First look: 'Wicked' sets up at CCP main stage

Posted at 01/10/14 5:54 PM

The stage of "Wicked" is being set up at the CCP Main Theater. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA – Work on the Manila run of the international touring production of the hit musical “Wicked” is now proceeding round the clock with just a couple of weeks left before it opens at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on January 22.

The crew of the musical, which includes around 50 Filipinos, began setting up the massive production at the Main Theater of the CCP last January 2 as they expect to begin technical rehearsals on Tuesday – or a day before the cast members arrive in Manila on January 15.

The actors are expected to begin rehearsals on January 17.

“It’s a long process to get a show this big into any theater and obviously touring internationally has added another dimension to it all,” the show’s technical director, Cameron Flint, told select reporters who were given a sneak peek of the show’s set on Friday.

Flint explained that their first six days in Manila were devoted to “pre-rig” and prepare the theater for the sets, which are now starting to be assembled.

During Friday’s press event, the crew members were working on the assembly of the stage proscenium, which is dominated by a large dragon that plays a role in the musical.

A large dragon has been set up on stage for the Manila run of "Wicked." Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com

According to Flint, 23 shipping containers – about the same size of “The Phantom of the Opera” -- were brought in for the production requirements of “Wicked” from Auckland, New Zealand, where the musical finished its run last September.

Work is now proceeding round the clock with two shifts working six days a week.

Australian production

This particular production of “Wicked” first toured Australia from 2008 to 2011, then had a five-month run in both Singapore and Seoul, South Korea before heading for New Zealand.

After the Manila run closes on February 23, the production will return to Australia for another tour, starting in Melbourne before heading to Sydney and Brisbane.

Company manager Bec Windsor boasted that this is the biggest touring production of “Wicked,” which cost A$12 million to mount in 2008.

“The only places where you will see the same production specifications are on Broadway and London’s West End,” she said.

“As far as production values go, it’s one of the most visual and spectacular shows with lots of beautiful flying elements,” she added.

Based on characters created by L. Frank Baum in the classic children’s tale “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” “Wicked” tells the story of the unlikely friendship of two girls who first meet as sorcery students. One grows up to be Glinda, the Good Witch, while the other became the Wicked Witch of the West.

The touring company consists of around 70 people, including cast members led by Jemma Rix and Suzie Mathers, who play the two witches. Windsor said 30 to 40 Filipinos will be hired to supplement the company once “Wicked” starts its regular run in Manila, which includes musicians.

Flint, who checked the CCP Main Theater as early as October 2012 to assess if it will be able to handle the production requirements of the Tony Award-winning musical, lauded the Filipino crew for being “very professional and skilled.”

“The work ethic has been excellent. It has been easy – as easy as it gets for a show this big,” he said of the Filipinos, many of whom have worked in previous touring productions in Manila such as “Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats” and “Mamma Mia.”

Benefit show

Meanwhile, “Wicked” has announced a special benefit show on January 31 at 1:30 p.m. to raise funds for those who were affected by super typhoon Yolanda last year.

In addition to the matinee show, there will also be an auction after curtain call, which includes a prop from the show that has been specially boxed and autographed by Mathers.

Also to be auctioned is a special “Wicked Experience” package that includes an opportunity to be part of the cast.

“You will get to live a day in the life of a cast member and join the company through rehearsal and warm up and then be put into hair, make up and costume for your final transformation. You will then appear onstage in the middle of the show as you take the role of an Ozian wishing Elphaba a safe journey to Oz,” a statement from the company said.

On top of the auction, the cast will also be in the lobby after the show for “bucket collections.”

“Wicked” runs at the CCP Main Theater from January 22 to February 23.