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At least one critic loves "Wicked" !

Rusty
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At least one critic loves "Wicked" !#0
Posted: 11/1/03 at 8:48am
October 31, 2003

By MICHAEL SOMMERS
NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE

Truly an enchanting musical, "Wicked" is a fabulous new Oz fable for the 21st century.

Extravagant in ambitions and looks, the rich, enthralling tuner whirled into the Gershwin Theatre Thursday night, delivering the sort of classic musical theater sensibilities and spectacle that make Broadway at its best such an unforgettable experience.

Imaginatively derived more from the early portions of Gregory Maguire's delightful novel than the arc of the 1939 movie classic, the musical follows the unlikely friendship between the so-called good and wicked witches of that beloved alternate universe known as the Land of Oz.

Beginning with a smoke-fuming mechanical dragon, an amazing meltdown and a swelling "No One Mourns the Wicked" chorale, the mostly pre-Dorothy saga is rendered as a flashback.

At first, as mismatched college roomies, bubbly Glinda and brooding Elphaba loathe each other. After they recognize each other's best qualities, the sociable blonde and the green-tinted geek become inseparable chums.

Then politics and a mutual yen for the same guy bedevil them. Glinda turns into a joy-spreading shill for the Wizard's dubious regime. Elphaba employs her sorcery skills to defy his repressive policies. Somehow their girlhood bond survives betrayal and loss. "Because I knew you," they sing at last, "I have been changed for good."

Such scanty description does not account for the ingenuity of Winnie Holzman's clever text or the surging melodiousness of Stephen Schwartz's score in conveying the intricate story. With its touching study in feminine friendship and fun fracturing of Oz mythology, the dramatic musical illuminating the darker side of the rainbow is meant more for adult (or at least age 12 and up) consumption.

Despite its superior entertainment values, the show isn't perfect; a few moments veer into camp ("Take a dead woman's shoes!" Elphaba shrieks at an offstage Dorothy. "Must've been raised in a barn!"), while an otherwise jaunty vaudeville-style number for the Wizard appears too much like a deliberate -- albeit pleasant -- diversion from a frequently sorrowful second act.

Splendid performances and a dazzling visual production ease bumpy spots along the Yellow Brick Road, however, and the show is destined to be one of Broadway's must-see wonders.

A compelling Idina Menzel depicts misunderstood Elphaba with supersonic musicality as she believably and passionately charts her character's evolution from awkwardness to militancy. Menzel's fierce, literally high-flying "Defying Gravity" first-act finale makes the crowd roar.

With the effervescent "Popularity" as her trademark aria, an endearing Kristin Chenoweth is superb, her glittering soprano and kittenish airs delineating Glinda's transformation from sorority princess to ice queen.

Together, they're a pair of bewitching misses whose luminosity is never overshadowed by the fearsome splendor of designer Eugene Lee's eccentric Industrial Age of an Oz, which glows under Kenneth Posner's color-suffused lighting.

Wittily dressed by Susan Hilferty, the featured players are a treat. Joel Grey makes a whimsical Wizard, Norbert Leo Butz is appealing as an easygoing student prince and Carole Shelley is grand as a shifty schoolmarm. Whether winged monkeys or college kids, the ensemble whips expertly through choreographer Wayne Cilento's tumultuous musical staging.

Director Joe Mantello's production is a marvel of organization and inventiveness. Lusciously composed, smartly written and beautifully staged, "Wicked" is one of the rare shows in town that justifies a $100 ticket. The cost is easily paid back in memories alone.

Michael Sommers is theater critic for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He can be contacted at msommers@starledger.com.








actorboy
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re: At least one critic loves 'Wicked' !#1
Posted: 11/1/03 at 9:10am
Also very positive reviews from USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Also Jeffrey Lyons raved on Live at Five (NBC) last night.
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Who's Michael Sommers?
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re: At least one critic loves 'Wicked' !#3
Posted: 11/1/03 at 9:59am
How dare he rave about Wicked . Doesn't he know , from his fellow critics, he was not supposed to like it ?
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Ok..I've read 80% of everything written about this puppy from the SF previews to openning night reviews...from critics to fans.

I've had a curious interest in this since I chatted with Mr. Schwartz two summers ago after one of his concerts where he introduced the audience to some of the music and story. Sounded cool, so I've followed it. I haven't gotten my tickets yet...so..

I don't think any of the critics truly "hate" nor "love" Wicked. They, like many of the fans have picked out weakness and strengths. The overall opinion from what I've observed is...

1. Wicked is a unique, cutesy show. 2. strengths: the girls! and the sets, a bit of clever tongue-in cheek humor and nostalgic, charming references to the original beloved show. A few nice, glitsy scenes with a bit of magic.

3. weaknesses: the score, mediorce at best 4. unimpressive choreog. 5. plot is muddy, characters are undeveloped and it labors on too long in spots.

I aggree with many of the people, including some of the critics who think it will be a big short-term hit (6 mos.- year) because 1. Schwartz is a name and his shows 'generally' sell 2. the Oz- like story line is popular and will attract fans of all ages 3. it will definetely get major Tony attention...again no predictions.

BUT... take away Idina & Kristin = big trouble. Nope, I didn't see it ...yet. It doesn't appear to have the right ingredients to stand 'on show alone' for long. Nope, I've got no crystal ball. Yep, purely speculation.

Disecting this baby, bit by bit, critics to fans, pros & cons, book to score, blah, blah ,blah ..aint' gonna amount to a hill of beans if the show can't cut the mustard without two dynomite female leads. I don't think it will have the cult- like following ( Saigon, JCS, J&H, Tommy) to flost the boat beyond a year. Clever creativity, but same old, same old...just a different show this time.

I do plan on seeing and enjoying the fun! Just my view, as always.
www.pbentertainmentinc.com BWW regional writer "Philadelphia/South Jersey"
Updated On: 11/1/03 at 10:35 AM
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Phantom05
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I agree, I have read all of the reviews on WICKED, and only a small handful of them were negative. I think that wicked will definitely be able to withstand any negative reviews, and hopefully have a good run!

See Ya!

Phantom05
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Updated On: 11/1/03 at 12:00 PM
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There was a review on NY1 yesterday with some good clips.