BWW Reviews: WICKED - Still a Winner in Philly

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 third time around in Philly.

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.'

Allison Luff, (Scandalous) joined the tour in April to wear the green in the leading role of Elphaba. Luff handles the role with great insight and comedic timing. She blends beautifully in her duets with both Glinda and Fiyero. Her solo powerhouse songs such as 'Defying Gravity' and 'No Good Deed' are well executed though her diction is less than perfect in her some of her speaking parts making it difficult to understand what she is saying. Still, she makes this complex role her own.

As Glinda, Jenn Gambatese plays the over-the-top blonde bimbo as well as any of her predecessors. Gambatese captures all the emotions of the character, from the ditsy, self-absorbed debutante personality right to the pain of lost love, lost friend.

Curt Hansen plays the rich college preppy who turns out to be the prince who falls under the spell of Elphaba. He works hard and wins the crowd with his high energy and pop tenor voice.

The supporting principal cast is exceptionally good. Kim Zimmer plays Madame Morrible as an Angela Lansbury with a vengeance! Jaime Rosenstein, who plays Elphaba's wheel-chair, bound sister Nessarose, blossoms beautifully as she not only finds her legs but a lovely voice. Wicked's new Wizard also as of April is John Davidson; legendary 'song and dance' man and his delivery is delightful!

Davidson is certainly no stranger to the stage with theater credits such as Oklahoma, The Music Man, Camelot, Carousel, Man of La Mancha, The Fantastics and even Teddy Roosevelt. Add this to his TV credits: That's Incredible, The New Hollywood Squares, One Hundred Thousand Dollar Pyramid, The Tonight Show and The John Davidson Daytime Talk Show.

Davidson was in the off-Broadway New York run of the musical The Fantasticks when he heard in January about the opportunity to play the not-so-wonderful Wizard of Oz in Wicked.
I had the pleasure of catching up with John, during this run of WICKED wanting to know the attraction to playing the Wizard.

"I like roles where you're able to bamboozle someone." Davidson has always looked for such "bigger-than-life" charmers. "The Wizard of Oz is a con man, like Harold Hill in The Music Man." I also played Starbuck in 110 in the Shade (the musical of The Rainmaker), and he's a con man, too, he said. "Of course, they're all con men with a heart. You have to have some heart to make a con man multidimensional." ~ John Davidson

Wicked's creative team of Stephen Schwartz (composer/lyricist), Winnie Holzman (writer of the book for Wicked) take this familiar story and put a clever spin on it to turn out a musical spectacle that possesses the heart, the brains and the courage to become and remain a magical place for young and old that will continue on as long as that yellow brick road to Oz.

Wicked will play at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pa through August 4th. For ticket and information visit or call 215.731.3333.

Photos: (top) Alison Luff (Elphaba) and Jenn Gambatese as Glinda. Photo courtesy KimMel Center.

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From This Author Pati Buehler

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