Wednesday, November 30, 2011

review - WICKED

book by Winnie Holzman
music & lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
directed by Joe Mantello
Pantages Theatre
through Jan 29
katie rose clarke as glinda
mamie parris as elphaba
As familiar and beloved as The Wizard of Oz? Not quite, but getting there, slowly but surely, Wicked has an international fan following to boggle the mind. And it has sold more t-shirts than any show in Broadway history. Now in a return engagement at the Pantages, this scaled down tour of Wicked still catches fire, due mostly to a gifted cast.

The sets are smaller and the ensemble has a few less singers/dancers,
more noticeable in the big chorus numbers like the opener "No One Mourns the Wicked", but what is there is choice, as they say. Katie Rose Clarke is spectacular as Glinda, with a voice perhaps more beautiful than any other Glinda to date and enough spunky humor and energy for a whole batch of self-absorbed Glindas. Mamie Parris as Elphaba comes through terrifically on her big numbers like "Defying Gravity" and is overall very good, but is less dynamic than say... Eden Espinosa or Stephanie Block, who went several steps beyond. Parris pulls her Elphaba inward, focusing on her intelligent individuality. Kyle Dean Massey makes a delightfully effective and sexy Fyero, and Mark Jacoby and Liz McCartney are nothing short of fabulous as the Wizard and Madame Morrible respectively. At last I was able to understand every word uttered by Madame Morrible.
liz mccartney as madame morrible
Character actresses in the past have concentrated on the eccentricities and forgotten that they are speaking English. Justin Brill makes a dutiful Boq and Stephanie Brown i s fetching as Nessarose. Paul Slade Smith is wonderfully on target as the poor creature Doctor Dillamond. In conclusion, some of the subtleties brought by past actors may be missing, but as a whole everyone and everything works in fine 
tune, with Joe Mantello's original direction and Wayne Cilento's musical staging magically in tact.

kyle dean massey
Many have argued in the past that writer Winnie Holzman spends too much time in Act II incorporating and tying up loose ends with Wizard of Oz plot threads. But what fun to see how the tin man, cowardly lion and scarecrow came into the picture. And nobody can argue against the humor generated from Elphaba defaming that little girl from Kansas for stealing her sister's shoes. As far as Stephen Schwartz' score is concerned, in my mind there are no more beautiful ballads than "I'm Not That Girl" and especially "For Good". Really listen to the lyrics of the latter; it will reduce you to tears and make you rethink the true value of friendship.

One question that has undoubtedly arisen is "Why Wicked again? It had such a long run the first time around." All I can say in response to this is the show has brought thousands of young people into the theatre and has made musical theatre fans out of them. They adore the score, play the CD, sing the songs and cannot wait to go back to the theatre to see it again. If it takes something Wicked to do this, that's just fine, as our musical theatre is in desperate need of loving, caring admirers.
This Wicked is wickedly good fun and with just the right amount of heart to make it totally worthwhile. Tickets make a great Christmas present for the entire family.

5 out of 5 stars

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