THEATER REVIEW: “Wicked” @ PlayhouseSquare by Roy Berko

Mary Kate Morrissey as Elphaba

Through Sun 12/3

Okay, I’m a Wicked junky. I’ve seen the show five times, including seeing it in its first week of the New York run.

Wicked opened on Broadway on October 30, 2013. It is still running and has performed almost 6,000 shows.   It is the 7th longest-running musical in Great White Way history.

A prequel to The Wizard of Oz, “Wicked” tells the “true” story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch, and her relationship with Glinda, the Good Witch.

The musical has all the elements of the original tale, but gives you the background to how the Lion, the Scarecrow,and the Tin Man came to be, as well as how Dorothy got the red (in this version, silver) slippers. And most importantly, what really happened to Elphaba. (Bet you thought she melted when Dorothy threw water on her. Ha! That’s fake news!)

We also become aware of the power of gossip and rumors. Most importantly, in this era of rising bigotry, encouraged by the “Wizard” in the White House, we are exposed to how hatred and making outcasts out of those not white and part of the “in” group can lead to mass hysteria.

The music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz include such beautiful and meaningful songs as “Defying Gravity” and “As Long as You’re Mine.” As always, Schwartz includes a message song in the score (think “Corner of the Sky” from Pippen). In Wicked, it’s “For Good,” stressing the importance of true friendship.

The production qualities of this touring show are impressive. There is a dragon hanging over the proscenium arch that has the same wingspan as a Cessna 172 airplane. They use 200 pounds of dry ice every show for smoke effects and enough power in a single production to supply 12 houses with electricity. This is not a stripped-down touring show, it’s a full-blown Broadway extravaganza.

The choreography is creative. The orchestra is excellent. (The five traveling musicians are joined by 10 locals.) The cast is very strong.  No, it’s not Idina Menzel (Elphaba), Kristin Chenoweth (Glinda) and Clevelander Joel Gray (as the Wizard), but realistically, who can top that amazing trio?

In this production, Mary Kate Morrissey glows gloriously green as Elphaba. She hits the vocal high notes with ease and creates a clear characterization. Her “I’m Not That Girl” is heartbreaking, while “No Good Deed” is powerful.

Ginna Claire Mason is properly bubbly as the shallow blonde ditz Glinda.   She sings beautifully and textures the role well.  Her smile-inducing “Popular” brought lasting applause.

Jon Robert Hall handsomely walks though the role as the self-centered Fiyero, who falls in love with Elphaba. Unfortunately, there is little obvious physical chemistry between the two.

There is a strong Cleveland connection with Wicked. ARACA, the theatrical production company founded by Michael and Matthew Rego and Hank Unger, all native Clevelanders, are the producers of the show.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT:  Put on your tiaras, bring your wands, and join the masses who will enjoy Wicked. Whether it is your introduction to this delightful and well-performed musical, or your umpteenth time, you will absolutely enjoy this must see production.

Wicked runs through Sun 12/3 at PlayhouseSquare’s State Theatre.  For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.

[Written by Roy Berko, member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle]

 

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