“Wicked” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ February 23, 2012


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

It’s wonderful to have “Wicked” back for the third time at ASU Gammage in a fine touring production that nearly duplicates the Broadway production that’s enchanted theatergoers since 2003.  For this tour, unlike many that stop locally, the elaborate New York production hasn’t been reduced so Eugene Lee’s fantastic scenery is intact, as are Susan Hilferty’s splendidly vibrant costumes, the many spectacular special effects, and the mood setting lighting.  And the cast is strong but, like most Broadway tours, they clone the original performers who created the roles.

Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, “Wicked” looks at “The Wizard of Oz” before Dorothy as it focuses on Glinda, the Good Witch, and the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba.  The pair meets at sorcery school where Glinda appears the exemplary woman but she’s a phony while green Elphaba is ostracized more for her appearance than her actions which are purer and truer than Glinda’s.  The two become friends but Elphaba must go and take the blame.  She figures out a clever way to die as she ultimately wins not only her true love but is guaranteed a life without hatred.  There are abundant subplots that stretch the show to three hours as the story slaps a society that prizes surface appearances more than actual deeds.  Stephen Schwartz’s score leaves several pleasant melodies with theatergoers.

The musical elicited hearty shouts of welcome opening night because it’s an entertaining winner.  Most importantly, it attracts many young theatergoers and what better way to enchant children.

Mamie Parris’ Elphaba, like Idina Menzel’s Broadway creation, shines.  She’s an insecure witch who believes in women’s rights but she’s honest and sincere even though Glinda makes her look bad.  In the end, Elphaba is the one you’ll like.  Parris soars through the demanding vocals and crafts a winning but unfortunate loser.  Katie Rose Clarke is a fine Glinda but it’s not the character you’ll admire because of her deceptive chicanery.  Clarke leaves February 24 when Alli Mauzey completes the local run.

The rest of the top-notch cast includes Liz McCartney’s Madame Morrible, the school’s director, Mark Jacoby cowardly Wizard, and Emily Ferranti’s Nessarose, Elphaba’s sister, as stand outs.

Joe Mantello’s creative staging keeps the show breezing along as do Wayne Cilento’s pleasing dances.  The orchestra plays artfully and even the sound system makes it possible to hear almost every word of dialogue in the acoustically unfriendly ASU Gammage.

“Wicked” continues to delight audiences and the road version is one of the finest to play here.  It continues through March 11.  For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 1-800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: A