Review: WICKED at Nederlander Theatre

Production runs through December 4

By: Sep. 30, 2022
Review: WICKED at Nederlander Theatre
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Wicked is back in Chicago. The first time it played here, it ran for more than three and a half years. Directed by Joe Mantello, musical staging (choreography) by Wayne Cilento and a stunning set by Eugene Lee along with the lighting by Kenneth Posner once again transports the audience back to Oz and the audience still loves it. Before entering the Nederlander Theatre, someone within the organization was handing out green I've Seen Wicked (fill in the blank) Times! The numbers I saw ranged from 0 to 21.

There were several children in the audience dressed in their Glinda finery. Wicked turns 20 in 2023. The lyrics and music are by Stephen Schwartz with a book by Winnie Holtzman which is actually based on the novel by Gregory Maguire which went deeper into the Oz story - how Glinda (played perfectly by Jennafer Newberry) and Elphaba (the incredibly versatile Lissa deGuzman) met, became friends, parted ways and then reunited. This story shows Glinda as being self-centered ("It's good to see me") and not very caring at all. Elphaba, on the other hand, is a very caring person - for humans and animals. She has been an outsider all her life because she is green.

She and Glinda are roommates in college. Elphi is there only because her father wants her to watch over her sister Nessarose (Kimberly Immanuel) because she is in a wheelchair. This is a backstory to the Wicked Witch of the East. Then there is a love triangle between Elphi, Glinda and Fiyero (Jordan Litz). Glinda steals him from Elphi because that is what is right for Glinda. Many who have seen this show try to connect everything from Wicked to The Wizard of Oz. It's not hard to do. Make sure you don't over analyze - enjoy this story for what it is and the amazing way it is presented, especially the end of Act I where Elphaba defys gravity and then some. A spectacular moment in musical theater.

As the story progresses, we learn the truth about Elphi's mother and father and why she is green. There are also circumstances as to why the house fell on Nessarose. There are wonderful shadow images telling different parts of the story. Yes there are flying monkeys.

This talented cast included several performers stepping into roles including Andy Richardson as munchkin Boq and the Midwife being played by Kelly Lafarga. Understudies and swings - we applaud and thank you!!

This production is stunning both visually and vocally. Costumes, lights, sets, the orchestra under the direction of Evan Roider keeps the audience wanting more. Wicked is more than the backstory of the witches of Oz. It is the ultimate story of friendship, love, and forgiveness. It also asks the question "Is someone born wicked?"

I believe that if any of us were mistreated or bullied or not accepted we could very well become "Wicked". You will laugh and cry, gasp and cheer. This is a beautiful story which should be seen. Welcome back to Chicago Wicked! If you can, see it with someone you care for. As the song says "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good". That's all anyone can ask for.