Saw Wicked last night, thanks to Steve on Broadway. Unfortunately, his flight to Chicago was cancelled at last minute due to some snow, so, like the generous gentleman he is, he offered his two 2nd row center tickets to me. Thank you, SOB!
This is my third time seeing this megamusical, and my second time seeing it from the second row. This show is undoubtedly a marvel, and my relationship with the show has evolved greatly. Four years ago, I was very anti-Wicked. And now, with three viewings under my belt, it’s grown on me very much — to the point of liking it. A lot.
This tour production has essentially all the flash it had during its 3.5-year sit-down run in Chicago. You certainly get your money’s worth. (It’s also a very young and “white” tour — strangely, not a person of color to be found in this cast.)
While the physical production takes your breath away, the play’s the thing, and when you strip away all the Eugene Lee scenery and Susan Hilferty costumes, it’s really a simple story about the the relationship between two women: Glinda, the “good witch,” and, Elphaba, the “wicked witch.” And two strong singing actresses must be capable of carrying this ginormous show.
For Glinda, we had an understudy: Marissa Lupp, fresh from NYU. She offered a very underplayed Glinda, which would be fine it wasn’t so out-of-synch with the loopiness that’s directed of her in her showcase number, “Popular.” I won’t say much more about Ms. Lupp’s performance, since being an u/s is hard work, but I will say her teary curtain call was the most emotion I saw from her the entire night.
As the green witch, Jackie Burns isn’t the pyrotechnical singer I’ve seen in past Elphabas, but she looks gorgeous in the part, evolves convincingly from awkward and brainy wallflower to authoritative outsider, and possesses a strong, clear musical theatre voice that shows no signs of strain with the score. The riffing is at a minimum, which I greatly appreciate. She also looks like a young Patti LuPone, especially the way she curves her lips when she sings. (I’ve often imagined what it would have been like if Wicked came about 30 years ago, with LuPone and Madeline Kahn playing the two witches. Anyway…)
Respected Chicago actress Barbara Robertson has stepped into the Chicago run of this tour to grace us with her unmatched Madame Morrible. She’s joined by another local favorite, Gene Weygandt, who is a wonderfully warm and befuddled Wizard.
If you like Wicked, you’ll like this production. If you don’t like Wicked, take someone who does, and you just might find yourself cast by its spell, like I’ve been. It’s not brilliant theatre, but it certainly entertains and keeps you fully engaged, which is helped greatly by a spectacular physical production.
“Wicked” plays through Jan 23 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. More info here >