BWW Review: WICKED is Still Wildly 'Popular'
The story is as familiar as any teenage girl will gleefully relate: 'Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the land of OZ; one born green who is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and popular. Wicked tells the story of their remarkable odyssey, how these two unlikely friends grow to become the Witches of Oz.'
The immense sets by Eugene Lee, the lavish costumes by Susan Hilferty, amazing lighting by Kenneth Posner, and the flying monkeys of OZ are among the elements that will delight of the thousands of Philadelphians who will line up to catch this musical for the fourth time around in Philly.
Here are some stats that keep this show on top and "Dancing Through Life". WICKED first premiered in 2003 in San Francisco (which I have a playbill). In July 2017, Wicked surpassed The Phantom of the Opera as Broadway's second-highest-grossing show, trailing only The Lion King. Its original stars included Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, and Joel Grey as the Wizard. The original Broadway production won three Tony Awards and six Drama Desk Awards.
Its original cast album received a Grammy Award. The music and lyrics are arranged by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman. It is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, an alternative telling of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum's classic 1900 story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
On a personal note one of my most memorable WICKED experience was in 2002 where I was introduce to Stephen Schwartz in New Jersey at a concert "Stephen Schwartz and Friends" just before WICKED opened as he introduced Broadway's Debbie Gravitte to sing the debut of "Defying Gravity" in public. After the show I was talking with Mr. Schwartz who humbly admitted to me that "he had hopes that the show would be understood and be well received" Shall we say it became "Popular"?!
Under the original direction by Joe Mantello the show is as enchanting and fresh as ever 14 years later largely due to all the mentioned elements and a stellar North America touring cast.
Glinda, Ginna Claire Mason comes onboard directly from Broadway as the Glinda standby. Mason does not disappoint as the over-the-top blonde ditsy, self-absorbed debutante. Her "Popular" is right up there with the best of them. Jessica Vosk plays
Elphaba coming from Broadway's Fiddler on the Roof, Finding Neverland and Bridges of Madison County. Vosk's small stature is by far no indication of the commanding presence both vocally and physically she has on the role of effectively playing "the green one". Her clear diction in delivery of the script is greatly captured. She's really makes this part her own.
Jeremy Woodard plays the rich college preppy who turns out to be the prince who falls under the spell of Elphaba. He takes little time to win the crowd with his high energy and pop tenor voice. The supporting principal cast is exceptionally good. Isabel Keating plays a very animated and enjoyable Madame Morrible clearly apparent by the crowd's applause. Jenny Florkowski; no stranger to the role, plays Elphaba's wheel-chair, bound sister Nessarose. She blossoms beautifully as she not only finds her legs but a lovely voice. Wicked's Wizard Fred Applegate also comes from the Broadway production along with a long list of theater credits and his delivery is charming! Robin De Jesus ( Tony nominated for Broadway's In The Heights), is delightful as Boq and Harry Bouvy plays the diligent Dr. Dillamond very convincingly.
WICKED plays at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia Pa through August 27. For tickets and information visit www.kimmelcenter.org
Photo Credits: www.kimmelcenter.org