BWW Reviews: WICKED at Tennessee Performing Arts Center
The ever popular (pun intended) and fantastic Wicked is currently playing Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville. With a star studded cast, many coming from the Broadway and West End productions of Wicked, this touring cast storms onto the stage and grasps the audience from the first scene. For those of you who may not have heard of Wicked (do you live under a rock?), this musical is based on a novel by Gregory Maguire, with a book by Winnie Holzman and music & lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.
Everyone knows the story of The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy arrives in Oz and must find the Wizard and defeat an evil witch to make it back home to her beloved Kansas. Wicked is an entirely different spin on the story. Wicked takes you back, to before Dorothy got to Oz. How did the wicked witches become wicked? How did Glinda the Good Witch become good? This is where Wicked steps in and fills in all those blanks. It truly is the "untold stories of the witches of Oz."
While some may think this could be a boring musical for children, trust me when I say that it is far from that. While this is a show that children will enjoy, Wicked delves much deeper into human nature than most "children's" shows. Wicked gives a hard look at how the choices we make define our lives, and how difficult it can be to be different and to stand for what you believe in.
Alison Luff plays the role of Elphaba, a young and different girl. Her green skin makes her an outcast at the school she's attending. Glinda, played by Gina Beck, is the belle of the ball. The quintessential "golden child," Glinda has no problems getting her way until she meets her new school roommate. Enemies from the start, Glinda and Elphaba learn much about themselves and each other throughout their stories.
Beck's Glinda is full of youth and joy. She's ridiculous...and ridiculously funny. Her facial expressions and over the top physical comedy had me laughing so hard at times that I snorted. While her fun moments, like the hilarious "Popular" number, allow her comedic abilities to shine, Beck is also able to be serious when needed. There are some deep, heart-wrenching moments for Glinda, and Beck handles them with ease. Alison Luff has a mountain to climb when it comes to playing Elphaba. A seriously demanding role, Elphaba is a multi-layered character with some extremely demanding vocal numbers and emotional moments. Luff introduces us to Elphaba when she is young and optimistic, in spite of her jaded lack of trust in those around her. Luff makes audiences fall in love with Elphaba and cheer her on the entire time. Her shining moment in the show, besides the show-stopping act 1 finale "Defying Gravity," was her opening number "The Wizard and I." I adored her youthful anticipation of meeting the Wizard.
Fiyero, the love interest of the show, is played by Nick Adams. The character of Fiyero goes through some major character arcs, going from flippant and playful, to serious and dedicated. Adams attacks the role of Fiyero with gusto, comes out with his introductory number, "Dancing Through Life," and makes you love him. His ability to make the audience see the changes that Fiyero goes through, and the maturity of the character throughout the show is spectacular. Most importantly, he has fantastic chemistry with both Luff and Beck, bringing this trio together in a beautiful way. Luff, Beck and Adams present a beautiful and charismatic trio of friends, each of them bringing their own touch to the group.
Other amazing standouts in the cast (the entire cast was spectacular) were Alison Fraser as school head mistress Madame Morrible, and the Wizard himself, played by Tim Kazurinsky. Both were amazing. Fraser made Morrible as horrible as her name sounds, but in all the right ways. Kazurinsky's Wizard was both charming and funny, while still being the fraud we all know the Wizard to be.
The set, by Eugene Lee, is a character of the show all on its own. There are times the set is so fluid and the actors so intense, that you can be concentrating on the actors and look up and then entire set has changed. It really is a sight to behold. The lighting, by Kenneth Posner, is much the same. The most notable, and obvious moment of lighting is during "Defying Gravity" in which Elphaba is lit so beautifully, that it gives even more power and emphasis to the already powerful number.
Wicked is most certainly a theatrical experience. Don't miss your chance to see this show while it's in Nashville. You can experience Wicked at Tennessee Performing Arts Center through April 20th. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling the box office at 1-877-216-7540.
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