BWW Review: WICKED Soars into Keller Auditorium
I always forget how much I love WICKED until I'm sitting in the theatre watching it. Then, the orchestra starts playing Stephen Schwartz's gorgeous score, and I become completely enthralled. That happened on Thursday as I sat in the audience for the national tour that is part of Broadway in Portland's current season at Keller Auditorium. Since there's only one production of the show, the thing that differentiates performances is the cast. Of the four casts I've seen, this one was by far the best. Whether you've seen WICKED before or haven't yet had the pleasure, I highly recommend you make time on your calendar for this one.
WICKED is a fairytale -- the story of what happened before Dorothy landed in Oz. It tells how Glinda and Elphaba, two young women who meet at school, go on to become, respectively, the Good Witch of the South and the Wicked Witch of the West. Like all fairytales, it has plenty of life lessons -- ones we can all use periodic refreshers in, like not to judge people by their appearance, the importance of diversity, and that it's better to do what's right than to do what's popular. These lessons are all wrapped in a big, shiny bow of bright lights, colorful costumes, and a triple dose of theatre magic. It's both thoughtful and a heck of a lot of fun!
WICKED is also a difficult musical to sing. The two women playing the witches do most of the vocal work, and one of them has to hit that high F in "Defying Gravity." The night I saw the show, that job fell to Sarah Anne Fernandez, who is the understudy for Elphaba. (Before you get nervous about that, remember that Sutton Foster was originally the understudy in Thoroughly Modern Millie, a show for which she went on to win a Tony.) Fernandez is phenomenal -- she can belt with the best of them, but also brings out the depth of Elphaba's character.
It's this depth that made all of the difference for me this time around. Weaker singers have so much work to do simply hitting the notes that the character development takes a backseat. This cast -- including Erin Mackey as Glinda and Curt Hansen as the love interest, Fiyero -- is very strong, able to skillfully bring out the characters' richness and complexity.
Overall, WICKED is a great show and this is an awesome production. If you're a musical fan, you won't want to miss it.
WICKED runs through July 28. More details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus