Girls to the front: Wicked shows the development of a female friendship between Oz’s two witches, who must take different paths when tested by political forces.Wicked the musical debuted at Mandurah Performing Arts Centre (MPAC) last night, to what was nearly a fullhouse.

The community production was delivered by Stray Cats Theatre Company in partnership with MPAC.

The musical was directed by Karen Francis, a woman with a wide range of productions under her belt, with musical direction fromDavid Hicks, vocal direction from Kristie Gray, and choreography by Megan Doohan.

Even before the curtains were drawn it was obvious that Francis’s take on Wicked would be decidedly steampunk, with painted-brass cogs and gears lining the stage, and a mechanical purple dragon looming overhead.

When the curtains did open on Munchkin Land, it was apparent that this theme would be carried throughout, with whimsical hand-painted stage sets, corsets aplenty and top hats here and there.

Both Galinda, played by Lisa Taylor, and Elphaba, played by Kimberley Harris, were brought to life in this production.

Taylor’s performance as the adolescent Galinda was hilarious and spectacularly annoying, and it’s worth noting the painful but impressivehigh notes she was able to hit.

However, she also managed to show the complexity of this character, who could’ve easily come off as superficial and unlikable.

Instead, it was a delight to see the friendship form between Galinda and Elphaba, since both lead actresses had such strong onstage chemistry.

Harris’s singing wasbeautiful, with her rendition of “The Wizard and I” a real testament to her vocal capabilities.

Though slightly more rustic than a Broadway production, the songs still managed to be cut through with consistent American accents: whether this made it annoying or authentic, I can’t decide.

The two women were well-cast, perhaps the most well-suited to their characters of all the actors onstage: the male performances were not as strong.

Though they were a young crew, the chorus sung with clarity that is essential for musicals but also difficult to achieve with a crowd, andI’d also like to commend Cat Perez, who, acting asGalinda’s best friend, a minor character, had an A+ voice that came through in her solos.

The colour schemes in the costuming and sets were well-chosen, especially during the Shiz University scenes where preppy takes on school uniforms gave off a Gossip Girl vibe.

The choreography was good, with interest added by including such flourishes as aerial silks in the opening, and one memorable roller disco-dancer in Oz.

Unfortunately, at times the lighting, music, dancing and singing didn’t quite come together timing-wise, but it usually managed to resolve by the next scene.

Doohan showed a cleveruse of set features such as a balcony and steps on either side of the stagein her choreography to create levels, and added to the steampunk theme with aragdoll-like dance the chorus performed whenever Elphaba cast a spell.

I think fans of the original musical will enjoy this slightly more humble, intimate version, which shows again Friday night at 7.30pm, Saturday at 2pm and 7.30pm, and Sunday at 2pm.

Tickets are available online or from the box office.

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