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  • Theater, Musicals
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

An undeniably “Popular” Broadway hit, Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman’s Oz prequel returns to the Oriental Theatre.

Have you heard of this musical called Wicked? It’s very good.

I’ve been reviewing plays semi-professionally (meaning I get paid to do it, I just don’t get paid that much) for going on six years now, so it might come as a surprise that I’d never seen Wicked, one of the most popular musicals of the new millennium, until now. I was familiar with the show’s premise, and I could hum alone to and even sing a few lyrics from some of its most popular songs, but other than that I took my seat on opening night as one of the blankest slates in the whole house.

And you know what? I enjoyed myself. It turns out that Wicked is a pretty fantastic show. Who knew?! (Everyone. Literally everyone knew.)

Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts:

1. Is there another show with two leading roles for women as strong as Elphaba and Glinda (played here by Mary Kate Morrissey and Ginna Claire Mason)? Chicago is the only one that leaps immediately to mind. Morrissey and Mason are both superb, by the way, with Mason bringing a teenaged spazziness to her Glinda that’s especially delightful. A pair of three-named actresses haven’t delivered like this since Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar starred in I Know What You Did Last Summer.

2. “Defying Gravity” is a banger, y’all. And the best part is how both the show, and Schwartz, clearly know it. From the second its opening bars start creeping up underneath Elphaba’s big pre-intermission turn, it’s like Wicked is dramatically rolling up its sleeves, giving you a long, slow wink and declaring “this is the good part.”  

3. The lighting effect that designer Kenneth Posner uses to make Elphaba fly during the climax of “Defying Gravity” is almost as rocking as the song itself. Almost, but not quite. The song itself has the edge, if only because it can be drunkenly recreated at college parties and karaoke nights.

4. Elphaba’s arc takes her from straight-A student—under the tutelage of the aptly named Madame Morrible (Broadway vet Judy Kaye)—to radical rebel after she realizes that the Wizard of Oz (“hey it’s that guy” vet Tom McGowan) is actually a cruel tyrant perpetuating a society built on systemic prejudice and injustice. Basically, Elphaba’s the Antifa of Oz. And if you disagree with this take, I’m sorry. It’s canon now.

5. Jon Robert Hall makes for a great Fiyero, but the character seems unnecessary now. Does this story really need a love triangle to help drive Glinda and Elphaba apart? Why does there need to be a man at all? Why can’t Glinda and Elphaba be a couple? Wicked is screaming for a queer reboot.

6. I had no idea coming in that the second half of the show takes place during the events of The Wizard of Oz. I thought the entire thing was prequel. Huh. The more you know, right? Also, did I miss this scene in the original where the Tin Man whips up an angry mob to hunt down the Wicked Witch of the West? Was that on the DVD extras?

7. Wait, did Elphaba’s sister NessaRose (Catherine Charlebois) really enslave all the Munchkins just so that she could keep her crush Boq (Robin de Jesus) by her side? Was there not a better, less autocratic way to accomplish this? Is she actually the worst? Considering Elphaba’s complete character rehabilitation, her willingness to overlooking this is… odd.

8. The only major issue present on opening night was the sound mixing. The actors’ voices were oftentimes put too low in the mix. Hopefully, this is fixed moving forward. This is Wicked, not a Pavement album. We want to hear them sing.

9. What if someone saw this show who had never seen or even heard of The Wizard of Oz? It’s a fun little private commentary track to play in your head as the show bops along. They’d still have a great time, the show doesn’t allow for anything else. But they would be so very confused.

Oriental Theatre. Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Winnie Holzman. Directed by Joe Mantello. With Mary Kate Morrissey, Ginna Claire Mason, Judy Kaye, Tom McGowan, Jon Robert Hall, Catherine Charlesbois, Robin de Jesus, Harry Bouvy, Catherine Charlebois, Harry Bouvy, and ensemble cast. Running time: two hours and 45 minutes; one intermission.

Written by
Alex Huntsberger


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