BWW Reviews: National Tour of WICKED Rolls Into Hippodrome

For some reason, people have brought a great many little girls to see WICKED. It didn't seem to me a particularly child-friendly novel, but since the musical stage production shares about as much with Gregory Maguire's novel as Disney's Little Mermaid did with the story written by Hans Christian Andersen, that's probably fine.

The tech is amazing, and if you go just for that, you'll get your money's worth, because there's plenty of it. I mean, PLENTY of it. Proscenium, scrims, lighting, effects, costuming, illusions, wigs, curly-toed shoes, things in and out of the fly in many layers, clockwork, makeup, puppetry, articulated mechanics and a particularly clever device to carry Glinda... if you went with earplugs in, you'd still have a full show.

Don't go with earplugs in.

The two leads, Alyssa Fox and Carrie St. Louis, playing Elphaba and Glinda, have wonderful voices and deserve to be heard singing duets. The melodies are cleverly written for feminine harmonies, and they are a delight which makes up for the uninspiring lyrics, which are unavoidable, as they scroll on the left-mounted digital closed-captioning machine in Evilness Green for my viewing displeasure. "Reap what she's sewn," really, PLEASE. I don't blame this mistake on Composer/Lyricist Stephen Schwartz, whose music is lovely to hear done by a full orchestra, which is somewhat more visible than usual- as though the entire pit has been elevated (to accommodate staging mechanics, perhaps?) Alyssa Fox seems actually to interact with the orchestra, a phenomena I'm not sure I've seen before.

Character actors Kristine Zbornik as Madame Morrible and Michael DeVries as Dr. Dillamond are a visual and auditory treat, and are costumed brilliantly. Susan Hilferty has done a wonderful job with costumes, as I am always sure "where" I am, based primarily on what the ensemble is wearing. Tom Watson's hair and wigs do a lovely job supplementing this. There is no separate credit given for the fabulous shoes.

If you're a fan of Maguire's novel Wicked, be prepared. Eugene Lee and his set design people obviously loved the book; Winnie Holzman and her script people, not so much. The major themes of the show are largely traditional ones, refocused for General Public Consumption And Enjoyment. Sociopolitical machinations and intrigue are shunted into minor roles and motivations are adjusted or simplified in ways that are obvious but occasionally irritating. We expect this of musical theatre, however, so it's no dealbreaker.

Setting aside whether WICKED as a show deserves its juggernaut status, the production certainly earns its props. There are several things- the unevenly managed subplot of marginalization, the facile, tacked-on resolution, the inclusion of sub-themes which serve to confuse the plot- that would keep me from categorizing it as 'a great show', but it's certainly an eye-popping production.

There has recently been some controversy among theatre folk about equity vs non-equity touring productions. Currently, the issue is not whether an equity show is 'better' than a non-eq production, but whether the audience members are paying equity-level prices for non-eq shows, and how Average Joe Ticket Buyer can possibly tell the difference, if, indeed, he cares.

One might think that doing a search that included the words Hippodrome, WICKED and equity or non-equity would quickly yield an answer to the question, but it did not. It did lead me to the information that equity status, if the show has it, is listed fairly prominently in the programme, (which of course is yours to peruse AFTER you've purchased a ticket). It led me to the information that sometimes equity tours close and restructure to be smaller, tighter and more efficient before reopening as non-equity tours, often by completely different production companies, especially when cast members have 'aged out' of roles. It led me to the information that there are several non-equity production companies making big money that can't be made by equity tours, due to the constraints and costs of union work. Finally, it led me to an article that pointed me to, where one can check out the equity shows which are/will be playing in a particular target city.

This WICKED tour is equity. Those of you who care about such things can enjoy it guilt-free, and absolutely should.

WICKED plays at The Hippodrome through the 26th of April

12 North Eutaw Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

Sundays 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm

Dark on Mondays

Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm

Saturday matinees at 2:00 pm

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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From This Author Cybele Pomeroy

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