While “Wicked” is far from Holiday fare, it certainly is an enjoyable theatrical experience. When first viewed, many really didn’t care about the plot as much as they did the entire spectacle of what was presented on the stage. While “Wicked” (music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz/book by Winnie Holzman) is still a special event for a theater patron, I found myself paying just a little more attention to detail and found just a little more to the wonderful story of Oz , before Dorothy and friends. The story takes place in early Oz and introduces us to two young ladies, who become close friends, Galinda ( which later becomes Glenda) played by the enticing and adorable Chandra Lee Schwartz and Elphaba ( a glorious performance by Jackie Burns- her rendition of “Defying Gravity” to end the first act will send chills up your spine). At the start of the play, Glinda drops into town ( on her bubble of course) and then tells the munchkins etal about their past.
Turns out Elphaba’s mother was not altogether the perfect wife and mother, as we see in a very brief scene in the opening ( I do not recall this one from the original, but it does explain a few things that come later). Born “green” her father becomes very stressed. When their second child , another daughter is born perfectly white ( but crippled, being born early) it is the elder sisters job to watch over her little lame sister. ( the mother dies in childbirth). In the years that come to be, Galinda and Elphaba ( along with her sister Nessarose, deftly played by Stephanie Brown) meet at school. Everyone taunts the very nice, although green, Elphaba, while snobbish and perfect Galinda is nasty to all, always wanting everything her way. They become roommates and friends. Along the way, we see their personalities change and what was good becomes evil ( or “Wicked”) and what was evil becomes good!
This story is very different from what we would anticipate the pre-Oz story to be and some of the fact in this one that are supposed to relate to the Baum “Oz” do not follow any normal path of logic. For instance, Boq ( Justin Brill) who adores Glinda and forsakes Nessarose is turned into the “tin man” with no heart and Fiyero (Richard H. Blake), the man Glinda adores, but who’s love is for Elphaba, becomes the scarecrow and is somehow part of a scheme where Elphaba only pretends to be disolved by Dorothy’s bucket of water. Oh yes, Dorothy’s house landed on sister Nessarose and killed her thanks to a storm created by headwitchstress Madame Morrible ( a sterling performance by Barbara Robertson). Oh yes, there is a lion in the story, but only to explain the lion in the second story ( you know, the movie version). The Wizard of Oz ( Gene Weygandt, who has been playing this role off and on for a number of years and always a pleasure to watch on stage, makes his role as fresh as if this was his first appearance). All in all, this is a stunning cast and while small in numbers is large in vocal quality, dance talent and handling all the roles asked to play- in other words- the perfect cast.
With a “road company” it is pretty much the same set design as the original as well as costumes and all the do is modify the things that need to be done to accomodate a different venue. The show is directed by Joe Mantello and I am sure that with the exception of a change here and there , it pretty much follows what we had on stage at our Oriental theater some five years ago. “Wicked” is more than a musical theater production- it is a special theatrical experience with lots of great visuals and while the music, for the most part is not memorable, there are a few songs that you will recall and perhaps even hum as you exit the theater, “Popular” ( Ms Schwartz truly nails this one ), “Defying Gravity” ( Ms Burns is amazing and her voice fills the auditorium as she flys above the townspeople of Oz) and other songs such as “I’m Not That Girl” and “One Short Day are among these. But even if you are not a hummer or do not remember one word of the lyrics, you will remember the show- it will be a memory that might even last a lifetime.
For you to have the opportunity, you will need to get down to the Cadillac Palace Theatre located at 151 W. Randolph through January 23rd. Unlike the last visit, Broadway In Chicago can only allow eight weeks for this production before the spell is broken. The performance schedule is as follows:
Tuesday,Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. Friday an dSaturday evenings at 8 p.m., Wednesday,Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m.
NO performance on 12/25 Merry Christmas
Special performances: Monday, 12/20 and 12/27 at 7:30 p.m., 12/31 added 2 p.m. matinee
Tickets range in price from $35-$105 and can be purchased at any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices, by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at 1-800-775-2000 at all Ticketmaster outlets or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com