Friday, December 21, 2012

theatre review WICKED, Broadway, December 5

The Broadway musical Wicked is a phenomenon. Having run for over nine years and launched National Tours, a production that is still running in London and various other productions in other cities around the world, it is a show that many people have seen, including many people who have seen it many times. We fall into that later category having attended the show something like five times during the first two years of its Broadway run.

So with relatives coming to town who wanted to see the show, we got tickets and it was very interesting seeing this production with a cast we'd never seen before and a show we hadn't seen in something like seven years. Wicked is a show that definitely has its haters, but there is so much to connect to in the show and so many different themes and layers that it is no wonder that so many people like it and, like us, have returned to it over and over again.

Telling the back story of the Wicked Witch of the West and how she got to be that way and given that name, the musical is based on the best selling novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire.  And while the main theme and characters of the musical are the same as the novel, there are many changes that book writer Winnie Holzman and composer Stephen Schwartz made to make the story and characters more accessible and as a result created a show that so many people fell in love with. The way they were also able to connect this version of the story to things we all know and love from the movie The Wizard of Oz also added another layer to the storytelling.

Jackie Burns
There are many twists and surprises in the story, so I won't reveal too much but the main story follows Elphaba and Galinda, from the time they meet at college to their later years when Elphaba has become the Wicked Witch of the West and Galinda has become Glinda the Good Witch of the North. But, to quote a line from the show, was Elphaba "born wicked, or did she have wickedness thrust upon her?" You see, the musical shows that sometimes what people are told or think they know about a person isn't always the truth, especially when public figures make comments that are really lies about people who are in the way of achieving their personal goals.  The musical has other themes and layers, including that beauty truly is what's inside, that sometimes the worst of enemies can become the best of friends, that a simple personal choice can sometimes create great change and even that stupid, rich and handsome college boys may not be so stupid after all.

Alli Mauzey
The current Broadway cast includes Jackie Burns as Elphaba and Alli Mauzey as Galinda, both of whom completely instill the characters with the drive and power that the original Broadway leads Idina Menzel and Kristen Cheoweth did.  They are also very good singers, though Mauzey was a little weak in the opening sequence, so I was a little concerned, though she quickly overcame that and exceeded for the rest of the show.  Burns is a powerhouse and belts out her big solos, including the showstopper "Defying Gravity" with ease.

Kyle Dean Massey
Kyle Dean Massey as Fiyero was more age appropriate for the part of a college aged kid than original cast member Norbert Leo Butz, and Massey makes a good romantic lead as well as has a nice clear strong voice.   It's easy to see why both Galinda and Elphaba fall for him.  Adam Grupper as the Wizard was fine in the part, though lacks the showmanship that both original cast member Joel Grey as well as the replacement we saw subsequently, George Hearn, brought to the part.  Randy Danson is both perfectly nice and evil as Madame Morrible.

The production still boasts a top notch ensemble and production credits, which is nice to see nine years after the show opened.  I'm assuming that Director Joe Mantello is dropping by every now and then to ensure the production and the cast is up to snuff. 

Wicked is a show that not everyone loves, but as someone who loved it the first time I saw it in previews back in October of 2003 it still resonates today.  It was actually very interesting seeing the show right after the 2012 Presidential Elections had just passed with all of the false information and name calling that was going back and forth against the candidates.  It really makes you want to fact check everything that anyone says about anyone else.

Official Show Site interview with Jackie Burns- including some clips from the show:

Jackie and Alli "Defy Gravity" on Broadway-

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