Murray Bridge Players and Singers' new production is Wicked

Witches: Emma Love and Katelin Kneebone star in Murray Bridge Players and Singers' production of Wicked. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Witches: Emma Love and Katelin Kneebone star in Murray Bridge Players and Singers' production of Wicked. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

By their nature, amateur theatre productions tend to fall somewhere short of professionalism.

These are not paid actors, musicians and backstage crew, after all; they are volunteers, doing it for the love of the stage, the spotlight and each other.

However, Murray Bridge Players and Singer's current production of Wicked bucks the trend.

Director Trent Baker, assistant director Mari Reu and musical director Peta Davis have assembled the company's strongest ensemble in recent memory, and all those rehearsals have paid off.

As one, the cast is well drilled, with no obvious weak links, missed cues or bum notes, no missteps in Shae Schulz's appealing choreography, and outstanding characterisation by some of the actors in bit parts.

For this reviewer, the highlight of the show wasn't the anthem "Defying Gravity"; it was the little things.

That said, the two female leads live up to their billing.

Emma Love gets every chance to show off the rare, show-stopping quality of her singing voice as the forlorn and not-actually-that-wicked Elphaba.

But it is Katelin Kneebone who threatens to steal the show as she channels a long tradition of flighty, bubbly ditzes while playing "Galinda with a 'ga'".

Her characterisation, in voice and movements, is extravagant and highly entertaining.

Together, the pair bring the audience with them as their relationship develops and changes, from the awkwardness of a dance to their touching duets.

Among the supporting cast, the role of the charming, crooning love interest Fiyero plays to Kurt Miegel's strengths, and he and Kneebone are delightfully obnoxious together.

Noel Kneebone is suitably haughty as the Wizard, with good vocal characterisation.

Breigh Angove, as Nessa Rose, has a beautiful singing voice.

Val Schubert and her upper-class affectations are magnificent for the role of Madame Morrible, Iain Lewcock elicits our sympathy as Doctor Dillamond, and Ronald Mafara is expressive and energetic as perpetual second fiddle Boq.

The costumes, coordinated by Michelle Gibbs, designed by Samantha Pope and put together by a team of volunteers, are excellent, with as much variety in the uniforms at Shiz University as there is on the streets of the Emerald City.

Galinda's gowns and Love's second act dress are wonderfully detailed, and flying monkey Chistery's costume is especially good, as are its movements - it's Lauren Calliss in there.

The production is a technical achievement for the company as well, with innovative use of space and lighting for scene changes and magic spells, but most especially the musicians' set-up.

For years they played in front of the stage, then on it, hidden among the set pieces; for this show the musicians are stashed away in another room entirely, with conductor Jack Love monitoring the action on a TV screen and the musicians' output being piped through the sound system by venue manager Matt Button.

The band keeps things tight despite the challenges thrown up by Stephen Schwartz's score.

For the audience, the music sounds almost pre-recorded, but in sync with what is happening on stage - it works, and it opens up space for the actors.

That space is well utilised for the most part, though it must have been challenging to find enough for Elphaba to do during her songs, so many of which are sung solo.

Thankfully her voice and acting are strong enough to keep the audience spellbound.

The set is sparse, but the moveable pieces provide the necessary detail, especially at the university, and functioned smoothly throughout.

In summary, the untold story of the witches of Oz stands on a level with some of the company's better productions.

Given how well ticket sales have gone for this one - there were only about 40 empty seats at Sunday's matinee - you had better book soon if you want to be off to see the wizard.

The reviewer attended courtesy of Murray Bridge Players and Singers.