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WICKED: This Is the One That Will Run Forever

By: Mar. 05, 2010
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WICKED:  This Is the One That Will Run Forever

Mom, this one's for you.

My mom is residing in an assisted living facility in the Northeast.  To this day she often reminds me of a time seemingly implanted on her forever.  Her father took her to a movie.  He took her to see THE WIZARD OF OZ starring Judy Garland when Mom was nine years old.  While sitting in the theater he told her to 'watch, watch now' as Dorothy opened the door to her house, and revealed the Land of Oz  A land of colors, at which point the film turned from black and white to color.    Mom often wears a ruby slippers pin and has spread her special connection with the film to many, even to folks outside the family.  WICKED, of course, has some connections to the MGM film.  However, it is based on a novel which dared to actually put a twist on many events portrayed in the classic film.

It's based on the book by Gregory Maguire, which tells the story of the Witches of Oz.   In transporting Mr. Maguire's book from the page to the musical stage, book writer, Winnie Holzman seems to have been sprinkled with Glinda's magic dust.  It is a masterpiece of musical theater wonder.  This is the show which theater lovers don't dare to dream they'll see, but wait for all their lives.  It began with L. Frank Baum and his Oz books.  There is something or some things about his stories, his characters that grab hold of us and never let go.  I mean from childhood through adulthood.  For generations, I believe it was widely thought that it was the character of Dorothy who made the greatest impact on our lives.  Mr. Maguire, putting the witches front and center, has taken that notion and has made it 'changed for good.' (To borrow a lyric from act two.)  

As a companion piece, WICKED the musical, which opened at the Arsht Wednesday night, is superior.  In fact WICKED is one of the great achievements of the musical theater.  Not only does it have the most intelligent book ever to grace a musical, it has the most IMPORTANT book ever to hit a Broadway stage.

As I write this I am still in WICKED afterglow.  Director Joe Mantello deserves the key to Emerald City, heck he deserves the key to whatever city he wants, for his breathtaking work here.  Under his steady hand, all the elements come together, and they work.  They work better than any musical has before.

Oscar winner Stephen Schwartz has provided music and lyrics that are majestically perfect. His songs always move the action and he has created some new 'standards' of the musical theater.  Mr. Schwartz knew that he had magic to do.  To say that he succeeded, is simply because I cannot find the words.

The most towering moment of the show is the act one finale, DEFYING GRAVITY.  Move over ROSE'S TURN, THE MUSIC AND THE MIRROR, and THE RAIN IN SPAIN.  DEFYING GRAVITY shines above them all.  It is the singular most extraordinarily designed and executed piece of theater since theater was invented.

EuGene Lee's settings are remarkable, Susan Hilferty's costumes are fascinating and surprising and the proceedings are bathed in the award winning lighting of a master named Kenneth Posner.  Every professional involved with WICKED is at the top of their game.  ..........And How!

I have seen WICKED many times now and have never seen an Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) or a Glinda (the Good Witch) who was anything short of marvelous.  Chandra Lee Schwartz as Glinda and Donna Vivino as Elphaba bring new heights to the word marvelous.  Ms. Schwartz as Glinda is simply glorious.  She is playful, funny, and heavenly voiced.  She is just great.  It's the character of Elphaba who gets the best songs and the rock star moments.  Ms. Vivino did not need her flying broom to soar above the cheer of the crowd.  She had soared into our hearts long before.



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