of-a-kind, made for a particular actress in a particular way and it requires incredible skill on the part of the many makers,” she said.
For instance, one particular skirt required 40 yards of fabric. “We take yards of fabric, rip it up and piece it back together again, to make it feel like an organic material, which incorporates many, many different colours,” added Hilferty. “Then they are stitched together by one person and it takes her about 40-60 hours stitching all of those layers on so they’re right up next to and around each other, almost like a topographical map.”
In creating the two central characters who represent “good” (Glinda) and “bad” (Elphaba), Hilferty had to make their costumes stand out in contrasting ways.
“I would use the sky, light, stars and rainbows for Glinda,” explained Hilferty. “The Glinda dress feels like it’s really floaty. When you look at the Glinda dress, she looks like she’s a bubble that might float away.”
On the other hand, Elphaba’s wardrobe is all about dark shades. “The Elphaba dress looks like if she melted, she’d go back into the earth. I designed it so it feels like it has a waist corslet but it should feel like it’s carved out of stone.” Naturally, Elphaba’s ensemble is made complete with a pointy witch’s hat.
Overall, the costumes in Wicked are visually striking and the songs heartfelt and catchy. But what makes the musical memorable is the flawed, relatable protagonists and its celebration of friendship and love.
From beginning to end, it is wickedly wonderful.
Wicked is now playing at MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands in Singapore till Nov 20. For details, visit www.marinabaysands.com/ticketing.