BWW Review: Something WICKED This Way Comes

Photo: Joan Marcus

It's hard to imagine this but the musical WICKED is now a teenager. The Stephen Schwartz musical, based on the story of the Wizard of Oz as told from the Wicked Witch of the West's prospective, debuted on Broadway in 2003 and captured theatre goers' rapture and attention.

And with its sudden surge in popularity came a little bit of overkill and backlash. By 2005, some theatres were encouraging singers to avoid using songs from the show in the auditions after hearing hundreds of warbling renditions of "Popular" and "Defying Gravity."

Seeing the most recent version of WICKED at the Ohio Theatre on Aug. 18, however, was like seeing an old friend again. This latest tour, led by a power house duo of Emily Koch (Elphaba) and Amanda Jane Cooper (Glinda), reminds audiences why WICKED was such a great show in the first place. The musical is well crafted, tightly written and, when it is performed by a talented group like the current cast, undeniably entertaining. The show runs Aug. 17 through Sept. 4 at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street in downtown Columbus).

Koch and Cooper are the focal points in the two-act, two-and-a-half hour production. Koch plays Elphaba, the future wicked witch, with a slow burn intensity that builds throughout the show. She conveys Elphaba's emotional scars as she is constantly rejected by the ones closest to her because her avocado skin pigment. Koch's delivery of the crowd favorite "Defying Gravity" and "As Long As You're Mine" were among the show's highpoints.

While the show is supposedly about Elphaba, it wouldn't work without an equally strong Glinda. Cooper is the perfect opposite with her bubbly, bombastic portrayal of Glinda's rise to power. The good witch has some of the best lines in the show (a personal favorite was her deadpan rebuke of Dr. Dillamond: "I think we should focus on history and not dwell so much on the past.") While she plays "Popular" for laughs, Cooper was also able to show the dichotomy of Glinda's personality in songs like "Thank Goodness" and the reprise of "I'm Not That Girl."

Jeremy Woodard, the love interest of both Cooper and Koch, is debonair as the cool and callow Fiyero while Megan Masako Haley (Nessarose), Sam Seferian (Boq), Wendy Worthington (Madame Morrible), Stuart Zagnit (the Wizard) and Chad Jennings (Doctor Dillamond) round out a very talented cast.

Some times when one revisits a show that is over a decade old, there's a sense of nostalgia. At other times there's a little bit of remorse because the show has not aged well or no longer seems relevant. This was not one of those cases. Revisiting the Land of Oz reminds us why we loved the show in the first place.

WICKED has 8 p.m. shows Aug. 19-20, 26-27, and Sept. 2-3, 7:30 shows on Aug. 23-25 and Aug. 30-Sept. 1., 6:30 p.m. shows on Aug. 21, 28 and Sept. 4. Additionally the production has 1 p.m. matinees on Aug. 21, 28, and Sept. 4 and 2 p.m. matinees on Aug. 20, 27, and Sept. 3 at the Ohio Theatre. Call 614-469-0939 for information.

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From This Author Paul Batterson

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