Musical Review: “Wicked”
January 11, 2017
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I am no theater junkie, but when a musical like “Wicked” comes to town, I get really excited. The smash Broadway hit came to the Kennedy Center last month and stayed through the new year. I had the chance to take in the show on Christmas Eve.
The Kennedy Center Opera House is a beautiful room and is much larger than just about any other theater venue in the Washington, D.C. area. Even on a travel day like Dec. 24, the room was almost completely filled with people of all ages.
“Wicked” is an alternative look on the classic story of the “Wizard of Oz.” Its primary purpose is to explain why the Wicked Witch of the West, who in the musical is named Elphaba, turned wicked. The story is told from the perspective of Glinda the Good, the benevolent witch in the the original story who it turns out went to school with Elphaba. The plot brings in romance, an oppressed minority and a misunderstood hero; it is not so different from many other stories, but it is pretty good.
The staging of the show was impressive, and the costumes equally so. The lighting brought moods of the play into being, and the flying scenes were portrayed well. Amanda Jane Cooper, who played Elphaba, was painted green the whole show, and the color looked disturbingly natural as skin.
The most exciting part of the show was by far the music. The actors, especially Cooper and Jillian Butler, who was an alternate and stepped in admirably to play Glinda, did an impressive job with the wonderful music given to them. While the lyrics of “Defying Gravity” is going to be stuck in my head for the next week, the rest of the numbers were able to tell the story through more than just the words.
Aside from the voices, the acting was also generally impressive. Fred Applegate, who played the Wizard of Oz himself, was as good as anyone on stage at capturing the tragedy, humor and insecurity in his character.
While I did not see “Wicked” as the brilliant cultural revolution that many called it when it first came to Broadway, I really enjoyed going to the show. The music and performance made a good, if a bit too predictable story very exciting to follow throughout the almost three hours of the show. Next time “Wicked” comes to town, I recommend getting tickets, but move fast: they sell out very quickly.