Playing to a packed house at the Murat Theatre this past Thursday evening, the national touring company of Wicked electrified the audience with a dynamic performance enhanced by fantastical (as befitting the show’s subject matter) special effects, lighting, sound, sets, and costumes.
Ultimately though, it was the book and score for this musical about what happened prior to Dorothy Gale from Kansas showing up in Muchinkland, that made for an experience that was uplifting as it was entertaining.
Based on the best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, with references to the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz,Wicked isthe untold story of the witches of Oz. A three time 2004 Tony award winner, it’s music and lyrics areby Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, and Academy Award-winner for Pocahontas and The Prince of Egypt) and book by Winnie Holzman (My So Called Life, Once And Again and thirtysomething).
Wicked recounts the story of the relationship between Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (she’s from the North in the film). The two are polar opposites who manage to maintain a friendship despite the fact that their personalities are radically different; are attracted to the same man (Prince Fiyero); have conflicting political viewpoints; and together endure Elphaba’s eventual fall from grace.
Featuring a uniformly talented cast of actor/singer/dancers, this production had no shortage of superb solo and ensemble performances—all informed by the tight direction of Joe Mantello, musical staging of Wayne Cilento and music supervision of Steven Oreumus.
Playing the role of Elphaba who perseveres with integrity and strength, despite being misunderstood, discriminated against and victimized, was Vicki Noon. Singing the show’s most well known tune, “Defying Gravity” while suspended high above the stage, Noon thrilled the audience with her considerable vocal abilities and presence.
Standing in for the performer who normally plays the role of the vain, ditzy, yet good-hearted Glinda, in this production, was Rachel Potter. Watching Potter perform to near-perfection, one could not help but wonder how much better (other than Kristin Chenoweth who originated the role) anyone else could have interpreted the role. Captivating in every scene in which she appeared, Potter was especially delightful in “Dancing Through Life,” the point during which her character bonds with outcast Elphaba during a school dance.
Other distinctive performances included those of Marilyn Caskey as the cunning and villainous Madame Morrible; David De Vries as the kindly animal professor Dr. Dillamond who befriends Elphaba; Chris Peluso as Fiyero, a prince who is both Elphaba and Glinda’s irresistibly charming love interest; Don Amendolia as the disingenuous Wizard; and Zach Hanna as Boq, a munchkin whose unrequited love for Glinda causes his downfall.
In an effort to compete with other forms of entertainment, musical theatre has had to resort to technical wizadry in order to give audiences what they have come to expect in films, television and concerts.The only downside to that effort, in the case of Wicked, was the over-amplification of sound that made it difficult to clearly hear lyrics in many of the show’s songs. It was an unfortunate flaw in an otherwise satisfying journey into fantasy.
Wicked will play the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre through January 1. Tickets are available at ticketmaster.com/wicked and broadwayacrossamerica.com. Tickets are alsoavailable for sale in person at the Murat Box Office, Clowes Hall Box Office and Broadway Across America office (342 Massachusetts Ave) and by phone at 800-982-2787, beginning at 10 a.m.