Students Prepare to Bring Wicked to Newcastle
It will be a truly wicked start to the year for many Newcastle Grammar School students, as they begin preparations to stage the region’s first school production of the hit Broadway musical Wicked. A cast of 60 students from as young as Year 5 through to year 12 have already been selected for the musical after auditioning in singing and dancing last year.
They are set to begin intense rehearsals as soon as the school year starts, in order to be ready to stage the show in late June 2020.
Executive Producer and Musical Director Mr Kevin Young said the rights to stage Wicked had only recently become available to schools, and it was thrilling to be able to take on such a big production.
“It’s a very challenging musical. There’s lots of music and lots of dance, and it’s quite a long show,” he said.
“But we believe we have the right cast to take on a show of this calibre, and we have a wonderful staff team who can really work with the students to make it all happen.”
The Wizard of Oz Backstory
‘Wicked’, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, is a prequel to the classic Wizard of Oz tale that is already familiar to most people.
Based on a novel by Gregory Maguire, it tells the story of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) – a misunderstood young girl who was born with green skin – and Galinda (who later becomes Glinda the Good Witch), who are unlikely friends in the Land of Oz, in the time before Dorothy arrives.
Following an encounter with the Wonderful Wizard, their friendship reaches a crossroads, and their lives take different paths.
First staged in 2003, it has become one of Broadway’s longest-running musicals.
Mr Young said the show has some amazing songs and offered a range of challenging roles for both male and female actors, as well as ensemble members.
The story encompasses themes of acceptance, belonging and loyalty, which align with the values that the School espouses, he said.
“And of course, there is love as well,” he said. “It’s a story that adults, teens and younger children can all enjoy and relate to.”
Playing at the Civic Theatre
The planning for Wicked follows the School’s successful production of Annie in 2018. However, Mr Young said this would be the first time that Newcastle Grammar School had been able to put on a production at Newcastle’s heritage-listed Civic Theatre.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the students to perform in the Civic Theatre, which will take the show to a whole new level. It will also be a joy for audiences to come and see the show at such a beautiful venue.”
He is working alongside assistant Musical Director Erin Sweetman, Assistant Producer Jordan Grant, Director Luke Aspinall, choreographer Laura Dawson and many other staff members to prepare students for the show.
Miss Dawson, a dance teacher and former Newcastle Grammar School student, said the students were rehearsing twice a week, and would also be giving up time in their holidays and some weekends to ensure the show is in top shape by June.
“The students who have put their hands up to be part of Wicked are all really committed – they know it will take up a lot of their time in the coming months, but they are willing to put in the hard work to make it outstanding,” she said.
“We are already working to ensure we coordinate all the elements of dramatic acting, music and choreography, as well as some incredible stage production.”
That includes Galinda flying onto the stage in a giant bubble – a feat made possible by the use of the professional theatre.
She said the costumes would also be spectacular.
“It will be an amazing show to watch – we can’t wait to see it all come together.”
As well as forming the cast, students are taking on roles in the technical crew, including assisting with lighting and sets.
And a full orchestra will comprise students alongside teachers and professional musicians.
“The music is quite difficult, but we have some very talented student musicians who are keen to take part,” Mr Young said.
“The students get the opportunity not just to be the cast on stage and part of the orchestra, but also to be involved behind the scenes – it’s their show, we are just here to facilitate and help them make it fantastic.”
Wicked will play at the Civic Theatre, Newcastle from 24–27 June 2020. Tickets available here.
All images from 'Annie' performed in 2018.