BWW Review: WICKED at Oriental Theatre
It doesn't matter how many times you watch Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, fly to rafters at the end of Defying Gravity. You still get the chills during this classic moment in the musical, WICKED. It strikes a chord with you and has you cheering for "the green girl." You know, the villain from The Wizard of Oz.
In WICKED, currently running at The Oriental Theatre, we learn the backstory of Glinda (Ginna Claire Mason) "the good," and Elphaba (Mary Kate Morrissey) "the bad" witches of Oz. Audiences watch as the pair meet in school and overcome strong differences to become best friends. Their journey to Oz, where Elphaba is to meet The Wizard (Tom McGowan) is quickly marred by his tricks. He is aided by the devious Madame Morrible (Judy Kaye) who has worked her way up the ladder. Elphaba is made out to be evil and flees to save her life. She leaves Glinda behind, who in turn becomes an influential leader in Oz.
Act two mirrors the plot of The Wizard of Oz, and we see Elphaba trying to correct her deeds and save the ones she loves. This includes her unexpected suitor, Fieyro (Jon Robert Hall), and her sister, Nessarose (Catherine Charlebois), who spends most of her life confined to a wheelchair. Elphaba and Glinda go their separate ways, but each takes with them what they have learned from one other.
Morrissey plays Elphaba more gruff and droll than others I've seen, but it certainly works for a character who has been bullied and ostracized most of her life. Her voice and presence are warm and genuine on songs like "I'm Not That Girl" and "For Good." Mason has wonderful comic timing and her Glinda has a sincerity that comes through in her struggle of ego versus heart.
Kaye's portrayal of Madame Morrible is one of the best that I've seen. She hits all the right notes as we watch her spin the web which leads to her demise. As Nessarose, Charelebois is also a standout, deftly taking us on her journey of internal conflict and heartbreak.
McGowan's turn as the Wizard is filled with delight and angst as he struggles with who he is and has become. Harry Bouvy as Doctor Dillamond and Robin De Jesus as Boq, both make the most of their time on stage resulting in touching performances that leave us wanting more.
This touring production has all grandeur you would expect from WICKED, incorporating the original direction of Joe Mantello. With a remarkable set by Eugene Lee, brilliant costumes by Susan Hilferty, and dazzling lights and sound by Kenneth Posner and Tony Meola, the world of Oz comes to life in all of its quirky and emerald glory.
WICKED begs the question, "Are people born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?" As you watch the story unfold, you may be surprised at how your answer changes and exactly who is wicked after all.
Tickets for WICKED are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000 and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com.