BWW Review: WICKED Wows at Fox Cities P.A.C.
Kicking off the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center's 15th Anniversary Season, the popular smash-hit musical WICKED has returned for its fourth run since it made its Wisconsin premiere at the P.A.C. in 2009. WICKED will continue to play through September 10. In spite of its thousands of performances since its 2003 Broadway debut, the show's magical bubble still hasn't burst.
WICKED is an entrancing magical spectacle through and through, with more special effects and big production numbers than you can shake a magic wand at. It's no wonder over 100 international awards have been heaped on the show.
But more compelling than all the fog, aerial work and vibrant visuals is the story at the heart of the show.
WICKED, based on a novel by the same name, offers a different take on the well-known tale of "The Wizard of Oz." It tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba (played by Jessica Vosk) is derided at her new school for being different. Glinda (played by Ginna Claire Mason) is the popular girl often leading the charge. Over time, their initial disdain for each other fades and is replaced with a powerful friendship. However, Elphaba soon must choose between her convictions and her longing to be accepted.
WICKED has a seemingly unlimited array of features that delight audiences.
The music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz are intensely catchy. Stephen Schwartz has the rare and inexplicable skill of crafting songs that can stand alone outside of the musical. Taken in the context of the musical, however, they are even more compelling, amping up the emotions and progressing the plot.
WICKED also offers wit. In combination with Schwartz's songs, the book by Winnie Holzman gets big laughs.
Scenic design by Eugene Lee, costume design by Susan Hilferty, and lighting design by Kenneth Posner work together to set the magical stage. Dazzling numbers like "Defying Gravity" play on all these components to make the show feel huge and immersive.
The cast's skills make WICKED come alive.
Jessica Vosk is relatable and easy to root for as Elphaba. She effectively captures Elphaba's strength and sensitivity. Plus, the range of Vosk's voice seems like it must be conjured up by some spell. Low notes seem effortless, and her belt soars.
Ginna Claire Mason is perfectly perky as Galinda/Glinda. Mason's subtle facial expressions convey emotion without ever seeming forced. Her brilliant comedic timing showcases the wit of the script, and her high, clear voice gives lightness to her character.
Jon Robert Hall debuted with the tour as Fiyero just a week and a half ago, but his performance gives no hint that he is relatively green to the role. Hall's swagger and charisma are every bit befitting a playboy prince. While his comedic timing is spot on, he also segues seamlessly and believably towards a greater depth of character.
Last night's performance of WICKED also marked the 1,000 performance of a Broadway show at the Fox Cities P.A.C. Over the years, Fox Cities P.A.C. has hosted 2.4 million visitors and 30 Wisconsin premieres of Broadway shows. It seems appropriate that WICKED should be the show to mark this anniversary given its frequent visits to the Fox Cities P.A.C. You might even say the show has a deep connection to the community. Appleton is on the map of Oz displayed on the curtain. Okay, so maybe it isn't meant as a direct reference since the map technically places Appleton in Munchkinland and not Dairyland, but we'll take it.
Regardless, with the show's beautiful production, compelling story, memorable music and engaging performers, it's no wonder WICKED has changed the Broadway theater scene for good.
WICKED will play at the Fox Cities P.A.C. through September 10. Tickets are still available.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus