Manifesting witch face
review by Eileen Daley
Origin stories are ten a penny these days, with everyone from the Joker to Cruella de Vil enjoying a deep dive into their beginnings. Wicked is perhaps the origin of origin stories if you will, and is celebrating 20 years on the stage.
If you’re not familiar, Wicked is an expansion of the Wizard of Oz theatrical universe, telling the story of how the good and bad witches came to be. It’s based on the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and it’s a thoughtful adaptation that foreshadows the themes more organically than you might think.
Wicked is a true Broadway sensation, now in its third decade, and it continues to captivate audiences thanks to its inventive story, dazzling production, and powerhouse performances.
From the moment Glinda the Good Witch (played with effervescent charm by Celia Hottenstein) descends in her glittering bubble, to the gravity-defying entrance of Elphaba (portrayed with vulnerability and strength by Olivia Valli), the audience was spellbound. The shifting chemistry between the leads is engaging to watch, the musical bringing a dynamic energy to a complex relationship.
Eugene Lee's set design seamlessly blends grandeur and intimacy, transporting the audience from the towering spires of the Emerald City to the learned halls of Shiz University. The lighting design (by Kenneth Posner) creates a kaleidoscope of colors that maintain the sense of wonder. A giant dragon frames the stage, which is a neat device, reminding us that we’re watching a kind of traveling marionette version of a story.
Wicked's huge success hinges on its iconic music, though, and this production did not disappoint. Tunes like ‘Defying Gravity’, ‘Popular’ and ‘For Good’ were met with panoramic excitement, fans remembering a thousand Tumblr memes and many likely seeing this show live for the latest in, well, any number of times.
The ensemble cast deliver notable performances, bringing the citizens of Oz to life with infectious energy. Big ensemble numbers, such as ‘One Short Day’ and ‘Dancing Through Life’, enjoyed daring choreography that added an extra layer of drama.
Wicked's timeless themes of friendship, identity, and the consequences of prejudice resonate strongly, and they kind of turn the musical romance trope on its head. The narrative's depth and emotional resonance are brought to the forefront by the cast's powerful performances, backed by a solid musical soundtrack (delivered by a lush-sounding live orchestra).
Wicked is a triumphant continuation of a Broadway phenomenon. With its striking visuals and a narrative that remains as relevant as ever, it continues to pull in loving crowds. It’s fun to reevaluate the movie through a different lens, and it’s clear that, even after all these years, there's no place like Oz.
Wicked plays at The Saenger Theatre through Dec 17th. More info and tickets here.
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