BWW Reviews: WICKED Flies High in Austin Due to Outstanding Supporting Cast
Wicked certainly has an interesting reputation among theatergoers. Some theater fanatics love the show. Others hate it. I've always found myself somewhere in the middle. Wicked certainly has both flaws and merits, but to those who only see its flaws, I have this observation to share. Of all the long running shows currently on Broadway, there are only three that feature more than one female lead. Of those three shows, only one involves female leads who aren't merry murderesses and aren't singing ABBA tunes. So kudos to Wicked, and kudos to the touring production currently in Austin for making it easier to see the shows merits and more difficult to see the show's flaws.
Needless to say, the Wizard of Oz prequel is just as big a spectacle as it was when it premiered on Broadway 10 years ago. It's as sparkly, dazzling, and showy as the Emerald City itself. Eugene Lee's clock-themed set is still impressive, as are Kenneth Posner's lighting, Wayne Cilento's energetic choreography, and Susan Hilferty's asymmetric costumes (though one of Glinda's poofy gowns has lost some of its poof).
But what really makes this production of Wicked take flight is the cast. With his matinee idol looks and pop/rock voice, Matt Shingledecker gives a fantastic performance as Fiyero. While the role sometimes feels a bit underwritten (one of those Wicked flaws), Shingledecker works wonders with the material he has and even manages to give Fiyero a clear character arc. Broadway veteran Kathy Fitzgerald is perfectly cast as the villainous Madame Morrible. Fitzgerald's performance is cut from the same cloth as the original Broadway portrayal by Carole Shelley. Her take on the role is a touch British, incredibly proper, and altogether terrifying.
As Glinda, Hayley Podschun is the cornerstone of the production. Like some of the Glindas who have come before her, Podschun is a beautiful blonde soprano with a gift for comedy and the ability to play deeper, sometimes darker emotions. Between her voice and comedic timing, Podschun may make you think of Kristin Chenoweth and Megan Hilty, and there are even times where you may see similarities between Glinda and Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. If Glinda were to fail her classes at Shiz University, perhaps she could transfer to Harvard Law.
Unfortunately, at the performance I saw, Glinda's counterpart was portrayed by standby Alyssa Fox. While Fox turned in a passable performance as Elphaba, she didn't wow. Any actress playing Elphaba, the power-ballad-belting green one, must give the role everything she has. Fox doesn't defy gravity. She merely hovers a few feet above the ground. Each of her major solos-"The Wizard and I," "I'm Not That Girl," "Defying Gravity," and "No Good Deed"-were all finely sung but not entirely memorable, and her acting was the same. That's not to say that Fox was bad. She was just underwhelming, and seeing her among an incredible cast exacerbated the problem. Hopefully Jennifer DiNola, who plays Elphaba at most performances, fares better.
But one unmemorable performance does not necessarily make or break a show. For those who have never seen Wicked, a trip to Bass Concert Hall is certain to entertain, and even for those who have seen the show, this tour does not disappoint.
Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
WICKED plays Bass Concert Hall at 2350 Robert Dedman Dr, Austin, TX 78712 now thru March 9th. Performances are Tuesdays thru Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 1pm and 7pm. Tickets are $44 - $174. For tickets and more information, please visit http://austin.broadway.com