Review: WICKED at Wharton Center Bewitches Audiences With a Legendary Story Told by a Star-bound Cast

Immerse yourself in the land of Oz at Wharton Center, now through May 28th only.

By: May. 17, 2023
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Review: WICKED at Wharton Center Bewitches Audiences With a Legendary Story Told by a Star-bound Cast
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Wicked, the 20-year Broadway sensation, is making its comeback at Wharton Center until May 28th, 3 years after the pandemic forced the tour to close down just before coming to East Lansing. After premiering on Broadway in 2003, Wicked received 3 awards at the 2004 Tony Awards, and has been touring North America ever since 2005. In that time, Wicked has come to Wharton Center several times, the last being in 2016.

Based on The Wizard of Oz, Wicked tells the origin stories of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda the Good. The musical provides backstories on these characters, as well as on the Wizard himself, the lion, the tinman, the scarecrow, and more. It makes audiences think about what "good" and "wicked" really means, and it accomplishes this with all of its spectacular, magical glory.

Despite being based on a very American piece of media, Wicked has found success all over the world on nearly every continent, and for good reason. One could point to the scenic design, costuming, and infectious Broadway classics as to reasons why it's stood up over time. And while these are all undoubtedly part of why Wicked was a classic the moment it hit Broadway in 2003, it also has to do with the heart of the story - a young woman, lonely and ostracized, finding friendship with another young woman, who grows up to find that her dreams aren't all she'd thought they'd be. As long as you go in with an open mind and an open heart, you will find some part of yourself in any of these fantastical characters, regardless of age or gender.

As Christian Thompson said in our interview: "The touring production [of Wicked] does not lack in magic or talent in any way, shape or form. You are seeing a top-notch production of Wicked." And this statement has certainly been accurate for every production of Wicked that's visited East Lansing. The scenery and lighting are just as awe-inspiring as any other production, the costuming is to melt for, and the orchestrations flawlessly catapult you into this beloved fantasy world.

Wharton Center audiences also have the privilege of seeing some of the cast members in their first few weeks or months on the tour. Leads Olivia Valli and Celia Hottenstein as Elphaba and Glinda respectively both only joined the tour earlier this month. Despite having both been in Wicked before, Hottenstein and Valli infuse this production with a bright enthusiasm that elevates the entire cast. Hottenstein's Glinda is equal parts hilarious and vulnerable, while Valli's Elphaba is youthful throughout, but undeniably powerful. Two of their best performances were in the songs "Thank Goodness" and "No Good Deed," but that being said - Wicked is a show where the actors really need to portray their characters with their whole being. And this current tour cast undoubtedly fulfills this expectation, and even more.

Olivia Valli as Elphaba in the National Tour of Wicked
Photo by Joan Marcus

It's clearly no secret that Wicked is a feast for the senses. But when you go into this show prepared to be privy to an impactful story that's been inspiring audiences for decades, your mind gets a treat as well. I fully believe it's a blessing that this show comes around to Michigan every few years for this reason. Shows like this, with a strong message and even stronger storytelling techniques, make the world a better, more enjoyable place to live in.

Tickets for Wicked are on sale now at Wharton Center's official ticketing outlets: online at, at the Auto-Owners Insurance Ticket Office at Wharton Center, or by calling 1-800-WHARTON.

To keep updated with Wicked as they travel around the country on their national tour, visit their website at, and follow them on Twitter at @wicked_musical, on Instagram at @wicked_musical and on Facebook at

Photo: Celia Hottenstein as Glinda in the National Tour of Wicked by Joan Marcus