Defying Gravity: Magic is in the Ayr

Alyssa Oliveri, Laura Bromham and Matthew Derlagen star in the Burdekin Singers & Theatre Company's production of 'Wicked.' IMAGE: Bradley McAllister

2019 brings with it one of the most jam-packed and exciting theatre calendars North Queensland has ever seen: in Townsville alone, you can expect to catch The Weir, Kinky Boots, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Pygmalion all before May – and if you’re willing to journey a bit further down the yellow brick Bruce Highway, that list becomes even more magical.

Wicked will be staged at the Burdekin Theatre over the next two weeks, presented by the Burdekin Singers & Theatre Company.

Alyssa Oliveri, taking flight as the ‘wicked’ witch of the West, Elphaba, said the role would be her biggest yet.

“Elphaba is the most challenging role I have ever done and I think the most challenging role I will ever do. It’s mammoth,” Alyssa said.

“I’ve had to attack it like endurance training for a marathon – you can’t run 42km the first time, and there’s no way I had the stamina to do what I’m doing now when I started at rehearsals in November.

“In most productions a lead might have one – possibly two – songs to focus a majority of their energy on. There’s three for Elphaba. The Wizard and I, No Good Deed which is the most challenging, and then of course Defying Gravity – which surprisingly is the easiest of the three.

Alyssa (Elphaba) in rehearsals for ‘Wicked.’ IMAGE: Bradley McAllister

“This production is so cleverly written: Stephen Schwartz has managed to get the audience to absolutely empathise 100% with Elphaba the whole way through the show not just with lyrics, but with the way music is orchestrated – you laugh with her, you cry for her. I think that’s why Defying Gravity is seen to be such a huge iconic song, because she finally gets her moment of liberation which, through the writing, is also the audience’s moment of liberation.”

Elphaba’s love interest, Fiyero, will be played by Matthew Derlagen.

“Fiyero is surprisingly deep considering when the audience first sees him, he’s very outwardly narcissistic and wanting to be portrayed as the cool guy,” Matt said.

“He develops so much when he realises there’s a lot more going on in the world and that you don’t have to be what people expect you to be; you can have deeper feelings and think about things in other ways. It’s been great to learn that about him and develop this other side to his character.”

“Everything about this show is coming along really well! The costumes are fantastic, it sounds amazing, and now that we’re bumping in to the theatre we’re finally seeing it all come together for the first time which is amazing.”

Matthew (Fiyero) and Laura Bromham (Galinda) in rehearsals for ‘Wicked.’ IMAGE: Bradley McAllister

Alyssa agreed, and said Burdekin productions always became community projects rather than mere performances.

“Absolutely everything, from costumes to sets, have been made in the Burdekin. The premise behind (Director) Pat Nuttall doing Burdekin productions is she wants them to feed back into the community and economy there,” Alyssa said.

“It’s not just about putting on a show, it’s an entire community event taking place. You have everything from groups of tradies making set pieces, volunteers coming in to help paint, a collection of local dressmakers who make the costumes and everything in between, meaning that so many people who aren’t on stage are invested in the show and have been a part of bringing it to life.

“During my very first rehearsal I walked out the back to the costume room and on every table were piles of fabric pre-cut with patterns of costumes for every single person in the show – that’s the level of detail Pat goes to with these shows, and local dressmakers are given first pick of making those costumes so the money is going directly back into our community.”

Matt said that community spirit was just one reason Wicked would be a not-to-be-missed show.

“First and foremost it’s Wicked – so is a great show to watch in general anyway. But it’s also worth seeing because you’re going to see a really big show from a small town you might not expect it from,” said Matt.

“Whether you like Wicked or not, the amount of detail Pat has put into costuming alone is worth the drive,” said Alyssa. “Seeing Elphaba flying in the Burdekin Theatre will be worth the drive. The incredible ensemble is worth the drive. The show itself is already looking and sounding fantastic, so I can’t wait for opening night.”

Catch the Burdekin Singers & Theatre Company’s production of Wicked at the Burdekin Theatre from 1-10 February. Click here for tickets.

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