Posts Tagged ‘wayne cilento’

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Book by Winnie Holzman

Based on the Novel by Gregory McGuire
Musical Staging by Wayne Cilento
Directed by Joe Mantello
The Fox Theatre
December 10, 2015

Cast of Wicked Photo by Joan Marcus Wicked US National Tour

Cast of Wicked
Photo by Joan Marcus
Wicked North American Tour

It seems like Wicked has become something more of a phenomenon than simply a musical. It’s one of those shows that’s so beloved and that has such a devoted following that it has essentially become “critic-proof”. No matter what I or other reviewers say about the current touring production at the Fox, positive or negative, people will see it and love it. Still, it’s my job to write what I think, and I think the current production is, for the most part, excellent.

Wicked is basically a revisionist take on The Wizard of Oz, focusing on the “good witch” Glinda (Amanda Jane Cooper) and the “Wicked Witch of the West”, or as she is called here, Elphaba (Mary Kate Morrissey, standing in for principal Emily Koch). This story takes everything you think you know about the Oz story and turns it around, where the witches are given backstories and the villains aren’t who you might think they are. In fact, both Elphaba and Glinda, although each has flaws, are portrayed as sympathetic college roommates, with Elphaba being the more misunderstood outcast (because she’s green) and Glinda the more outgoing personality who is well-loved by her fellow students. After initial animosity demonstrated in the production number “What Is This Feeling?” an unlikely friendship is eventually formed, but the story doesn’t end there. Presenting a unique twist on various Oz characters, we meet the cast of varying characters such as Elphaba’s despondent sister Nessarose (Megan Masako Haley), who is obsessed with the Munchkin Boq (Sam Seferian), who is in turn infatuated with Glinda. There’s also the self-absorbed prince Fiyero (Jake Boyd) who becomes involved with both Glinda and Elphaba. The story also involves something of a politcal plot that involves the illustrious Wizard himself (Stuart Zagnit) and the university’s scheming headmistress, Madame Morrible (Wendy Worthington). Needless to say, there’s a lot of plot, although the emphasis throughout is on the development of the Elphaba and Glinda characters and their growing and changing relationship.

I have to admit that, when it comes to this show, I’m in the “like it but don’t love it” camp. It’s an entertaining enough show, with some memorable music including the signature power ballads for Elphaba, “The Wizard and I” and “Defying Gravity” as well as the perky “Popular” for Glinda and some memorable production numbers like “What Is This Feeling” and “One Short Day”. The best thing about the show is the developing friendship between the two main characters, and the way each character grows and changes. Still, there are some clunky lyrics and the dramatic tone changes a little too quickly once the characters get to the Emerald City, and the ending… Well, I won’t spoil it, but I think it’s not a little contrived. Wicked is a good show, but I don’t think it’s a great one, and I know some fans will passionately disagree with me about that.

Despite my personal opinion about the show itself, it’s certainly a crowd-pleaser that resonates profoundly with its fans, and it can be extremely entertaining with some genuinely moving moments. As presented on tour, the production values are top-notch, with vibrant settings by Eugene Lee, colorful costumes by Susan Hilferty, spectacular lighting by Kenneth Posner and special effects by Chic Silber (including the spellbinding “Defying Gravity” sequence). It’s all kind of Steampunk-ish with gears everywhere and mechanical devices like a giant dragon that surmounts the stage and the “bubble” in which Glinda arrives to start the show. It’s all very stylish and extremely well-executed, except for the sound, which was so choppy at times that it was difficult to understand the words to the songs, especially in the production numbers in the first act. If I didn’t already know the songs, I probably would have been at a loss. Otherwise, it’s a well-presented show, with strong, dynamic staging that moves the story along well.

The cast is excellent as well. Cooper as Glinda was a standout for me, making her tour debut in St.Louis and doing an excellent job, portraying the character’s bubbly energy well, but especially coming alive in the second act as her character matures and is called upon to display more leadership qualities. Morrissey, the stand-by for Elaphaba, is also excellent, with strong stage presence and a great voice for those big songs. Her chemistry with Cooper is excellent, as is that with the amiable Boyd in the somewhat underwritten role of Fiyero. There are also extremely strong performances from Zagnit as the conflicted Wizard and Worthington as the conniving Madame Morrible. There are fine performances all around, in fact, and an energetic ensemble that performs well in the show’s production numbers.

Wicked is Wicked, simply stated. It’s an entertaining show that offers an alternative take on the familiar Oz tale, and it’s staged with energy and flair. As presented by the current North American touring company at the Fabulous Fox, this Wicked is a big, stylish, thoroughly enjoyable production.

Cast of Wicked Photo by Joan Marcus Wicked North American Tour

Cast of Wicked
Photo by Joan Marcus
Wicked North American Tour

 The North American touring production of Wicked runs at the Fox Theatre until January 3, 2016.

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