It has been said that too many stories have a happy, schmaltzy ending. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz chronicles the adventures of a young farm girl named Dorothy in the magical Land of Oz, after she and her pet dog Toto are swept away from their home farm by a cyclone and arrive in Munchkin-country.

This tale of the fictional, magical country, the Land of Oz; good fighting against evil. Dorothy, (the main protagonist) saved the day, while being involved in lots of amazing, sometimes terrifying adventures along the way.

Wicked is on the other side of the coin to The Wizard of Oz as a plot-line, and is told from the perspective of the witches of the Land Of Oz. Some deep and troubled intrigue was happening in the land with the yellow brick road.  A social and ethical commentary on the nature of good and evil, takes place in the Land of Oz.

Wicked was a hit musical that first opened its doors in London when I had had my congenital brain haemorrhage/stroke and was in the long process of recovery.  Many years later, when we passing through London, I chanced by the ticket booth and they were selling tickets to Wicked.  Missed out by a fraction!  We were leaving the next day, but I took the photo to remind me that if/when the musical came to Auckland, I would make a point to see it.




Wicked finally came to New Zealand in 2013 and what a show it was.  It had a short run at Aucklands' Civic Theatre in the heart of the CBD.  The Civic is one of the most recognised and revered icons in Auckland, a cinema/theatre first opened on 20 December 1929, it was reopened in 2000 after a major renovation and conservation effort. It is a famous example of the atmospheric theatre style, in which lights and design were used to convey an impression of being seated in an outdoor auditorium at night, creating the illusion of an open sky complete with twinkling stars. I have fond memories watching classic movies there when I was studying at University.

Fast forward back to the future with us hovering outside the Civic Theatre, anticipating the show.  It didn't take much to blink and think we were back in London's West End crowding outside Her Majesty's Theatre waiting for the performance of The Phantom of the Opera to begin: it had that same buzz, even moreso because the buildings are very similar.

The Civic was reopened in 2000 after a major renovation and conservation effort.  And what a showcase venue the new revamped theatre is.  It is also known for its Indian-inspired foyer, which includes seated Buddhas, twisted columns and domed ceilings.  The main auditorium was designed in a similar style, imitating a Moorish garden with turrets, minarets, spires and tiled roofs as well as several famous Abyssinian panther statues.  It reminded me, oh just very slightly, of Harrods in London. Perhaps it's the lights and decor that made the main escalator in Harrods special. It was a lights, décor and ambiance that makes The Civic very special. Programme in hand, we were shown to our seats.

The lights dimmed and the musical began. One witch was born with green skin, versus the other with golden blonde hair. Misunderstood contrasted with beauteous vacuity it seemed, the friendship of these two women and how their characters lead them to completely different destinies was played out. Similar to, but vastly different, the story follow the fortunes of the wicked/good witch in the Emerald City. Good intentions with bad results are the same as bad intentions with bad results? It was enthralling, we couldn't wait till the finale.

Having savoured the taste of live performances again, we couldn't resist having another go with a completely different genre: the follow-on show at The Civic theatre was the extraordinary Le Noir, a darker Cirque du Soleil experience than their typical extravaganza.

Playing only for a short time, we were lucky to get tickets. We have enjoyed a number of amazing Cirque du Soleil performances over the years.  How is it that these acrobatic entertainers are so good?  It takes years and years of searching for the right cast, and expert training to make each performance scintillating.  Just to be in the running, these are performers with special skills that shine forth when they take to the stage; gymnasts, dancers, singers, actors – daredevils with split-second precision.  Cirque du Soleil has the biggest casting department in the world, apparently.

Le Noir has gravitas and a lot of sensual appeal, billed as the dark side of Cirque.  With heart-stopping routines, sensational costumes, a talented cast plus death defying acts.  An intimate style show where the audience have tables on stage with just a pocket hankerchief between you, the audience, and the suspenseful action.  Part of the concept is to make the audience experience the show rather than just watch it, some seating is literally inches from the action on stage.

The show starts off with the performers dressed in white – quite celestial, dainty and exquisite.  Their routines also matched the theme.  As the performance progresses, performers dip in and out of the crowd, brushing by in a blur of fringing, fishnets, lace and leather – dressed skimpily in racy red - beguiling, seductive and sexy.

Two men, one standing up straight, the other hopped on to the first, then upside down, holding on just by the pressure nape-to-nape of their necks as the second man twisted and balanced in perfect symmetry, held together by pure brute strength.  It was that type of performance where you think 70% there is going to be a spectacular failure and 30% hoping there wouldn't - it had that 'surely this is going to go wrong' look about it.  It didn't.   Then, a delicate, ethereal girl, writhes and contorts her body performing unbelievable acrobatic feats of knotting herself thrice, it seemed.

Saucy, scantily clad showgirls fanning feathers and muscled men, comedians and gags, as the show descended into the dark night, the acts grew more death-defying and dangerous.  Menacing black was the colour - all-consuming black, the most memorable act was the “Wheel of Death” – a circus favourite which gets the adrenaline rush.  Two of the cast perform daring stunts inside and on top of the two enormous spinning wheels suspended high above the stage of the Civic Theatre, no safety harnesses and, at one stage wearing blindfolds.  So basically it was very 1930's: no health and safety and no blushes spared - excellent.  Good old-fashioned fun and excitement...  we just needed Sherlock Holmes in the audience to complete the set.

What more could anyone want? Plenty of colour along with the sinuous, free-wheeling movement, featuring delicate white morphing into saucy red in the first half, with the spine-chilling and more sinister acts in the black act after the interval. We were mesmerised, and drawing breath - one mistake and it is over for the acrobatic feats and endurance. There were no safety devices – just mind over matter and the buzz of convincing yourself that you could do it, night after thrilling night of performances.

Le Noir is magnificent in its simplicity, but also spellbinding in its brilliance.  {And terrifying if you want to try it at home; which they don't recommend}.