by Christine Autrand Mitchell
Wicked has flown into the Soroyan Theatre! Everyone loves a good fairy tale, right? And Wicked is basically a “G” version of the novel by Gregory Maguire. It’s engrossing, witty and punny, and it doesn’t disappoint – even husbands who don’t like musical theater will like it. It’s a great scavenger hunt to discover all the tie-ins to the later stories.
And if you think traveling shows can’t be as impressive as the long-term shows in big cities, you’re wrong; it’s a great show with an incredibly talented cast, like Anne Brummel playing Elpheba (the green witch), and Tiffany Haas, the understudy who played Glinda in the production we caught (wait till you hear her high note!). But it is an impressive cast overall – stage crew as well as musicians, including our nine local musicians in the orchestra.
If you are expecting Maguire’s entire novel to appear in a 2 1/2 hour musical, you will be disappointed, but the show can stand on its own aside from one factor: the dragon clock. This factor is never explained in the show but the gorgeous stage design is taken from it, including the giant dragon. My daughter swore it was blinking before the show! (Adaptations are rarely able to capture all of the story aspects, and here the playbook takes only portions of the novel.)
Wicked is the prequel to the Wizard of Oz series first penned by L. Frank Baum in 1900. It tells the story of what began before Dorothy arrived (even if you’ve just seen the movie, you’ll get it). It’s a riveting story and makes one want to believe that this is truly what occurred. It concentrates on the relationship between Elphaba and Glinda, about right and wrong, about viewpoint and trust, and about sacrifice. In a way, it reflects our world today – even some of the fashion statements.
Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics will stick with you, so be prepared to hum “Defying Gravity” or “Popular”, or even “What is This feeling?”. Maguire’s humor comes through in the lyrics and choreography, costuming and make up. Schwartz has many musicals under his belt; both for stage and screen, including Academy and Grammy Awards, and several Disney animated films.
Wicked has all the features one expects in a musical: heroes and villains, love and friendships, betrayal, jealousy and selfishness, numbers belted out with vigor and volume, impressive sets, humor and tragedy. It cannot disappoint.
If you have the chance to see it, I highly recommend the investment. Just remember to be a good audience member: turn off your cell phones, save your comments for intermission and your walk out of the theater, and don’t unwrap your candy during the show. Enjoy!
Wicked continues in Fresno through this weekend-learn more on their tour website.
Watch for a new Local Live every Wednesday night at 7 p.m.