Saturday, August 29, 2015

theatre review - WICKED National Tour: ASU/Gammage - August 27

Alyssa Fox and Carrie St. Louis
Photo: Joan Marcus
highlights from my review at - click here to read the complete review

"The Broadway musical Wicked is a phenomenon. About to celebrate its 12th anniversary on Broadway and still running in London, the show has launched two National Tours and there have been successful productions in numerous cities around the world...The national tour of the popular musical just opened at ASU/Gammage for a six week run, the third time the show has come to the Phoenix area, and this tour boasts a superb cast and creative elements that deliver an energetic and emotionally fulfilling experience.  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 bestselling novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire. 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 that Holzman and Schwartz 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 adds another layer to the storytelling that includes many fun surprises. Schwartz’ score is full of high energy and tuneful showstoppers. There are many twists and turns in the story, so no spoiler alerts for those who haven’t seen it, but the basic plot overview 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?" ...The current tour cast includes Alyssa Fox as Elphaba and Carrie St. Louis as Galinda, both of whom completely instill the characters with the drive and power that the original Broadway leads Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth did as well. They both embody their parts with ease, making them original, though St. Louis is a bit wackier than actresses I’ve seen in the part before, though she does have impeccable comic timing. They are also both very good singers, with St. Louis hitting some glorious high notes and Burns a powerhouse who belts out her big solos with a roar, including the showstopper "Defying Gravity" that she delivers with ease. The two form a great, believable partnership and make the characters their own....On opening night at Gammage, understudy and Phoenix native Beka Burnham was on for Liana Hunt as Nessarose, Elphaba’s sister. Burnham is a 2014 graduate from the Boston Conservatory who just celebrated her one year anniversary on the tour and the first time she saw Wicked was here on the Gammage stage. So it was nice to see a local girl in one of the main parts in the show and, even at such a young age, delivering an accomplished, nuanced portrayal. The production boasts... exceptional production aspects almost identical to Broadway with just a few small modifications in the physical aspect of the show to allow it to easily tour. This is the first time I’ve seen a tour of this show, having seen the musical numerous times on Broadway, so it’s nice to see that audiences outside of New York City get a production that is on par with the one on Broadway and that the cast is as good as ones I’ve seen in New York...."

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